Should I Forgive?

forgivenessToday is December 6. The view from my eyes says the holiday season has been in full swing for quite a while now. Holiday decorations have been up in stores for weeks. My house is decked out. There are more lights in the neighborhood each night. Radio stations have already begun their non-stop Christmas carols.

For some people, the holiday cheer is way up. For others it is way down. I think holidays tend to bring out the best and worst in people. It can really highlight what you have and what you don’t have. If your mind is stuck on what you don’t have you may be asking yourself, “Should I forgive?” If so,┬álet’s take a look at that.

First let me tackle the “should” piece of the question. You all know I don’t go in for shoulds. There is usually no right or wrong to a should question. It’s just about will you or won’t you. Either choice is legitimate. It’s definitely in your best interest to forgive because you receive all the benefit from that action, but sometimes people are not yet ready. I get that.

You can do it now, do it later, or don’t do it at all. It’s your life and your choice. It won’t make you a better or worse person for making one choice over another. Forgiving now will make your life easier and healthier now though.

Why? In order for there to be a wrong that needs to be forgiven, there has to be a grudge. If something happened and there were no grudge, there would be no reason to forgive because the incident would already be forgotten. For example, if I bumped into you and apologized, would I need your forgiveness? Most people would say no. It’s not a big deal. It’s over as soon as it happened.

If I bumped into you and didn’t apologize, would I need your forgiveness? That would depend on whether or not you wanted to hold my lack of apology against me. If you don’t think it’s a big deal, again, no apology would be needed. No grudge would be held, and there would be no need for forgiveness. If you are affronted by it, there is a grudge, so perhaps you would hold it against me. In this case, forgiveness could be appropriate.

So, you can see that the need to forgive doesn’t depend on the severity of the “crime.” It doesn’t depend on the offending person’s intent. It only depends upon whether or not there is resentment towards someone else. Since each of us is responsible for our own resentment (since we are the one’s feeling it), forgiveness is not for the other person, but for us. It’s essentially a releasing of our own resentment.

“Wait a minute,” you might say. What if we’re talking about a rape, murder, cheater, or bankrupting the whole family? Are you telling me I’m not justified in holding a grudge?” No. I am not making a judgement on whether or not you’re justified. I am just saying that any resentment you hold on to hurts you. Any resentment you release benefits you. The offender isn’t hurt by your resentment. If you act on it, he might be, but he definitely isn’t hurt by your emotion. But you are.

Practicing resentment and withholding forgiveness are two sides of the same coin. Withholding forgiveness is withholding love. What you refuse to send out cannot come into you. That’s just how life works. It’s like holding your breath and wondering why you can’t breathe.

So, what I am asking you is, how long do you want to be hurt by your resentment? When you can answer that, you will know whether or not it’s time for you to forgive.

Posted in coping, self-help and tagged , , .