The statement in this post that forgiveness brings freedom is one of immense and mostly-overlooked truth and power. There is nothing quite so freeing as making the mental and emotional decision that something no longer has to matter so much. For me, that is one of the defining characteristics of true forgiveness: I am certainly still aware of the transgression, but I need no longer base any of my actions, feelings or thoughts upon that transgression. I am free to cease to react.
When you have truly let go…when you have truly forgiven, and moved on…a binding snaps. A chain dissolves…a wall crumbles…a barrier erodes. One inhibiting, restraining, binding factor has disappeared from your life and you are free to react without consideration of that factor.
I do know whereof I speak. I have been given many opportunities, in my life, to learn the power of forgiveness – both given, and received. I rue the experiences that made forgiveness necessary – but I rejoice in the forgiveness itself. I will never regret that, no matter what.
Forgiveness does not mean blinding oneself to the original transgression. It does not mean saying that it was “okay”. It does not mean or imply that you have condoned that behavior, that you have dismissed it, or that you have forgotten it. It means that, while aware of the action, you have chosen to move beyond it, to accept that it happened and acknowledge the consequences thereof, and to reject the further damaging of your soul by that action. You have thrown off your bonds.
Now, you may well choose not to give that person another chance to hurt you, and a severance of that relationship – if done calmly and with prior self-examination and reason – does not invalidate your forgiveness. You may well have reached the conclusion, through calm examination, that even though you choose not to continue to castigate and excoriate that person, you also believe that there is a high likelihood of a repeat offense and you choose not to place yourself in the way of further harm. If you have done so calmly, without angst, then this does not mean you have not forgiven. It only means, simply put, that you have learned that touching the hot stove creates a burn. You don’t hate the stove; you don’t resent the stove and lie awake thinking about how much it hurt you – you simply recognize that you probably shouldn’t touch it anymore. Yet you are no longer holding on to the fear, pain, anger that the action engendered. You are free.
Likewise, forgiving yourself is very freeing. Letting go of the guilt and shame that you carry around because you think you need to, you think you deserve it, you think that if you let it go it means you don’t care that you did something bad… letting go of that can lighten your emotional and spiritual load immensely. Once again, this does not have to mean that you have learned nothing from your mistake – it is possible to acknowledge a negative action and learn from it without performing emotional self-flagellation every day for the rest of your life. Let it go. Forgive yourself. Do not excuse, for behavior that hurts another should not be excused. Simply acknowledge that you have behaved wrongly, accept your culpability, be sincerely remorseful…and resolve to do better. Make amends…undo some or all of the harm, if possible. But don’t carry around that self-hate. Forgive yourself…let it go.
Forgiveness is one of the most wonderful experiences available to us as human beings, and it is one thing that I sincerely wish all people would allow themselves to experience.