Forgiving is not magic as in “Abracadabra, I forgive you!” with the wave of a Harry Potter wand. Forgiveness is challenging at the very least and commonly mind numbing work. Forgiveness has a two-fold nature.
First, forgiveness is not allowing the perpetrator to control one’s mind.
Some have called this “stop renting space in your head.” Said another way it is replacing the perpetual ruminations of the incident with other thoughts. Or not allowing the negative thoughts to have power by redirecting the thinking process. Ruminations are extremely powerful in the brain. Ruminations develop strong neural pathways accompanied by automatic responses that strike fear and actual physical changes in one’s body which seem impossible to shake, short of divine intervention. It is similar to or actually the same as post traumatic stress in many cases. Yet forgiveness, as we all know, is possible.
The second component of forgiveness is when one stops wishing for, or wanting, revenge to the extent that one actually wishes no harm, even well-being, to the perpetrator.
There is a switch from “Go to hell you sorry bastard” to “May God work in your heart and mind.” The desire for revenge, which some wrongly call “justice” is natural. In fact most people feel it is an entitlement in society. Thus in the case of murder justice mandates that the murderer be executed. Forgiveness says “Though you have destroyed the most precious aspect of my being I have come to the place where I no longer wish you dead and, in fact, I hope some good may come to your life.” Here the forgiver comes to a place where he or she accepts the fact that there are unknown or unknowable features surrounding the perpetrator, the circumstance or the events and that holding on is no longer a viable option for dealing with the loss and pain. In fact moving forward to the possibility of a good but different life is the better option and actually honors victims.
Loss is a profound teacher and healer.
Loss gives new insight into what really is important in life. Loss provides one with empathy, compassion and understanding in ways that others can not understand, such as what soldiers experience and what soldiers only know. Loss is fundamentally a universal human experience that has the potential to be a permanent disability or the spark of creativity, innovation and humanitarianism. There are many example of both.
Forgiveness is necessary for being a loving person simply because the continued focus on victimization drains people emotionally and keep them from fulfilling the call to love. One can love and not forgive but it requires too much time, energy and personal resources. It is easier, and less mentally draining to forgive even when the forgiving processes takes time. If we are going to help future generations survive we will have to focus all our available energy on loving others.
I am taken back by the cavalier approach that some people have about forgiveness. It is not a simple process. It can not be done flippantly, as in “Just forgive him and be done with it” or “Jesus forgives you, you ought to forgive her.” Forgiveness is preceded by betrayal, suffering, hurt, and deep emotional pain. One cannot just decide to forgive. It is part of a healing process that grows in one’s heart and moves at its own pace from being a victim to being free.
For me my ideal day of love includes forgiving others and my self.