We are told that we should forgive others. Sayings that we are all familiar with are “to forgive is divine”, “turn the other cheek”, “forgive and forget”. But is it really best for us to forgive others when we’ve been wronged? Should we really forgive and forget? If you’ve been wronged, why should you forgive? Can anyone actually really and truly forgive and forget?
The major religions of the world preach/teach forgiveness. (Perhaps all religions do this. I honestly have not researched them all, nor do I even know all the religions of the world.) I researched those that are considered the “major” religions of the world, and found the following sampling of ideals regarding forgiveness from four major religions:
- In Christianity, the Lord’s Prayer speaks to being forgiven for our trespasses and forgiving others of their’s.
- Jewish law requires that we ask forgiveness from those we’ve wronged, and compels us to be gracious in granting forgiveness to those who have wronged us.
- Buddhism speaks to forgiving others not for the benefit of the ones being forgiven, but because holding onto the anger is unhealthy for our own mental well-being and enlightenment.
- Islam says that forgiving others, even one’s enemies is one of the more important Islamic teachings.
Forgiveness for me has not always been easy. If I’m being honest, I would have to say I’m a “grudge holder”. I’m not proud of it, but I find it difficult to forgive and to not hold a grudge when I feel someone has done something or said something that was not very nice or mean towards me. Especially if that person doesn’t apologize, tries to make light of my being hurt, or to turn it around to be somehow my fault.
As I get older and as I am trying to become a better person, I am working on not being this way. But it definitely depends on the particular situation that determines if I’m able to forgive and not hold a grudge. There have been times when I’ve found it impossible to forgive. These have been in instances where I feel the person was intentional in their actions, or there wasn’t any ownership of responsibility by those who have hurt me. Just a word of advice … if someone feels that you’ve hurt them, you should take responsibility for that, not try to turn the table by saying “you’re just being too sensitive” or that the person who feels hurt is “over-reacting”. Doing that is adding a 2nd injustice to that person’s feelings, by attempting to invalidate their feelings. They feel hurt … whether you intended to hurt them or not.
I recently sat down to think about those who have hurt me in my past, of those who I had not forgiven at the time and asked myself whether or not I have forgiven these individuals yet.
To be completely honest, no, I have not “forgiven” them. But, in thinking about them I realized that I no longer hold a grudge, that I have just let go. Each of these people don’t really take up space in my head anymore. I actually had to consciously pull the memories into the forefront of my brain in order to think about the situations and remind myself of how I had felt at the time. And while I still feel that they were wrong, and that they had hurt me at the time, at this point in time, the hurt is gone. There’s no emotion left in the situation, one way or another. No fondness or longing to be back to the way things used to be, but also no hurt or anger anymore.
I also asked myself … if any of these people were to reach out now and genuinely apologize for what they did and ask for forgiveness, do I feel that I could forgive them at this point? Now that the hurt is gone, yes, I probably could. That is of course IF the person truly was sorry, and really understood that what had occurred between us was very hurtful to me at the time. Would I be able to get back to the friendship that I had with these people? That I’m not so sure about. I may be able to forgive, but I don’t think I’d be able to get to the “forget” part of that saying. But, who knows, maybe I could.
The more important thing though is that even if none of those individuals ever reach out, if none of them ever takes ownership of their actions/words, it truly does not matter. What matters is that I am no longer “holding a grudge” and that I’ve moved on. My life goes on without them in it, and my life is going pretty darn good!!
So for me, I think it’s better to follow Elsa and just focus on “LET IT GO”! Don’t allow your time/energy/well-being to be hijacked by hurt. Definitely allow yourself to go through your emotions of hurt and possibly anger, because you should never deny your emotions. But once you have processed your hurt … let it go.
(some of you are singing the song now, aren’t you??)