Forgiveness: An Intentional Choice.
Updated: Jul 19
Unforgiveness or not forgiving is when you are unable or unwilling to forgive the person that hurt, betrayed or broke your trust. There is an emotional pain that needs to be compensated. People who struggle to forgive may tend to keep scores; complain regularly about the person that wronged them; feel bitter, envious, jealous and angry; secretly hope that the person will get what they deserve or speak ill about them; isolate & separate others and create a self-righteousness or martyrdom syndrome within themselves just to cope with the hurt. There is a sense of being eaten from the inside-out.
On the other hand, forgiveness is a CHOICE and a PROCESS. Philip Yancey calls forgiveness an “unnatural act” because everything inside of us cries out for justice and revenge. Forgiveness needs to be intentional and the person must want to do it. It cannot be forced on by the therapist, family or friend. Forgiveness is difficult because whenever we want to let go, we reflect and think back about the damage and hurt the person has caused and it makes the individual cry out for justice and repayment. Forgiving requires a person to process the grieving, loss and hurt. It is understandable why some may struggle to forgive because the process of forgiving can feel painful, scary and uncertain.
According to Everett Worthington Jr, one of the world’s leading psychology researcher on forgiveness:
“People who won’t forgive the wrong committed against them tend to have negative indicators of health and well-being: more stress-related disorders, lower immune-system function, and worse rates of cardiovascular disease than the population as a whole. In effect, by failing to forgive they punish themselves. Unforgiving people are also thought to experience higher rates of divorce, which also reduces well-being, given that married men and women consistently do better on most health barometers, including longevity. In contrast, people who forgive may have better health, fewer episodes of clinical depression, longer marriages and better “social support”, another indicator of well-being. This latter means forgiving people get along better with others, who in turn come to their aid in social-support situations.”
What forgiveness is not:
- It is not forgetting.
- It is not the same as justice.
- It is not waiting for an apology from the other person.
- It is not demanding change before you will forgive.
- It is not an occasion but a lifestyle.
- It is not defending yourself.
- It is not denying the other person is responsible.
- It is not a feeling.
- It is not pretending.
- It is not about allowing the person you forgive to continue to harm you.
- It is not surrendering your personal boundaries.
- It does not mean you have to trust the person who hurt you.
- It is does not mean that the other person is/was right.
- It does not mean that the pain will go away immediately.
- It is not the same as reconciliation.
- It is does not mean that we do not report a crime.
- It does not mean we are a victim.
- It does not mean that you need to understand everything.
- It is not based on the other person’s action.
What forgiveness is:
- Forgiveness is a free gift.
- Forgiveness is necessary.
- Forgiveness is a choice.
- Forgiveness is a process.
- Forgiveness is courage.
- Forgiveness is free and freely given with no strings attached.
- Forgiveness is a willingness to try to understand the why of what has happened.
- Forgiveness is to no longer see the offender as indebted to you.
- Forgiveness is for ALL the hurts, abuse and disappointments.
- Forgiveness is when we drop all accusation against the other.
- Forgiveness means moving ahead with your life.
- Forgiveness is daring to believe in a better future.
Forgiveness is not always about the other person. Sometimes the biggest unforgiven person is ourselves. It is at times harder to forgive ourselves than it is to forgive others. We may sometimes become our own worst enemy and somehow believe that we deserve the punishment and injustice. This entrenches our emotions and thoughts and we start living in a cycle of hurt, resentment and anger, sometimes to a point where we do not know where these feelings come from.
Freedom comes to those who are ready to forgive.
Disclaimer: The material on this blog is not to be used by any commercial or personal entity without expressed written consent of the blog's author. The article above is an opinion of an individual clinician and should not be taken as full clinical advice. The statements on this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any mental health or mental illnesses. Always consult your doctor for medical advice or seek professional therapy.