What Should I Give Up To Forgive?

"Forgiveness is giving up hope that the past could ever have been any different."

What should I give up to forgive? What does that mean? After all, the word forgive contains the two words, “for” and “give,” which should mean I am “for giving” and not “giving up.”:-)

"To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you." --Lewis B. Smedes

For this post, I will focus on the following two definitions of forgive.

1. to cease to blame or hold resentment against (someone or something)
2. to grant pardon for (a mistake, wrongdoing, etc.)

Now, these definitions are all appropriate and I agree with their correctness. Having stated that, when I try to forgive a wrongdoing that affects me in a profound manner, I can’t simply grant pardon, cease to blame and/or hold resentment. I have found this to especially true when someone severely betrays my trust. But, who owns this problem of “me not being able to forgive?” ME!

"The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive, but do not forget" --Thomas S Szasz

As I have proclaimed in many of my posts, the main purpose of my blog is “writing for learning.” In this case, I am writing to learn why and how I can be a more forgiving person. Why should I forgive? That’s an easy question. Not forgiving is mentally unhealthy.

When I don’t forgive, I find I have vented-up anger. That anger causes undue stress on my body and, more importantly, undue stress on those close to me. Besides anger, other negative feelings such as hurt, hatred, resentment, dissension, ill-will, revenge and abuse can arise from not forgiving. Of course, forgiving usually has to be done by the person normally thought of as the victim. Considering that, how should “the victim” approach the act of forgiving and at the same time, shed the feeling of being a victim?

Let’s contemplate some different points of view of forgiveness and how they might give me a way to forgive.

Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.” --Lily Tomlin

When I blame or hold resentment against someone or something, I have a natural feeling to want what caused the blame or resentfulness to be made right. Of course, it is usually impossible to go back in time and change what happened. So, what can I do, in the present, to change the past? Uhmmmmmm…? Here are some points of view about forgiveness that I find insightful.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” –Lewis B. Smedes

This quote suggests that I can treat need to forgive like the need to release a prisoner – forgiveness will set me free!

“The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive, but do not forget” –Thomas S Szasz

Mr. Szasz suggest that if I am wise, then I will forgive, but not necessarily, forget.

"Forgiveness is giving up hope that the past could ever have been any different." --Oprah

“Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.” –Lily Tomlin

Lily Tomlin’s quote gives me a way of living in the present and at the same time, facing the past.

“Forgiveness is giving up hope that the past could ever have been any different.” –from Oprah

I like this last one, from Oprah, the best. It is similar to Ms. Tomlin’s quote, but adds the realistic view that past is what it is! In order to forgive, I need to accept that the past will not change and therefore give up all hope that it could and will ever be different. I need to accept the past for what it was/is and use the present to help myself move forward.

“When there is a mature relationship between people, there is always compassion and forgiveness.”--Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk, is quoted as saying:

“When there is a mature relationship between people, there is always compassion and forgiveness.”

I’ve read that Nhat Hanh’s key teaching is that, through mindfulness, we can learn to live in the present moment instead of in the past and in the future. Dwelling in the present moment is, according to Nhat Hanh, the only way to truly develop peace, both in one’s self and in the world. For me to be present in the present, I must forgive or be doomed to trying to make the past different – an impossibility!

Ok, so what, specifically, should I do if I want to forgive? Though, not necessarily easy, I think the following steps will give me a method that enables me to forgive.

1) Choose the intent to forgive.

2) Allow new feelings to come in while still experiencing the anger, hurt, hatred, etc. left from the blame and resentment.

3) While experiencing the negative feelings, I need to constantly say to myself that I no longer want these feelings to be a part of me.

4) Be patient while I give up all hope that the past could ever have been any different.

Forgiveness is a form of healing. Healing, whether mind or body, takes time. In other words, I can’t expect forgiveness to instantly happen. Like a wound on my skin, I need to take care of it and be patient while it heals.

So, what should I give up to forgive? I should give up all hope that the past could ever have been any different!

Can I? Yes!

Have I, yet? No!

Will I? Yes! :-)



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