by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© September 2016, L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc.
Why Is Forgiveness Important?
Why Is It Sometimes Very Difficult?
What If I Am Stuck In Unforgiveness?
Forgiveness Versus Judgment
Discernment Versus Judgment
Can Humans Forgive, Or Can Only God Forgive?
Forgiving is one of the most important mental processes imaginable. The Bible suggests that we must forgive seventy times seven times. I take this to mean that forgiving is a life-long process, and very important.
To forgive means:
1. To excuse, exonerate, pardon or absolve.
2. To let go of hating, resenting, blaming or feeling angry toward someone, or about a situation or incident.
3. To cancel (as in a debt).
4. A conscious decision to give up any present or future claim to victimhood.
5. A decision to grow in faith and trust that all is well and only God, or the universe, understands the reasons some incidents occur.
Forgiving is an attitude. A forgiving person is one who does not tend to hold grudges, and who tends to be lenient, and slow to judge.
Forgiving is a process. Forgiving may also be defined as a very special process in which a person is freed from all ill feelings toward another person or toward a situation, or toward oneself.
It is equally important to know what forgiving does NOT mean or imply. It does not mean:
1. Forgetting the incident or situation.
2. Condoning the incident or situation.
3. Pretending the incident never occurred.
4. That one must remain friendly with a person who wronged you.
5. Allowing others to take advantage of you, either now or in the future.
6. Acceptance of another person or situation in your life. Instead, forgiveness is the release of all feelings of anger and resentment.
WHY IS FORGIVING SO IMPORTANT?
1. Resentment kills. Holding on to anger and holding grudges wears out the adrenal glands and the thyroid gland. Eventually, it weakens the entire body and mind.
2. Resentment leads to compensatory behavior that will get in the way of living your life. For example, resentment often causes overeating, living on junk food or so-called “comfort food”, smoking cigarettes or marijuana, staying up late watching television, viewing pornography, or other bad habits people use to “forget their pain.”
3. Resentments often lead to severe frustration, hostility, neuroses and even psychoses. Neuroses are alterations in your perception of reality. Psychoses are actual breaks with reality in which a person makes up their own reality because this reality is not acceptable in some way.
4. Unforgiven incidents and situations often give rise to nightmares, post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, anxiety attacks or panic attacks.
These are called breakthrough disorders. Old angers and resentments can break through into waking consciousness when you least expect it.
Another breakthrough disorder that can occur is regressing. Under stress, a person who holds an old grudge or resentment suddenly begins to act like an immature, enraged and sometimes violent 10-year-old or even 2-year-old child.
5. Holding on to resentment and judgments ruins families, marriages, careers, and other life achievements.
6. Failure to forgive others can block us from receiving forgiveness for our transgressions.
THE FOUR STEPS OF FORGIVING
1. Desire. One must truly desire to forgive. This is essential or forgiveness will not occur.
2. Intention. Intention means focused and ongoing desire. Otherwise, desire tends to fade away and be replaced with new desires each day, week or month.
3. Allowing. This means to relax and just allow the unwinding of judgment, anger, hatred, and resentment. This is a difficult step for some people.
It means, for example, that if one day you wake up feeling furious or sad, do not stop your process of forgiveness. Just allow the feelings to surface and they will pass.
4. Surrender. This is a continuation of allowing on a larger level. It means to relax completely, do your best to enjoy the process of forgiving, and not to try to control it.
Practicing these four steps is not always easy. It is not just a matter of saying “I forgive you”. It is a deep psychological process that takes some time. However, many people are successful with it.
For more on the four steps above, please read Four Steps To Action on this website.
WHY IS GIVING UP RESENTMENT AND ANGER SOMETIMES VERY DIFFICULT?
Possible reasons include:
1. Lack of commitment.
2. It has become part of your personality structure or identity. Letting go of anger may be frightening because it will leave a void or an emptiness in your personality.
3. Giving up resentment may take away your energy. This is more common than one might imagine!
It means that you have been operating on the energy of resentment. If you give up your resentment, you may not be able to get out of bed in the morning. This is an important reason why following a nutritional balancing program can help one forgive – it restores natural energy production.
4. You think that you “should” remain angry and resentful about a situation or incident. This is commonly taught by psychologists, for example. However, it is not the truth, and it will stop you from forgiving.
WHAT IF I AM STUCK IN UNFORGIVENESS?
Here are some suggestions:
1. Read this article a number of times. This can help the ideas to sink in deeply and help you to become more committed to forgiveness. A psychological principle is: That to which you commit, you will achieve.
2. Ask daily in prayer that you be helped with forgiveness. The answers may come in unusual ways because prayer has a mysterious power.
3. Follow a nutritional balancing program. This can restore your natural source of energy and help you let go of the harmful energy of resentment.
It will also help your clarity of mind and improve the ability to process traumas. To begin, I only recommend contacting one of the Approved Practitioners listed on this website. You can also begin with the Free Program. However, doing it yourself may not be good enough.
4. Change your perspective. For example, perhaps there was a reason or lesson for you in the incident or situation. Holding anger and resentment about it is thus not appropriate or helpful.
5. Look into a program called Total Forgiveness. It is a tough-love type of healing program aimed primarily at women. It consists of a set of video programs and a seminar for those who need it. To find it, type Total Forgiveness into your computer search engine.
FORGIVENESS VERSUS JUDGMENT
An interesting fact is that forgiving is only needed if you form a judgment about a person or situation.
For example, if you are hit by another driver on the highway, but you do not take it personally and do not form a judgment about the person or situation, you will not need to forgive the other person. You will let the incident go easily.
JUDGMENT VERSUS DISCERNMENT
A topic related to the one above is the difference between judgment and discernment. Judgment has a “final” or “conclusive” quality about it that makes it stick in your memory and emotions. This is what causes the block in consciousness that is called resentment or hatred. This hatred, in turn, is what upsets and harms you, and creates a need to forgive.
Discerning means just noticing the truth without emotional attachment. This carries much less finality and condemnation. Discernment is more like just having an opinion. It need not be final, conclusive or judgmental. It is more “in the moment”. It may be compared to the way a ship slips noiselessly through the water, or a bird flies silently through the sky. The bird makes decisions in each moment where to go. However, it leaves little or no trace and has little or no emotional attachment to these decisions.
This is the same as saying there is no judgment. One just keeps moving forward.
III. RELIGIOUS ASPECTS
Forgiveness is an important topic in most religions. Here are a few comments about this aspect of forgiveness.
CAN HUMAN BEINGS REALLY FORGIVE, OR CAN ONLY GOD FORGIVE?
The Lord’s Prayer states “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass upon us” – Matthew 23-24. This implies that human beings can and should forgive.
The New Testament also contains the famous statement of Jesus, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”- Luke 23:34. This statement might imply that Jesus was not able to forgive. However, it is also possible Jesus had forgiven them, but asked that they also be forgiven by the Father in Heaven.
1. If I forgive, must I avoid this person, or must I remain friendly with this person? This depends upon the situation.
For example, if the one you have forgiven is an ex-marriage partner and you have a child together, you may need to stay in touch with the person for at least 15 or 20 years, and perhaps longer.
If you forgive your boss at work for some incident, and you decide to continue working at the same job, then you may need to smile a little and be polite. However, in other situations, there is no reason to keep in touch at all.
2. Must I never speak of the incident ever again? No. However, if you really forgive, you will no longer dwell upon the incident.
Forgiveness is an internal letting go process. Speech is outward expression. What matters is to forgive internally. Then the words will come out properly.
If you don’t forgive, the words or lack thereof will always be incorrect, and tinged with anger and resentment.
3. Should I feel sorry for the person, or for myself, and do I need to let that go, also? Forgiveness means letting go of the person, incident or situation completely, so there is no room to feel sorry for the person, or for yourself.
In fact, if you indulge in feeling sorry for the person or situation, you will likely be drawn back into it. It usually means that you never really forgave perfectly in the first place.
Many people say, “I forgave the person or situation, but then I slipped back into anger or fear.” This usually means the person never forgave fully.
4. Is there a relationship between forgiving others and forgiving oneself? Yes. Usually, those who truly forgive others are able to forgive themselves, and vice versa. Conversely, if you are unable to forgive others, usually you will not fully forgive yourself, and vice versa.
It is an attitude. This occurs because forgiving is an attitude, not just a process. If you have the attitude toward others, you are much more likely to have it toward yourself, and vice versa. For this reason, if you have difficulty forgiving yourself, you often will have trouble forgiving others.
5. Don’t I have a right to be angry if someone wrongs me? This is a deep question. The answer may depend upon what you mean by a right. If by a right you mean a special legal privilege given by God, or by the government, then there is no right. If, by a right, you simply mean permission, then yes, you may be as judgmental as you wish.
However, this does not make holding grudges and resentments a good idea.
6. Does “following the rules” ever force us to judge? For example, when a child disobeys the rules, the parent should judge the child and take action. Otherwise, won’t the child grow up to be a spoiled brat?
The answer is that one can teach and punish a child without judging or holding resentment. One can simply say that a rule was broken (without saying that the behavior was “bad”) and therefore a time-out or punishment is warranted. This is punishment without judging.
If a parent holds a grudge against the child for the child’s behavior or words, this is not correct and the parent needs to practice forgiveness to release the judgment about the child’s action or words.
7. Is there some act or sin so horrendous that it cannot be forgiven? I would say no, but there are some who disagree.
8. Is holding on to revulsion about a crime or incident different from being unforgiving? Yes. It is perfectly okay to dislike or even revile certain behaviors. However, this should not cause an emotional and a glandular reaction in the body.
For more, please read the article, Forgiving Your Parents on this website.