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Forgive to Give For

Letting Go Allows People to Move On

by Michael Heath


The act of forgiveness is often difficult for people to face. This can be especially true of a spouse or ex-spouse who experienced betrayal or years of harsh treatment. Removing anger and resentment to reach a place of peace allows the wounded person to live a more peaceful life.


The Lord’s Prayer       

The most recited prayer in Christianity is The Lord’s Prayer. A short devotion of only a few lines, forgiveness is cited twice (asking and giving forgiveness). The Jewish High Holidays offer a time for believers in Judaism to reflect and forgive. Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and most all other religions use forgiveness as a central part of their devotional discipline. Whether a believer, agnostic, or atheist, anyone knows that harboring resentment is a heavy emotional burden. Forgiveness lightens the load.


What Forgiveness Is and Isn’t

Many people avoid forgiveness believing it excuses bad behavior or is a way to somehow forget a harm suffered. It is neither of these things. Forgiveness is a gift given to oneself, a conscious act of releasing the bitterness trapped inside. By loosening the stranglehold of grievance, a person can find their way to contentment and joy.


Some believe they can forgive only if the person who hurt them shows contrition. This concept may be tempting but is illogical. That is because the harmer could keep the harmed imprisoned simply by never apologizing or acting with a sign of remorse. There are bad people who do bad things. Relying on them for emotional relief will too often leave one disappointed. This is why forgiveness is such a personal decision.


What To Do 

We forgive more than we realize. Little things like someone cutting in line or shortchanging us may make our blood boil for the moment, but then we soon move on, letting the situation go. More substantial infractions leave us with greater wounds that take longer to heal. Some misdeeds are so hurtful they can stay with a person for years or even a lifetime. Those suffering from long-ago  memories of past transgressions may do well in seeking out professional counseling.


Dr. David R. Hawkins in his landmark book Letting Go says that many people know they have been hurt but tend to bury the pain. He notes that hiding the feeling is a fear-based reaction that may hold the pain at bay but does little to entirely remove the hurt and anger. He suggests getting quiet and recalling the event. Then sit while realizing the feeling. This facing-head-on approach is an act of courage, which is a much greater emotion than fear. Then acknowledge the pain without identifying with it. For example, if suffering is the result of past episodes of bullying, they must realize that the aggressive acts were due to the perpetrator’s uncivil behavior. The conduct should not be seen as something personalized. After allowing the feelings to rise and be identified, they can then be surrendered.


Mediation When Emotions Run High   

Just as mediation or collaborative sessions is not marriage counseling, neither is it therapy. If either spouse holds a deep hatred toward the other spouse for one or more transgressions, they cannot expect emotional relief or a successful settlement from such an approach. When deep animosity exists in a failed marriage, hiring divorce attorneys who will advocate for their clients is likely the only option. However, spouses who work out the emotional hurt felt inside and show empathy for the person they married stand a very good chance of dissolving their marital union in a less costly and more amicable way.

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