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What is forgiveness? It is the healing and release from an injury. This is a psychological healing; we can forgive on an emotional level and yet still pursue rightful retribution through a lawsuit or other means, but this is different from merely destructive "revenge." And if the word, "forgiveness," means that we insincerely "bless" the other person while pretending not to be outraged, we can use the word, "release."
The benefits from forgiveness. Forgiveness is done for ourselves, and not for the benefit of the offender; no one wants to do such a "favor" to someone who has injured us (and it might be psychologically impossible to do).
- Forgive -- to be rid of the situation. When there is no forgiveness, the bitterness lingers -- and when we could be enjoying today's pleasures, we are upsetting ourselves with yesterday's injustices. In a sense, the person stays with us through this memory. Not only will the memory remain with us, but the offense itself will not leave until it has been forgiven; we find ourselves with people who commit the same offense to us (and we overreact to this replay), and we might even discover tha we are compulsively starting to do the deed that has been done to us. Forgiveness unshackles us and gives us a chance to go on to other things.
- Forgive -- to regain control of your life. When we resent, we give control of our emotions to the person who hurt us; each time we think of the violation, he or she "hurts" us again through our recurring anger. Our behavior could also be affected; we avoid or malign people and situations that are similar to those that harmed us. Forgiveness allows us to regain our dignity and serenity and vitality. We can also reclaim our past, peacefully, because our memories don't upset us.
- Accept people as they are. People are the way that they are, regardless of any lofty expectations that we might cherish. When we have a realistic view of human unpredictability, we are then more vigilant to possible affronts, so our bruises are fewer, and we shrug them off more easily. Forgiveness is an opportunity to reevaluate and adjust our expectations; take this as an education in human nature and behavior. It is also a time to recognize and reclaim any disowned part of ourselves which we have "projected" onto this person; perhaps we wanted him or her to be the Counselor or the Protector which we might more rightly find within ourselves.
- Realize your part in the situation. Even to ourselves, it can be difficult to admit that we provoked or aggravated a confrontation. But forgiveness is easier then, because there is less blame in the other person. We also see that we, too, have bits of carelessness or nastiness for which we need to forgive ourselves, and to be forgiven. In this common responsibility, we can give up any proclivity to judge. In any case, "judgment" is condemnation from a mythical point of moral superiority, and we might consider it to be the prerogative of Whomever is perfectly moral; as humans, we are entitled to do no more than recognize an affront and deal with it on the level of our common general imperfection.
- Realize that the people did the best that they could have done. Why did the person hurt us? Like all of us, the reasons arise from a mixture of viewpoints, conditions, problems, and many years of various experiences. Given such a mix, we all confront situations in different ways. And in every circumstance, we seek satisfaction and survival; the person was trying to do that, however clumsily or cruelly. Instead of thinking that we would never do such an offense, realize that if we had been that person (with his or her "mix"), we would have done exactly the same thing. We might gain by perceiving the other individual's position, however foreign or indefensible it may be to us -- though we don't have to burden ourselves with a compulsion to understand "why" he or she acted that way, and we never have to feel that our understanding is the same as approval.
- Realize the futility of "grudges." Sometimes we hold a grudge as if that would punish the person, but it usually doesn't have that effect. Nor does it assure that he or she will behave considerately in the future. On the contrary, the only possibility for peace is in resolving the conflict -- and that will be simpler without the complications caused by vengefulness. And if this is a person whom we will never see again (or who is now deceased), how much more useless is the resentment?
- Forgive yourself. Refer to the chapter regarding "guilt."