Forgiveness is difficult. From the driver who cuts you off in traffic to the spouse who has betrayed you, forgiveness is nearly impossible for some to achieve. Some might ask “Why should I forgive?” Some see forgiveness as a sign of weakness, of not being assertive but rather allowing oneself to be taken advantage of. Some feel that forgiving a person is giving in to them or overlooking their behavior.
Forgiveness is none of these things. Forgiveness is something that we do for ourselves, not the person who harmed us. Withholding forgiveness for the sake of punishing someone is like holding on to an old, dirty, uncomfortable couch that is no longer being used simply because you don’t want anyone else to have it. It makes no sense; it takes up too much space, holds little value, and prevents you from creating a space for a new couch. Resentment is the same. It is holding onto something long after it has lost its value and purpose, and it impedes our ability to move forward with new, more useful things.
Forgiveness is a choice and a process. We cannot move forward until we have chosen to move forward. This means that we must make a conscious effort to let go of anger, hatred, hurt, and resentment. We must begin to work toward empathy and understanding in order to forgive. It certainly does not happen immediately and may take years to do. But, it is worth doing.
Why forgive? So someone else can use the old couch? No, so that we can create room for a new one. Forgiveness is not done for the benefit of the offender, it is for the benefit of ourselves. We don’t forgive someone because we want them to feel better; we forgive so that we can feel better. We can feel release and rejuvenation. Forgiving does not mean that we have to tolerate the offense of another, it simply means that we are willing to let go and move on.
Finally, forgiveness is a sign of strength. Any time we choose to do something difficult and succeed at it, we gain strength. It is much easier to be content with the anger and hurt that becomes a part of us when we’re resentful. It takes strength to push ourselves to do something that is difficult, but it is worthwhile.