When we are hurt or feel we have been wronged, itís natural for us to become angry, sad and confused. We struggle with these emotions as they wash over us in waves, and we find our thoughts returning to the events or situations that caused our pain until we can think of little else. We cling to our grudges until we are filled with feelings of resentment and bitterness and there is little or no room left within us for happiness and joy.
Sometimes we long to hear an apology from the person who wronged us, for some sign of remorse or regret, and we use that as an excuse to hold on to our grudges. When we do so, we allow the person who hurt us to continue to control our happiness and our lives. The pain we feel becomes our burden to bear, and we usually carry it alone. We may try to share that burden by telling others about what happened, but if we arenít careful, this becomes our way to wreak revenge and it hurts us as much as, if not more than, it hurts the person who wronged us.
Eventually we begin to see the world through the smoldering mists of our resentment. We are unable to enjoy the present because of the pains of our past. We build walls to protect ourselves without realizing that, in doing so, we have locked the roots of our pain inside with us. The relationships we attempt to form are barren of trust and openness, and we have sacrificed our hopes for the illusion of security.
Forgiveness is an act of self-preservation.
When we find a way to forgive, we set ourselves free of the chains that bind us to the resentments of our pasts, and we begin to search for a way to move on. Forgiveness allows us to feel compassion for others, to see and appreciate kindness around us, and to find the inner peace we all seek. Sometimes it even opens our eyes to empathy and understanding for the person who wrongs us.
But be careful. Sometimes we believe that in order to forgive, we have to be able to forget; that we have to allow that person another opportunity to injure us. We can forgive without excusing the act or minimizing the damage that was done. We can recognize that some people do things that are beyond our ability to understand or accept without holding resentment against them.
I once wrote that rattlesnakes simply do what is in their nature. They bite out of fear and to protect themselves in the best way they know how. I donít resent them, but I wonít allow them to get too close.
Sometimes we have to do that with the people who injure us. We can accept that what they did was simply part of their nature -- that we may not fully understand why they would do such a thing, and we wonít be able to ever get them to change. We donít have to resent them, but we donít have to allow them the opportunity to hurt us again.
There is a difference between forgiving someone and trusting them again.
When we forgive without forgetting, we empower ourselves -- we move from being a victim and begin to take charge of our own lives. We gain our freedom.