Dr. Alan R. Zimmerman, a fellow member of the National Speakers Association, writes an electronic newsletter and has some thoughts on forgiveness that deserve sharing.
There are times when you’ve been wronged, but the other person neither shows remorse, nor apologizes, nor makes amends.
To help you help yourself, a particular type of forgiveness should be employed. Without it, you become stuck with the hot emotion of bitterness or revenge.
How do you deal at those times when you’ve been wronged? How do you get through the hurt caused by someone else’s thoughtlessness or malicious disregard?
First, accept the fact that LOVE AND PAIN GO TOGETHER. If you love someone or something, you are vulnerable. Love anything and your heart can be broken by it. There’s no such thing as painless love. The closer a person gets to you, the more the person can hurt you (even though, technically, you are allowing yourself to be hurt).
It’s one of the sobering truths in life. Unless and until you accept that fact, you may be riddled with unnecessary resentment and anger.
Second, UNDERSTAND THE NATURE OF FORGIVENESS. It is not about letting the other person off the hook. That person is responsible. Forgiveness is about letting go of the negative feelings that affect you.
Captain Ahab, in Herman Melville’s book, “Moby Dick,” would not forgive. A great white whale permanently injured him, and he spent the rest of his life seeking revenge. It drove him until nothing else mattered except killing the whale that injured him. This hatred cost him his soul and, in the end, his life.
More often than not, refusing to forgive someone will hurt you more than the other person. You become like the rattlesnake that bites itself when it becomes cornered. That is exactly what the harboring of hate and resentment against others is—a biting of oneself. We think that we are harming others by holding onto these negative emotions but the deeper harm is to ourselves.
Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.
Third, DON’T BROOD. When you’re wronged, when you feel the anger and resentment building up inside you, deal with it as quickly as possible. Don’t think about it a minute longer than necessary. Don’t allow yourself to sulk or indulge in self-pity.
If you continue to ruminate about the situation, you will distort the situation. The situation will grow in your mind, getting bigger and bigger, and you will get more and more upset.
Fourth, ADOPT AN ATTITUDE. A lot of people think they can forgive someone and be done with it. But a truly healthy, mature individual takes an ongoing forgiving approach to life and people. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said so well, “Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude.”
Make sure you understand what Dr. King was saying. Taking a forgiving approach does not mean that you become a passive doormat or a pitiful victim. Dr. King was anything but passive or pitiful. He was a champion. He was a warrior. And he was wronged over and over again. But he didn’t let the wrongs get in the way of his work or life. Dr. King was seff-disciplined.