Updated: Oct 3, 2021
By: Dr. Lisa M. Coffey
Key Words: forgiveness, healing, resentment
Some of the best books are on the turnstiles in the gas station on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. A few years ago, while traveling, I purchased a pocketsize book titled, The Healing Power of Forgiveness, Experience Peace, and Restored Relationships by George Foster. I struggle with forgiveness. While my son drove back from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, I sat in the passenger seat engrossed in the book and finished by the time we made it home. The book was tiny in size but monstrous in content.
Foster writes, "Forgiveness is freedom from bitterness. Resentment and recurring feelings of worthlessness that come as an aftermath of disappointments and pain you have suffered. After having made the decision to forgive, you should not have to experience ongoing guilt, self-accusation, and resentment."
We all hurt
Make no mistake about it. All of us will be hurt. We live in a world filled with conflict and pain. Inevitably we will face disappointments, resentment, sexism, racism, deception, injury, betrayal, or rejection. If we do not forgive and hold onto the bitterness, we are dragging emotional baggage for the rest of our lives. Keeping the unnecessary junk alive in our spirits will slow our progression towards wellness. I can be honest and say forgiveness does not come easy for me and is challenging, but and I make a conscious effort to apply forgiveness.
Let us be honest most of the time, we have to be the bigger person and offer forgiveness to someone in our lives that hurt or betrayed us. Which can be a parent, boss, lover, friend, co-worker, child, sibling, or adversary. In that moment we feel as if they least deserve our kind will. Our minds do not easily forget, and our emotions are imbalanced when broken. However, the reality is, forgiveness is about you and not the offenders/oppressors.
In my book, iDid and uCan 2, I write,
"When we live with forgiveness, we create the capacity to have better interpersonal relationships, a greater sense of mental health, and live with a lower stress level. On the contrary, carrying around resentment and anger can lead to anxiety, depression, and a deteriorating self-worth. Recognizing the value of forgiveness can improve your life by allowing you to erase the feelings of being a victim and taking back your power from the one who offended you in the first place."
How do we forgive?
Whatever has hardened your heart, it is time to let the pain and resentment of that issue go and move toward forgiveness.
Do not ignore or sweep the offense under the rug. The first step to forgiveness is acknowledging that you were hurt and why. I do not always share my hurt with others; therefore, my journal is where I release all of my frustrations.
Have some empathy for your offender. Sometimes we do not operate as our best selves. All of us are guilty of saying and doing things when our emotions run high that we later regretted, and perhaps your offender was in that dark space in their lives.
Make the tough decision to forgive. Forgiveness is the healing power you need to move forward. Holding a grudge is time consuming, unhealthy, and allows resentment to hurt you over and over again.
Follow through on forgiveness by:
Knowing what has hurt you and the boundaries necessary to avoid the pain in the future.
Thinking ahead to liberation brought about by forgiveness.
Developing a greater compassion for others when they are in a dark place hurt people hurt others.
Remembering you are not perfect and needed forgiveness at some point. Do not pass on your pain to others
Delight in the growth and mercy you have shown
Forgiveness is hard but necessary! What are you holding onto that you can throw in the trash? Start the process of healing through forgiveness.
Foster, G. (2011), The Healing Power of Forgiveness, Experience Peace, and Restored Relationships, Minneapolis, Summerside Press.