Every January people talk about resolutions. This year, how about looking deeper at what could really make a difference in your outlook on life? Consider your need to forgive.
Forgiveness is not looking the other way, it’s not forgetting, it’s not even the same as making up. Forgiveness is the conscious choice to let go of resentment. Sounds good, right? So why don’t we do it all the time? Like a drug, wallowing in resentment can feel good in the short-term. We can be “right,” and make the other person “wrong.” We feel we deserve sympathy for our predicament. We get a sense of power and control. We don’t have to assume responsibility.
The cost of holding on to resentment is high. The bitterness and distance it creates can be palpable. Walking on eggshells is no fun for sure, but there is a greater cost. If we allow our relationships to suffer at work, we allow our own career to suffer. When we find ways to by-pass the one we are holding the grudge against, we create waste. Probably most importantly, our own peace of mind suffers.
When we truly forgive we do not do it for others. We forgive primarily for our own sake. Forgiveness may enable us to repair breakdowns, it may bring peace to relationships, and it may even help the person we are forgiving to feel better. But those are side effects. The main advantage of forgiveness is that it frees us from resentment; it releases us from the grip of the past, allowing us to contemplate it and move on. This does not mean that we lower our standards or fail to hold others accountable for improving. Forgiveness enables us to come better people.
Forgiveness is not just about forgiving others, it can also be about forgiving one’s self for our transgressions. It does not negate free will and the necessity of being responsible. It allows us to experience peace at a deeper level. Forgiving takes courage and has the opportunity to bring peace. We could all use more of that in the New Year.
“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us.” — Martin Luther King Jr.