I am prey to the temptations of every other human. When someone mistreats me, my very first thoughts are not charitable ones. Often, my LATER thoughts are not particularly pleasant ones, either, depending on the degree of damage inflicted upon me. Now, I do try (most of the time) to rise above circumstance, and forgive like I was taught to do in Sunday School. I was taught to DO it, but they were really sketchy about exactly HOW to go about doing it. Sometimes I am pretty unwilling to forgive somebody who has wronged me – and after all, wronged me is something that happens in my own opinion. Sometimes I consider myself wronged when hindsight shows me quite clearly that they were trying to do, in genuine and sincere love, what was best for me. Even if, at the time, I was totally unwilling to concede that fact.
Ever taken a small child to the pediatrician for their inoculations? YOU know what is happening: you are, in love, defending that child from major, serious, life-ending illnesses that might actually kill them at some time in the future, in exchange for a little discomfort NOW. (Don’t you LOVE how doctors describe pain as “discomfort?”) You know this is an act of love – the kid does not particularly, or usually, see it this way. I don’t see tough love as something done for my own good, either. Especially at the time, even though I can (mostly always) acknowledge it later.
Still, forgiving someone is a tough business. If you search google.com for all the latest research on the benefits of forgiveness, you will rather quickly see from the articles you can read that forgiveness is not something that you need to do for the people who have wronged you – no. It is quite clear that when you can forgive someone who has wronged you, that there are significant benefits, emotionally and even physically, for you. In effect, holding onto anger and resentment hurts you, literally, and letting go of it liberates you from their malignant influence for good. Now, once again, like my Sunday School, that’s great, but how do you go about actually doing it?
One thing that works for me (sometimes) is just to state to myself that I forgive them, it’s over, and then every time my mind reminds me of it anyway, I repeat to myself that I have forgiven that offense, and that it is over and cannot hurt me anymore. After some time, it does get better, and I am reminded of it by my unconscious less and less. That has been successful with most minor things. There is one fairly major thing, though, that has proven to be a toughie. That one I still struggle with YEARS later. Lots of people have something major to deal with, like me. Some people have seriously been wronged, and wronged deliberately, not just by some horrible and jealous misunderstanding, like mine. I think, when that is the case, that someone who has been trained to counsel others is a good person to speak to. We go to a medical doctor when something is wrong medically, why not go to a professional for that problem, too? Even if they can’t solve it for you, often they have insights and suggestions that can help, even if the final forgiveness is ultimately something that you yourself must do.
Well. I’m working on it. One day I will achieve real forgiveness for this person. It will happen, because I’m not giving up on it.