Forgiveness isn’t easy. One might also argue that it is one of the hardest things to do. And what better day than today, the Global Forgiveness Day, to reflect upon the word “forgiveness”, its roots, and its application in our lives.
Global Forgiveness Day was born in Victoria, British Columbia in Canada in 1994 by Christian Embassy of Christ’s Ambassadors (CECA). It rose to prominence among scientists, educators, and psychologists due to its significance in maintaining our mental well-being. Naturally, grief, pain and anger are heavy burdens to carry and can turn into something bigger and uglier if unresolved.
Often, forgiveness is a difficult task because it challenges us to let go of our perception of someone else’s or our own mistakes. For many, it comes naturally, and they don’t try to fight it, while others are caught in a mental back and forth tug of whether to forgive or not to. What’s undeniable is the amount of emotional energy it takes to be in any of the stages of forgiveness- whether you are hurting, remembering, angry, pardoning or intentionally moving on. Other reasons for it requiring energy are because you might feel that the person doesn’t deserve it, or that your pain (and their pain) is still fresh.
In his book “Dare to Forgive”, Dr. Ned Hallowell coins four steps to forgiveness which are as follows:
· Acknowledge pain and hurt: Let your pain be seen, let your emotions out. Don’t deny them.
· Relive and reflect: What is your hook, or the thing that’s keeping you from healing from this pain or holding your back? Analyze it.
· Work it out: Resolve and flatten the hook in your own way, whether it’s meditating, journaling, giving thanks or even imagining vengeance, as long as you don’t act on it.
· Renounce your anger and resentment: Revisit this process whenever feelings of resentment come back.
In my personal reflective state today, I began to wonder what the world would be like if forgiveness was impossible. Would people find resolve through vengeance? Would anyone prevail interpersonal or intrapersonal understanding? What would be the consequences of no pardon? It’s scary to even begin to think. It forced me to look at our ability to forgive through a new lens. On the other side of the burden of discomfort and overcoming it takes to forgive someone is the gift of freedom and love that is truly unconditional. Like Lewis B. Smedes said, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
Some ways that have been very cathartic for me in my journey of forgiveness for people who’ve hurt me, or who I’ve hurt are journaling, therapy, baking, sharing with close friends, and writing letters to myself or someone who hurt me about how I feel. I have also learnt to let go of my pride and ego, and be more vulnerable with loved ones in the process. I’m grateful for the gift of forgiveness. Without it, it’s more difficult to love and trust people, while also practicing the healthy letting go of the “self”.
Before I sign out, here’s an interesting fact for you: According to National Today, “Scientists say while many animals including bonobos, mountain gorillas, chimps, goats, and hyenas are capable of forgiveness, cats do not exhibit any such behavior.” So the next time you decide to scold your kitty, think twice.