Throughout my own journey to a happy state of mind, I have had to frequently deal with the topic of forgiveness. It's a word that is generally being thrown around a lot and often positioned as 'forgetting' – "you have to forgive and forget" – but the act of forgiving deserves much more credit for the impact it has on our being and our state of mind. In fact, as much as The Positude is about a shift in perspective, forgiveness can also be described as such a shift in thinking.
There are periods in life where you will realize that your state of mind is troubled by a certain feeling. A feeling of not being seen, loved or appreciated. Or, on the more negative scale of emotions, a sense of broken trust, betrayal or loss. A simple example would be a friend who treats you badly. A bigger example would be to be imprisoned for years because of your political activities (think of Nelson Mandela).
Should you be in this state of mind, the resolution is not to ignore these feelings or to tell yourself that what happened was OK. In fact, very often it was not OK and you need to acknowledge that. Accept the wrong that has been done to you, reflect on it and decide on how you want to think about it. Forgetting will just lead to denial or suppression of your feelings, but forgiveness will allow you to remember the wrong without feeling resentment or a desire to pursue revenge. Remember, we don’t have to forget in order to forgive.
Is it that much of a big deal you might ask? Believe me, it is. Carrying this pain will keep you stuck in anger, sadness and frustration for a long period to come. The unforgiving mind is full of fear and suffocates feelings of love. It stops you from spreading your wings in peace and soaring above the turmoil of the world. It is sad, hopeless and weak. It makes you a prisoner of yourself. Forgiveness on the other hand opens the door to your own freedom.
Stanford professor Fred Luskin from the Forgiveness Projects describes forgiveness as "the feeling of peace that emerges as you take your hurt less personally, take responsibility for how you feel and become a hero instead of a victim in the story that you tell". You don't have to become best friends with the person who has hurt you, but make the conscious decision that your interactions with that person are not filled with feelings of fear or blame.
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.” ― Nelson Mandela
In forgiveness you seek the peace and understanding that come from blaming people less after they offend you and taking those offenses less personally. Anger reproduces anger. Self-absorbed unhappiness over your own troubles will only cause a state of despair. Your mind only has a limited capacity for the feelings you allow to enter, so don't fill it up with anger and bitterness - leave these feelings behind. That space should better be used for feelings of love and gratitude.
“People have to forgive. We don't have to like them, we don't have to be friends with them, we don't have to send them hearts in text messages, but we have to forgive them, to overlook, to forget. Because if we don't we are tying rocks to our feet, too much for our wings to carry!” ― C. JoyBell C.
I really want to encourage you to not be afraid of being hurt and even more so, be afraid of having to process these negative feelings that might result from your experiences. Don't be afraid to forgive. Embrace this mental challenge and consider it just another beautiful lesson in your continuous learning process to happiness. Let your worst enemy be your greatest teacher. In today's society, the ability to quickly forgive and not let negative feelings dominate and imprison you is worth more than you can possibly imagine. Don't let these experiences define you, but be the one who defines these experiences.