Forgetting to say happy birthday, misspelling someone’s name, or arriving late to an event are all examples of offenses that can be easily forgiven, but what about wrongs done against you that are heartbreaking or life-altering? How do you handle that kind of profound pain and move forward unjaded?
In a study conducted by the Michigan-based Fetzer Institute, 62% of American adults said they needed more forgiveness, and an overwhelming 94% said they wanted to see more forgiveness in the country. Seeing mercy spread across the land from Los Angeles to Houston to New York sounds good. However, the bitter reality is that we will never be able to witness more forgiveness nationally until we each manifest more forgiveness individually.
Yet, how does one become more forgiving - especially at a time when hatred has become the new rhetoric and hateful acts are deemed as righteous? It starts with awareness. We must understand what forgiveness is, why forgiveness is critical to our well-being, and how to make forgiveness our default response when someone is dishonoring with their words, actions, and/or attitude.
Although most of us have already heard of the word forgiveness, our preconceived notions often hinder us from grasping its 5 fundamental truths:
Forgiveness is action - It is not a feeling or something earned.
Forgiveness is comprehensive - It is not optional or situational. You cannot pick and choose when and whom to forgive. You are either forgiving or you are not.
Forgiveness is learned - It is not a personality trait possessed by some, but rather a behavior that can be taught to all.
Forgiveness is not weakness - It is one of the most courageous deeds humanity can ever demonstrate to one another without forsaking justice.
Forgiveness is not a fairy tale - It is not a requirement for both parties to be BFFs for forgiveness to take place. Sometimes the outcome is reconciliation, and other times you move on with the consolation of knowing that you did your best to gain closure.
In addition to being a process of letting go, researchers have discovered a positive correlation between forgiveness and mental health. Some of the outcomes include stronger self-esteem, healthier relationships, and reduced levels of chronic stress, toxic anger, anxiety, and depression. So if forgiveness has all of these benefits and anyone can learn how to possess it, why is forgiveness lacking in our hearts, homes, and communities? Forgiveness has to be cultivated. Unlike innate character traits, forgiveness is an acquired element that can only be developed in conjunction with other qualities. Included below are the Top 15 Qualities Associated With Forgiveness. If you are holding on to negative emotions due to pain caused by yourself or someone else, it is likely that you are lacking one or more of these elements in your life.
Self-awareness - Be aware of what unforgiveness looks like. Realize how it consumes your thoughts and feelings, and how it shapes your perceptions toward yourself and others. Additionally, be cognizant of where it shows up in your life. Like fire, unforgiveness spreads and damages every relationship it touches.
Honesty - Instead of suppressing the harm that was caused by an offense or clearly denying it with statements such as “I’m okay,” “I don’t care,” “I’m over it,” be honest with yourself. Admit that what happened hurt you so that you can appropriately begin to heal.
Knowledge - Become knowledgeable about the detrimental effects of unforgiveness. It is important to know that you are risking your physical and mental health every time you choose to be unforgiving.
Self-love - Once you realize all the risks unforgiveness entails, it becomes easier to understand that forgiveness is a love offering to yourself. It is an expression of love for your health, wellness, and future.
Analysis - Take the time to examine your heart. The right questions can bring about healing if answered truthfully such as “Who do I need to forgive?” “How did that person hurt me?” or “Why is it so hard for me to be forgiving?”
Humility - As you recall the person, the circumstance or situation that caused you harm, assume a posture of humility and acknowledge when you played a part in the problem and how you could have handled it differently.
Decisiveness - You can allow unforgiveness to drain the joy and peace from your life, or you can choose to release this negative energy. Decide how you want to live.
Personal Responsibility - If you are waiting for someone else to change or to say they’re sorry, you will forever be broken. Accept that emotional healing is your responsibility and not the person who wounded you.
Preparation - Prepare your heart to forgive by no longer speaking negatively about the person who offended you, and replacing each negative thought that comes to mind about that person with blessings and well wishes.
Courage - Once you make the decision to forgive, put in the work to go through the process. There are several methods of release. Decide which one(s) you would like to try and move forward with a strong heart. For more information about forgiveness techniques, click here.
Accountability - Select a Forgiveness Friend. Ideally this is someone who has successfully gone through the forgiveness process and can empathize with your journey and hold you accountable to your commitment to forgive.
Patience - Healing cannot take place without patience. Depending on the severity of the wound, it may take years to heal and there is nothing wrong with that. Show patience to yourself by acknowledging your effort and growth along the way.
Meekness - Learn how to not be easily provoked or offended. Life is too short. Choose carefully what you decide to be hurt over.
Inspiration - Be inspired by the real life stories of ordinary people who became heroes by forgiving devastating offenses.
Boundaries - Many struggles with unforgiveness would not exist if people understood how to effectively establish and maintain boundaries. For a free guide to help you discern if someone is safe for your heart, click here.
Once you discover which quality is missing from your journey, pick it up and use it to keep moving forward until you are free from the hurt and hatred that is holding you in captivity. When the day comes that forgiveness finally fills your heart, let forgiveness flow into your home. Let forgiveness flow into your community. Let forgiveness flow into your city. Let forgiveness flow into your state. Let forgiveness flow throughout our country so that we can hear harmony in our streets and enjoy freedom together in our land.