What is the worst thing that anyone has ever done to you? How did you pay them back? Did it feel worthwhile or did you end up feeling worse? There is a popular saying that refusing to forgive is like drinking poison hoping the other person dies. This is why each of the Abrahamic faiths Islam, Judaism, Christianity – include teachings on forgiveness, both the sort that God doles out and the sort that human beings can (and should) bestow on each other. The Torah, the Bible, and the Qur’an are all filled with dictates about forgiveness, and rules about what God can and cannot, or will not, forgive. Even the non-Abrahamic faiths too caution against forgiveness. Buddhism, for example, teaches that people who hold on to the wrongs done to them create an identity around that pain, and it is that identity that continues to be reborn.
Forgiveness isn’t easy especially when you feel like the recipient is undeserving even more so when they have no intention of ever apologizing to you. But in refusing to forgive, we wrongly assume that we are doling out due punishment to a deserving party neglecting to see the poison we’ve sentenced ourselves to continue ingesting.
Making the choice to forgive can be a liberating practice. One that if practiced proactively can lead to a life filled with exquisite experiences. It is imperative to remember that forgiveness is only possible because we have the ability to make choices. We have the choice to forgive or not to forgive and no one can force us to do either. If we want to forgive someone no one can stop us no matter how poorly the offender may have acted. This ability to forgive can be seen as an indication of the control we have over our lives. It can be helpful to reflect upon and feel the respect afforded us to be able to make choices that can have such profound implications.
Forgiveness is part of mercy and so it can appear to come from a position of weakness as the unjustly treated person offers the olive branch. Yet, forgiveness is anything but weak because the forgiver is not condoning, excusing, forgetting, or necessarily even reconciling with the other because none of these qualities is a moral virtue centered in goodness as is forgiveness. As the Bhagavad-Gita states “If you want to see the brave, look to those who can return love for hatred. If you want to see the heroic, look to those who can forgive.”
Remember that a life well lived is your best revenge. Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving the person who caused you pain power over you, learn to look for the love, beauty and kindness around you.