There’s a preconception that forgiveness portrays weakness and revenge embodies something more like strength. Yes, we are animals and we can act more carnal; when we are hit, we can hit back — retaliate. But we also have the capacity to think, “If I hit back, what use will it be in the short-term or long-term?” We can realize that nobody was born to be cruel. Nobody was born to harm others but because of certain circumstances, there are people who dislike us in the same way we dislike some people. But who’s to blame? Is it our behavior, or attitude, or even facial expressions that contribute to them becoming our adversaries? If we think about the different causes and conditions, we can see that if we’re angry at someone, we’re really angry at these causes and conditions — ultimately their anger, their ignorance, short-sightedness, and narrow-mindedness. Noting this can bring a sense of concern for them and instead of anger, we find sympathy for them. It’s not easy to consider your own behaviors as a cause for someone else’s anger and it’s certainly not easy to return their anger with sympathy and understanding. So to say that practicing tolerance and forgiveness are signs of weakness are sorely wrong. In fact, those who say forgiving is a sign of weakness probably haven’t tried it before.
Forgiveness is a sign of great strength.
Our natural instinct is revenge and there are people who believe that an eye for an eye is going to provide satisfaction. But if we can recognize that our tendency is to choose revenge, we will discover that an eye for an eye will leave the whole world blind. We may have an instinct for revenge but we also do for forgiveness. In the same way, we can grow in both revenge and forgiveness. These are the two cycles of relationships: the cycle of revenge and the cycle of forgiveness. When a hurt or harm happens, we can choose to hurt back or to heal. If we choose to retaliate of pay back, the cycle of revenge and harm continues endlessly, but if we choose to forgive, we break the cycle and we can heal, renewing or releasing the relationship
We must consciously cultivate our capacity for forgiveness.
Even though we are animals, we’re social animals, and the isolation caused by unforgiveness leads to ongoing feelings of resentment, anger, hostility, and hatred that can be extremely destructive. Even short bursts of it can have significant physical effects. In fact, unforgiveness disrupts our immune system and hinders the production of hormones that fight off our infections and one study showed that people develop a stress response when prompted to think about someone who had hurt them — their blood pressure and heart rate increase, they begin to sweat and they feel sad, angry, and less in control. But when prompted to empathize with their offenders and to imagine forgiving them, their stress responses return back to normal. Most importantly, unforgiveness burdens our hearts and our spirits, and it hinders us from a life filled with joyfulness. So as social animals, it’s stressful for us when there is a rupture in the relationships that bind us together.
Unforgiveness may be the most difficult toward those closest to us but it’s also the most crucial that we don’t let these moments past us. It’s crucial we don’t let our unwillingness to forgive lead to regret. None of us actually ever knows when a moment we turn our backs on is going to be the moment something pivotal might happen, and we may be able to curb our guilt but the regret will never go away completely. The last thing we need is to hold onto our stubborn unwillingness to forgive and a life full of regret.
Who can you forgive today?
DAY 35. Love, Ro