Google the word “forgive” and you’ll get results ranging from spiritual meanings to practical applications. You can find quotes, lyrics, books, videos, lectures, and articles all about forgiveness and its benefits—you’ll even find some step by step instructions for forgiveness. However, despite the number of teachings and opinions and studies that abound in the world about the importance of being able to forgive, it remains one of the things that people are most reluctant to do. And for one very simple reason: the process of forgiving can be one of the most heart-wrenching things to experience.
Think about why that is for a minute. Think about what you have forgiven someone or what someone has forgiven you. Think about what necessitates forgiveness. What has to happen for forgiveness to be desired or considered? What makes it so unpleasant?
The answer is pain.
Without pain, the idea of forgiveness becomes irrelevant. Pain is often the catalyst for feelings of fear, anger, sadness, grief, shame, and a whole host of emotions that are distasteful and forgiveness requires that we delve straight into their depths. Forgiveness obliges us to sort through all of those emotions, to look at both ourselves and the person or people who inflicted that pain, and see beyond them.
Forgiveness does not ask us to forget our experiences. It does not ask us to pretend that they were ever acceptable or appropriate. It does not require that we continue to endure what we know is wrong. What forgiveness does is give us permission to let go.
We are allowed to let go of that seething sensation of anger and anxiety that lives in the pit of our stomachs. When we forgive we are giving ourselves permission to move on and focus on things that bring us joy. Forgiveness allows us to take that pain and use is as a means of growth rather than stagnation.
It’s not easy. It is, in fact, one of the most difficult things a person can do. But it is also one of the most rewarding things a person can do. Because forgiveness is the key to happiness.