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Strength in Forgiveness

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Ashley

Ashley is a twenty-something southerner with a love of all things bookish and wordly. Her ultimate dream would be to sit out on the beach with a pen and paper, writing out her novels to the music of ocean waves. In the meantime, she's an editor and writer with a passion for human rights and publishing.

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In life, we make choices – some good, some bad. By no means is anyone perfect, but we do seem to aim for higher standards of ourselves. But what happens when we screw up? When others screw up? Do we continue to hold ourselves as accountable as we would hold someone else?

The act of forgiveness has been explored in many ways, whether that is via social sciences or religion. There are recognized benefits of the concept, and it can be applied towards others both living or deceased, or even occasionally to our own person. Sometimes people must have an apology before they can forgive, while others grant forgiveness as a form of justice. Many times, there is no expected response from the offender once forgiveness is given, as the matter is considered closed. We strive to leave behind all the betrayal and the hurtful people, but at times, this can feel like a marathon race, with us forever running forward with no end in sight.

Many agree that forgiveness is a good mechanism but are unsure how to accomplish it. Individuals have even sought counseling over pains that have been inflicted in order to figure out a way to forgive the offender, in order to achieve closure for themselves. It is not something easily given or received.

Forgiving: Cathartic Experience

Forgiveness of another person is most often about us, when really boiled down to the point. Think about it – do you forgive someone so that they feel better? No, you do it when you are ready and able. Once you’ve reached that point, a certain weight is lifted. That weight is a combination of indignation, resentment, sorrow, whatever the case may be, which is why it does weigh so heavily upon us. That is also why it is certainly a difficult thing to work through. That doesn’t mean our feelings aren’t validated or aren’t reasonable. They certainly are, and no one can ever tell you what you should or shouldn’t feel. However, forgiveness is the healing of oneself more-so than anyone else, making it an imperative aspect of our lives. It took me by surprise when others have said they adamantly hold grudges, however, some even purposely refusing to grant forgiveness. Not to say I instantly forgave everyone who has hurt me, but I always get there, one way or another. It takes different lengths of time for everyone, but I do urge people to at least try to get there, for their own mental health and satisfaction. Leaving pain (and sometimes even people) behind, especially over something you have no control over now, is a cathartic experience. It is much like another article on this site, regarding throwing things away that you’ve collected over the years. Forgiveness is a cleansing of your mind and heart.

Forgiving Myself: A Work in Progress

So, I ask – is it easier to forgive yourself or others? Personally, I have a harder time forgiving myself. I’ve always had a paralyzing fear of messing up and being unsuccessful. My mother loves to bring up how I was as a child in particular, when my perfectionism and OCD was at its worst. I’d cry over a 98 grade, for example, thinking I had failed. I literally thought that if I did not make perfect grades, I would never get anywhere. I was terrified of raising my hand in class for fear of botching up the answer (because then everyone would know I was failure!). I slowly got better at realizing I am allowed mistakes and am certainly allowed to be imperfect. But it took years of tripping up to accept I couldn’t be perfect. Because of all this, though, I had a hard time forgiving myself my own mistakes. If I hurt someone else, even after I had been forgiven by the other party, I held onto my own personal grudge. I tend to forgive others rather quickly, letting things go and moving on. When it’s something I screwed up, though, I go through a process of obsession – analyzing everything, trying to figure out how to fix things, how to avoid the mistake from ever happening again. Some of this may be a good thing, as who doesn’t want to avoid mistakes? But then I become afraid of acting, afraid of making mistakes to the point of silencing myself. The thing I must work on is pulling back on the reigns of beating me up for my imperfections.

Whether you need to work on forgiving others or yourself (or both!), let’s continue to actively participate in our lives. We cannot change the past, and ultimately that is what mistakes are and where they reside. As Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi says, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

Live presently at your best, and forgive the rest.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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  • Courtney Renfro

    I love this article . I am the same way . It is difficult for me to forgive myself . I learned I am not perfect . I agree. Forgiveness can be difficult process . My stepdad told me to forgive is the better way to go . You can learn to heal and move on . It is usually hard for me to forgive someone for hurting . I am learning it is best to let go . Thanks for posting this article ! :)

    • http://chaosandwords.wordpress.com/ Ashley

      It is definitely a difficult process, whether you’re having to forgive yourself or others. It usually is best to let things go, I completely agree. Dwelling doesn’t fix anything, and it certainly isn’t healthy after a certain length of time. There’s nothing wrong with being upset or hurt, but if we don’t take care of it and find a way to gain closure, we’re going to become resentful people. And that’s not who anyone wants to be. I’m glad you liked the article – thanks for commenting!

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  • http://www.theindiechicks.com Chiara Mazzucco

    Forgiving ourselves and forgiving others are also intertwined, in my option. It took me a long time to forgive a guy I dated when I was 15.. He cheated, recheated and repeated the process about 14 times. I couldn’t forgive him until I realized I needed to forgive myself. Deep down, I was more angry at myself for letting him in (15 times too many) than I was for his cheating. When I realized I wasn’t a weak, terrible little girl who deserved pain and cheating, I forgave myself for letting love get the best of me. Then, out of the blue, I forgave him too.

    Beautiful debut, Ashley. Can’t wait to see more of you here on the mag side of The IC.

    • http://chaosandwords.wordpress.com/ Ashley

      You do have a great point there, Chiara. In some situations, forgiveness is definitely intertwined. Forgiving one cannot be done without forgiving another. Particularly in relationships, as you pointed out, we blame ourselves for the bad treatment we’ve received. That’s great you were able to forgive and let go of all that pain and hurt. I think learning to forgive ourselves in these cases is also realizing our own potential. A great quote from The Perks of Being a Wallflower is – “We accept the love we think we deserve.” I find it’s so true.
      Thank you for the kind words! I’m glad you enjoyed this post, and I look forward to writing more (and reading more)! Thanks for having me. :D

  • http://www.accordingtojewels.com Jewels

    I find it much harder to forgive myself than I do to forgive others…or at least I used to. In my youth I often forgave others instantly and tortured myself endlessly. Now, people earn forgiveness and I’m a lot more patient with myself. It’s a process, a learning curve, and there’s a happy middle ground (I think).

    • http://chaosandwords.wordpress.com/ Ashley

      Absolutely, I agree. I gave forgiveness away much more freely even just a few years ago compared to now. It takes a couple times of getting screwed over by the same person to learn that people don’t always deserve your forgiveness right away. There is definitely quite the learning curve involved.

  • Denise Baer

    Nice article and it came at just the right time in my life.

    I think with age, we learn to forgive. When I was younger, I held grudges and refused to forgive, as you stated in your article, but now I find forgiveness cleansing. It helps to put the mistake (yours or someone else’s) away instead of leaving it around where you periodically trip over the pain and heartache. Once you forgive, it feels like it’s put away and you’re no longer tripping over it. It stops holding you back from moving forward in life.

    Unfortunately, forgiveness doesn’t always come easy. Working through it and leaving your heart open helps in the process.

    • http://chaosandwords.wordpress.com/ Ashley

      Thank you for commenting, Denise. I hope whatever you are going through, you are able to step out onto the other side with clarity. I also hope you are okay! Whenever we struggle with forgiveness, there is often pain involved. Leaving your heart open does help, though it is absolutely difficult to do.

      I agree that age has much to do with learning to forgive. As we get older, we also develop a certain growth that enables us to see through our pain, our hurt, our anger. Life experiences help in realizing how to forgive. Forgiveness is absolutely cleansing and does help in moving forward (without tripping up, as you pointed out – so important)!