“Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

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This Week´s Inspiration

The Gift of Forgiveness

Is it time that we cut people some slack, including ourselves, and gave up the idealistic concept of perfection?

Forgiveness is defined as giving up resentment or bitterness.

The greatest benefit of forgiveness goes to the person giving it — not receiving it. The definition states “to cease to feel resentment against." The fact of the matter is, that the harboring of resentment or bitterness affects our physical, emotional, and mental health — not the offender's. If you don’t have a permanent attitude of “forgiveness,” your memory cells and physical system become very quickly clogged with the toxic waste that bad feelings create.

What can we do about it? How can we think differently? 

For most individuals to fully embrace forgiveness, two concepts must be acknowledged and accepted. 

  1. The greatest harm of not forgiving is to the person who does not release his or her hostility. If we understand physics, everything in life creates or produces some type of energy; this includes our thoughts and attitudes. If we do not release this energy, it builds and feeds on itself. Have you known individuals who, years after the offensive event, seem to have built significantly more resentment and bitterness, almost to the point of being totally consumed? 

    There is no long-term redeeming value in not forgiving. What ongoing price do we pay for not forgiving? Moreover, why would we ever want to give our power away to the offender? That is what we are doing by holding onto our anger and not forgiving. We are stating that the offender is going to have control over us for the rest of our lives.

    In some individuals and groups of individuals, this bitterness — not the offence — becomes the addiction and focus. For some, it is far more important to keep their resentment because if they did not, this would remove the excuses for their behavior or condition.

    In some situations, the concept, understanding, or ability to embrace forgiveness is so foreign, they are simply unable to consider it an option. There is evidence of this around the world; all you have to do is watch the news. 
  2. Forgiveness does not mean that a person is condoning the act, actions, and/or the events that took place. I recall one situation where a daughter had been abused by her father. She had never forgiven her father because she honestly believed that would infer that her father’s actions were acceptable. That is not the case. Years later, however, her bitterness — which had now turned into anger — was well on its way to destroying her own family. 

    For some of you, this is the first time someone has expressed to you that forgiveness is not condoning the act. You are simply making the choice to let go and no longer allowing negative forces to control or affect your life. When our firm conducted marriage counseling, one of the major breakthroughs for the couples was being able to embrace forgiveness. When forgiving was seen as not condoning or even forgetting the offence, it was more easily released by the individuals.

There is a twist to this whole concept of forgiveness — the situation where you will not forgive yourself for something. Many of you know individuals who have blamed themselves for a tragic event or outcome. In extreme cases, they have self-imposed this sentence of wrath, negatively affecting everything in their life. 

I recall a friend many years ago who lost her 16-year-old son (a good pal of my younger brother) in a car accident. She never forgave herself for the things she felt she could have done to prevent that tragedy. Ten years later, she was a shadow of her previous self — never going out, disengaged from life, miserable to the core. From a technical point of view, she might have been alive but because she had not forgiven herself, for all intents and purposes she died with her son.

A single drop of cyanide in a barrel of water will poison the entire barrel. Not forgiving and harboring resentment or bitterness does the same to our lives. Never underestimate the power of a negative thought or emotion.

So what about you? Who do you need to forgive, including yourself? Of course, if you have been harboring negative feelings for a while, it will take time to work through the process. Some of you might not forgive yourselves for not immediately forgiving yourself or others — so stop that right now, relax, and give yourself permission to have time to process all this.

This Week´s Action Steps

Forgiveness can only benefit you.

  1. Forgiveness means giving up your resentment or bitterness.

  2. By not forgiving, you pay a significant negative price emotionally, mentally, and physically.

  3. Forgiveness applies equally to yourself as well as others.

  4. The greatest benefactor of forgiveness is for the forgiver, not necessarily the forgiven.

  5. Forgiveness does not mean you condone or accept what occurred; you are simply forgiving the person(s) for the act.

  6. Please now reflect and acknowledge what you think are your attitudes toward forgiveness. Be real. If I were to ask your best friends about your attitudes about forgiveness, what would they say? You might even ask them directly about how they see you on this issue.

  7. Pause right now; think about your work life, personal life, family life, and former life. Are there any situations where you have not forgiven others or yourself for certain actions? If so, please take a moment to make a list of all the things that come to mind.

  8. Consider what this bitterness or resentment is costing you personally. Add these thoughts to your list.

  9. Make a choice that you are not going to let past resentment or lack of forgiveness hinder your success. What is recommend by some, if you cannot talk to certain individuals at this time for whatever reason (fear, death, or other), just write a letter or note to that person expressing your forgiveness. You might not be able or willing to ever send that note, but the greatest benefit for writing that note is for you.

  10. If you have significant situations where bitterness and resentment are entrenched, you might want to seek professional help to assist you to forgive.

  11. If this is all new to you, give yourself permission to have time to transition through the forgiveness process.

  12. Finally, the gift of forgiveness is a personal choice; no one can make it for you nor can you make it for someone else.

Until next time, keep Living On Purpose!

Ken Keis

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