Thoughts on forgiveness

This is a topic that has been on my mind for quite some time, especially over the last month or so. I noticed that was completely consumed by resentment a while back and vowed to do something about it as I was completely miserable. Early this morning I had a brief conversation with a close friend and we discussed the concept of forgiveness and how this applied to my current circumstances in regards to resolving some conflicts/ internal turmoil. Forgiveness was a concept that had been taught to me throughout my life but I wasn’t ready to “hear” it until today, so I began to do a little research and was underwhelmed at what I found.

I did this find this Psychology Today article, which was half decent. It included this Oprah Winfrey quote: “Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could be any different.” Definitely made me think.

I’m not asking anyone to divulge anything too personal here, but I do think this topic could spark some really interesting discussion, and we could probably here some interesting experiences. What I think I’m beginning to understand is, life is a process of letting some things go.

I also understand that for many of you this topic has significant religious implications, which I have no issue with, but the mods might! So I’ll leave it up to them what to do with this thread.

Lastly, I am really posting this because I am very, very curious about this topic and how people experience it. I am hoping that I get some feedback here that might help me in my own journey. I think this might lift a weight off my shoulders. I look forward to hearing from you all!

I feel that carrying resentments and grudges against others puts a heavy weight on your soul and harms you more than anyone else.

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That’s a true statement. Resolving them is the tricky part in a lot of cases, obviously depending on the magnitude of the offense. It seems like other factors play a role as well.

I took this survey a number of years ago

https://www.viacharacter.org/survey/account/register

and it ranked “forgiveness” as my #1 virtue. I don’t put a ton of stock into the science of personality, but having it ranked #1 actually affected me. In situations that require forgiveness, I remember that I’m good at forgiveness, and it becomes easier for me. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It ranked me low in “zest” and suggested that I take dance lessons.

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My father is a general contractor. When he was much younger he had an experience where someone he thought was a friend screwed him out of a lot of money, a LOT of money… and there wasn’t anything he could do about it other than a long, expensive legal battle. He decided then that he wasn’t going to let other people’s wrongs ruin his life. Similar things have happened a few times since then and he just lets them go. Some people may look at him and think he is a fool for letting others take advantage of him, but he looks at it differently. If people are going to rip him off, that is their problem. They have to live with the burden of that guilt. He doesn’t like those people, but he doesn’t dwell on it either.

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Years ago a very senior partner in my law firm outright lied–adamantly, brazenly and insultingly–about something he and I had both agreed to. His actions left me in a very awkward position and harmed my reputation with an important person. I could do nothing to fix that. As I was lying awake one night shortly after this happened, replaying the incident in my mind and furious with the injustice of it all, a thought came to me: “He’s probably sleeping like a baby right now, and you’re letting him control you.” (He was a very disagreeable sort, a truly difficult personality.) I then went to sleep.

It took a while but I have learned from this and other experiences like it that when I obsess over someone else’s emotional-character issues I empower those issues to control me. Letting go is often easier said than done, but keeping that reality in mind helps make letting go easier.

I also recommend “Man’s Search for Meaning,” by the late Victor Frankl, a Nazi concentration camp survivor and eminent psychiatrist. After his WWII experiences he had a lot to let go of, and he writes compellingly about how he did it.

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Great book. Haven’t read it in a while.

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I think a lot of what has been on my mind today is if something is eating at me (perhaps a conflict with a former colleague for instance) empathy, compassion, and ultimately forgiveness may be a more productive pathway. Interesting that I don’t come to that conclusion sooner.

I don’t remember who said it but the saying goes like something like this.

Carrying a grudge is like drinking poison hoping it will kill someone else.

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Yes that is a popular saying. What I am primarily interested in is the forgiveness process and when it is necessary. I do think it is an important and profound part of life. I think we would feel largely incomplete without it.

I think my understanding of forgiveness is different than yours. You (and correct me if I’m wrong) seem to believe that part of forgiveness is resolving the issue. I tend to disagree with that. In my opinion forgiveness is something that allows you to move on with your life regardless of whether or not the perceived wrong was righted in any way.

I once read, “don’t worry, nothing is under control.” I think this is very profound. When someone wrongs you, all you can do is control how you will act. You have no control over the actions of others, so what good does worrying get you?

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In my eyes forgiveness is a form of resolution, as you are finding a way to move on from something. It’s not changing the past, but it certainly is finding a way to live with what happened. That’s how I see it anyway.

I think I understand you better now. A form of resolution, but not necessarily fixing the perceived wrong. I think I agree with that. Forgiveness certainly requires one to come to a resolution with their own thoughts and feelings.

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Don’t mean to get religious on you but it is the only way that I can tell you what I learned.

One day I said, “God, please give me $1 million so that I can help people. Single mothers, young families, homeless that don’t want to be…just think how much I could do.”

“You have been give grace and forgiveness if you can’t give away something that costs you nothing how do yo believe that you will give that which costs you?”

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I recall reading some of Victor Frankl’s pieces in, at least 1 class, probably 2 or 3 at the U. I may need to relocate those. Thank you 2 for the reminder.

This is religious in context but I think whether religious or not the principles apply.

I’ve mentioned one of the former republican candidates for governor defrauded me and did serious harm to my business. I was consumed by my anger at him and it was compounded by the fact he was routinely in the news. Each time I saw or heard of him it was like reliving it all again and I couldn’t stop being mad about it.

Then I read Christ’s counsel to pray for those who despitefully use you. This guy certainly did that, but it hit home. My first prayers were less than sincere, praying for him to not be such a big dumb jerk.

Eventually though I began to think of his positive attributes and achieved this by thinking about what his wife and kids must think of him, or his mother etc. Then I prayed he’d find happiness in those ways.

Soon try anger for him was gone (in my view taken from me). I don’t love the guy but thinking of him no longer bothers me. Had I not gone through this step the past few months would have been hellish.

While I believe divine intervention happened on my behalf certainly there are some applicable things for the non-religious. First was a desire for the anger to go away. Next was focusing on some of his positive attributes. The next was thinking deeply and meditating on positive thoughts regarding him and finally letting it all go.

As @LAUte mentioned the odds were this guy hadn’t and hasn’t given me a second thought nor lost a moment worrying about me.

It’s a process, it requires a great deal of humility which is something I am very much not great at. I still won’t do business with this guy but he no longer controls any aspect of my life other than a relief I am over that awful instance in my life.

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Well put, thanks for sharing.

When I was a kid I was convinced to undergo some experimental surgeries to repair a congenital defect. The surgeon made some major mistakes along the way that resulted in permanent damage, and gave up after the 2nd or 3rd of a dozen or so planned procedures.

I bring this up because as a young kid, I had absolutely no problem whatsoever calling it an innocent accident, and moving on with my life without thinking twice about it. Now, as a grown man, I often think about the opportunity I had to sue that guy for all he was worth, and I sometimes wish I had done so, but ultimately I am glad I made the decision that I did.

I also think it is an example of how forgiveness is not necessarily an event, but a lifelong process that we go through. I’m sure that people who have loved ones that have died at the hands of others have to re-forgive the individual who killed their loved one every time something reminds them of their loved one.

What happened to me was only superficial, but even with something that is small compared to other wrongs, I still find that forgiveness in this case is not a one time choice, but a choice that I have made over and over at different points in my life.

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This is spot on, and what I have been thinking about all day today. It is most definitely a continual process.

This is also a good reminder, but I’ve found that it sometimes isn’t enough. It does put things in perspective though.