Welcome to Day One of the 30 Days of Forgiveness! 


Without forgiveness I would not have been able to make room
inside myself to fill my new life up with love and happiness.
—Sunny Jacobs

Hello, Love

I want to start this series off by discussing a very poignant question—What Is Forgiveness? 

So often we hold onto our upset as justification for wrongdoing. We confuse forgiving with forgetting. We think reprieve will expose us to more hardship when in reality it frees us of the shackles in which we chain ourself.

It’s my hope today’s post will rectify some of the misconceptions regarding this topic.

Here are a few forgiveness principles to consider:

1) Forgiveness doesn’t advocate we condone injustice. It’s purely a realization that the anger and negative emotions that arise ultimately harm ourselves.

If someone has harmed you, it’s important to acknowledge the wrongdoing and its affect on your life. It’s also important to work through all of the emotions that arise within you.

Feelings of anger, resentment, bitterness, betrayal, sadness, loneliness, etc. can be felt when an injustice occurs to you. Part of our job as a loving adult is to tend to our own feelings as they arise.

Robert D. Enright, Ph.D of the International Forgiveness Institute says—

When we forgive, we do not simply put up with the person’s hurtful behavior, blame ourselves for the person’s behavior, pretend that we weren’t hurt, or say the person didn’t mean to hurt us. Instead, we acknowledge that we are all imperfect humans.

2) Forgiveness does not mean you need to give up discernment nor does it require reconciliation with the wrongdoer.

A common misconception that prevents people from forgiving is the belief that in order to forgive we must forget what a person or situation has done to us.

Another misconception the belief that we are required to reconcile with the other person or party involved. If you feel you can communicate and work toward peaceful resolution then by all means, move toward reconciliation, but this is not a necessary step in the process of forgiveness.

Not every person with whom we have a conflict is willing to take personal responsibility and find peaceful resolution. On the other hand, we can think we’re coming to forgiveness with a clean intention, yet have a covert agenda to get the other person to change.

Either way, often the very best thing to do is work within ourselves to acknowledge injustice and create inner peace. Then if it is appropriate, we can work toward reconciliation.

Fred Luskin, PhD, of Forgive For Good says:

The act of forgiveness does not suggest you have forgotten the injustice. Nor does it imply you condone or excuse the wrongdoer. You are not condemning; that only leads to forgiveness that stems from moral superiority. What’s more, you are not seeking justice or compensation. 

When you forgive someone who has deeply hurt you, you let go of resentment and the urge to seek revenge, no matter how deserving of these things the wrongdoer may be. You give the great gifts of acceptance, generosity and love. Though the wrongdoer does not deserve these gifts, you don’t let that stand in your way. You give, not out of pity, not out of grim obligation. Rather, you give because you have chosen to have a merciful heart. A heart with the power to free yourself so you can live a better life.

3) Forgiveness can be purely for yourself; it doesn’t need to be because of (or for) the other party involved.

Forgiveness is ultimately something you give to yourself to free yourself from pain, resentment, and anger. Certainly the other party will benefit from your act of forgiveness, but they need not be the reason.

4) You can start the forgiveness process even if you’re not fully ready to let go of everything.

You don’t need to wait until your ready to let go of everything to benefit from forgiveness. Sometimes cultivating the willingness to forgiveness is the very beginning of the process. This will likely be a process so be willing for forgiveness to take time and self-compassion.

5) Forgiveness can happen all at once, but it may very likely be a process that occurs over time. 

As much as many of us wish we could forgive in one fell swoop, deep wrongdoing and hurt can take time to heal. Allow forgiveness to be a process that occurs slowly. Many people see it like peeling the layers of an onion.

Often you’ll find you haven’t thought about something for years only to have its memory surface at an inopportune moment. Trust these memories are surfacing because they are ready to be examined and healed.

6) Forgiveness can be complex, and it deserves your time and attention.

I personally find there are often many negative emotions underneath the surface. When forgiveness is required that generally means you also will need to process one or more of the following emotions: guilt, shame, anger, resentment, helplessness over others, helplessness over circumstances, suffering, etc.

It’s important that we realize that forgiveness is an opportunity to heal the deep wounds that exist within ourselves, and very often our blame and anger toward another person or circumstance is just a way of not dealing with our own deep seeded emotions.

7) Forgiveness is not always easy and may require some support.

Feeling the feelings that arise when we’ve been wronged by others or by life is hard. Stuffing your feelings down or avoiding them all together only prolongs pain and suffering. If you’re unable to feel your feelings fully and forgive, reach out for help.

Many of us spend years mired in resentment and pain. If this is the case for you, reach out for support. Contact a loving friend, hire a therapist or InnerBonding facilitator. Release yourself to live a life of happiness and love by learning to forgive.

Today’s Call To Action:

Take a moment to consider your thoughts on forgiveness. Do your beliefs about forgiveness match the principles I wrote about above? Examine which one/s you agree and disagree with. 

Then share your thoughts by commenting on today’s post. Do you disagree with any of the principles I wrote about? Which ones? And for what reason? Which principles have you had misconceptions about? Consider responding to other people’s comments. Remember to respond with compassion and respect.

Sending you love,

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Today’s Feature Image: “Bright Orange Leaf at Hollywood Cemetery” by Ben Grantham on Flickr

6 comments on “What Is Forgiveness?”

  1. I guess I should weigh in on this subject since I was somewhat instrumental in suggesting it. I appreciate the first principle you list, Misty: “Forgiveness doesn’t advocate we condone injustice. It’s purely a realization that the anger and negative emotions that arise ultimately harm ourselves.” I see all kinds of injustice in the world; the human state on earth is just riddled with it. This could really drag me down, making me an inveterate cynic and pessimist, constantly complaining about everything. Is this how I want to live? Is this in any way making the world a better place? Certainly not.

    So without condoning all of the injustice I nevertheless open my heart to forgiveness, realizing that simply by being a part of the body of humanity on earth I am in some way and at some level responsible for its unwholesome state. In other words, I assume responsibility for the human state but then live in a way that will contribute to its healing. To me this involves extending unconditional love to everyone I meet, no matter any past history of dissension or injustice.

    • Yes. Thanks for helping me come to the decision to undergo the 30 Days of Forgiveness. I have certainly needed this topic. =)

      I love this quote, ” I assume responsibility for the human state but then live in a way that will contribute to its healing.” Your approach reminds me of Ho’oponopono, the ancient Hawaiian practice of forgiveness. One of the Ho’oponopono principles is to take 100% responsibility for everything that happens in your life. Beautiful, Jerry.

  2. When I was 13 just starting 8th grade I moved to a new school. I didn’t quite fit in. Worse, I was bullied in gym class. That caused a lot of grief and upset for me. So much so that I started fantasizing how I could hurt those other kids to satisfy my revenge cravings. It actually was a harsh PTSD that I experienced. Fortunately, I never acted out on my fantasy revenge scenarios.

    Many years later, I had a key insight. When someone deliberately does something that upsets or hurts someone else, while it may not be justified, there is most certainly always a reason for it. I realized that the reason those other kids bullied me is that I was an annoying know-it-all in class, always raising my hand to get attention and then show off how smart I was. They must have hated me for that. Looking back, I now totally understand how they must have felt.

    That realization gave me the ability to forgive them, because honestly if I were in their shoes, I might have done the very same thing.

    • Wow! I love your deep reflection and insight, Greg. Thanks for sharing your story.

      The whole topic of forgiveness is deep and complex. I like that you point out that while harmful behavior is not justified, it is occurring for a reason. On of the great difficulties is realizing that we may never know another person (or persons) reason/s. I’m beginning to realize that one of the hardest part of forgiveness is dealing with all of the emotions that crop up due to unkind actions and injustices, especially the helplessness over controlling the outcome—no matter how good your intentions are. These are very difficult emotions and situations to be in, but with reflection and key insights (like you had), it can be easier to work through difficult times to find inner peace.

  3. Forgiveness is an action that you start. You decide that you are willing to step up/out and take this action. While your act may not be accepted, you have taken that step. A scare may be present but the healing process has taken place not forgotten completely. There is still that reminder.

    • I agree, Stephen. The more I study forgiveness, the more I realize that being willing to forgive is really just the beginning. I know from my own experience that forgiving doesn’t wipe the memories clean. I’m discovering that dealing with the core painful feelings (feelings caused from outside of us), as well as, the wounded feelings (ones that we create ourselves by what we tell ourselves and how we treat ourselves) is key to healing. So often I’ve believed forgiveness is something I do when the other person “deserves” it. Now I’m starting to see forgiveness as an opportunity to live with peace, love, and happiness. Now wouldn’t benefit from that?!?

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