Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Forgiveness Is a One Person Act

"To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you." ~ Lewis Smedes
Who do you need to forgive in order to release yourself from the prison of repetitive emotional pain? How long will you hold onto this pain, like a deluded victim clinging to the knife that stabs them, pretending that you aren't the one holding the knife? Forgiving is a one person act. It never has anything to do with the person we hold resentment or anger toward. It has to do with the attachment to the anger and resentment within ourselves. Release the desire to justify holding onto the emotional pain and it loses its attraction. Then you can see it for what it is, a destructive train of thought. Forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person. It is not condoning whatever actions or words hurt you. It is making a decision not to let the event keep hurting you over and over. It is an act of self healing. By releasing the thoughts of resentment and anger we release our attachment to suffering.
Some people think that you shouldn't forgive someone unless they deserve to be forgiven.  This is not being fair to yourself. You are the one who deserves to be free of this heavy weight.  If you think you need to wait until the other person apologizes or somehow repents, you have given them the power over your suffering. Don't let others control your emotions. You are responsible for how you respond to people and events in life. You are the only one who can end this suffering. You are not doing them a favor by forgiving, you are releasing yourself from the bondage they hold over you. The act of forgiveness releases you from the repetitive thoughts of being a victim.  You may have been a victim once, but until you forgive and let those thoughts of resentment go, you will be a victim of this emotional suffering again and again. 
Once you forgive a person, it does not mean that you should allow the same situation to repeat itself.  Just because you have forgiven something does not mean it is okay to allow it to happen again. Be forgiving in nature but be wise in your decisions to interact with others by not playing a fool.  Forgiving doesn't necessarily mean that the relationship should return to what it was. Sometime it will be even better, sometimes it will change as new boundaries are set, and sometimes it completely ends. No matter how the relationship changes, the important part is that you aren't suffering with anger and resentment anymore.
The act of forgiveness may take time, so be gentle with yourself as you move toward freeing yourself from this dark prison.

Laura Barrette Shannon

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