Monday, August 23, 2010

Letting Go, Part I

It takes a lot of energy and mental capacity to hold onto something, especially anger. Many religions preach the doctrine of forgiveness or showing mercy towards others - particularly Christianity, of which I'm the most familiar with. No where, however, does the bible preach about forgiving and forgetting and yet over time these two concepts have become intertwined. Forgiveness has become synonymous with forgetting the transgression and many believe that without the forgetting component that forgiveness has not truly been achieved. To me this is a fallacy. Forgiveness can happen without forgetting and there are times when forgetting can be dangerous, leaving you open to a repeat of the same hurt. Forgiving and forgetting are two different concepts and should not be intertwined.

Forgiveness is a deeply personal choice and something that happens not so much for the person who has transgressed you, so much as it is for you. Many times the person who has hurt you may not even be aware of the consequences of their behaviour on others, nor are they aware of whether or not you have forgiven them. Thus forgiveness is not so much to ease their guilt or conscience, but rather to ease your mind and free yourself from the chains that holding onto the pain creates in your life. It does not mean forgetting, but rather making peace with what happened and consciously moving forward, instead of letting yourself get bogged down in what happened. This is where I think the "forgetting" concept has been misapplied to the letting go aspect of forgiveness.

To me forgiveness means letting go. Letting go of the emotional turmoil, the anger, resentment, or sadness encompassed in the action or event that has wronged you. It does not mean that you are ok with what happened, just that you have chosen to make peace with it in order to move forward. Wikipedia defines forgiveness as, "the process of concluding resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, difference or mistake, and/or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution." For me the important part of that thought is no longer seeking repayment or justice and stopping the negative feelings. This can be a powerful healing tool and one that I know first hand can be extremely difficult, if not impossible. For some people forgiveness is just not possible and I understand that without judgment.

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