Each of us at one time or another have been the victim of someone else's bad choices.
We may withhold forgiveness, believing the offender is unworthy of our mercy or waiting for an apology before we forgive. But waiting until justice is served or for an apology from the perpetrator is not a wise decision because neither one of these instances may happen.
Religious leader Kevin Duncan recently stated, "[God] has provided an escape for all who fall victim to the misdeeds of others. He has taught us that we can forgive! Even though we may be a victim once, we need not be a victim twice by carrying the burden of hate, bitterness, pain, resentment, or even revenge. We can forgive, and we can be free!"
Here are some crucial things to keep in mind when it comes to forgiveness.
Forgiveness is for the victim and has very little to do with the person who did the hurting.
We don't need to be the victim twice. By forgiving, we free ourselves from the damaging effects of holding on to anger or other ill feelings. Holding on to such feelings causes more pain and problems for ourselves than for the offender. Forgiveness is freeing. It allows healing to take place more quickly. It is part of the healing process.
There is a false belief many people carry: if you forgive someone, it means you are OK with the wrong they did and/or it gives them a free pass.
This is simply untrue.
Forgiving someone does not free the individual from responsibility for what they did; it does not mean the other person is right. Hurting others is not OK and never justified. Justice can still be served.
Don't expect forgiveness to come all at once.
For some instances, forgiveness may come easily; but for other situations, forgiveness must be worked at.
For those who are victims of physical, sexual, emotional or other forms of abuse, forgiveness may come particularly slow. When a person has abused you — robbed a part of your life you can never get back — the painful scars left behind make feelings of forgiveness more difficult to attain.
Be patient with yourself. Work slowly to let go of the feelings you're holding on to. Don't give up. Pray for help to forgive.
We never see the entirety of a person.
Duncan said, "We do not know all that is going on in a person's life. We do not know their past; we do not know their struggles; we do not know the pains they carry. ... Please do not misunderstand. To forgive is not to condone. We do not rationalize bad behavior or allow others to mistreat us because of their struggles, pains, or weaknesses. But we can gain greater understanding and peace when we see with a broader perspective."
Compassion and understanding can help us more easily forgive. If we seek to feel compassion, to look at a person through God's eyes, we will have more insight about an individual.
Sometimes, it is harder to forgive yourself than to forgive someone else.
But by holding on to negative feelings about yourself, you are re-injuring yourself long after the other person has moved on. If you've taken the necessary steps to apologize and to right a wrong, don't delay forgiving yourself.
No one is immune from being hurt or offended by someone else. But, we can immunize ourselves from the ill effects of being unforgiving. Be quick to forgive. Make it a natural part of your life. It will free you from the burden of carrying anger, hate, resentment and other negative emotions. And also remember to forgive yourself.