Forgiveness

Some people seem to be proud to follow of this mantra: never forgive, never forget. This is a practical impossibility, however, because you cannot get through even the most basic relationships without forgiveness. You will be let down by everyone you meet at some point because every single one of those people will be imperfect. There will be times when you will need forgiveness and mercy too, and you will be hard pressed if your friends refuse to show you any whenever you wrong them. Forgiveness isn't just a virtue that "nice" people have, it's a fundamental skill that is required to navigate relationships and build societies.

Some people have an easier time showing forgiveness to others, and this may be an area of particular struggle for you—everyone is going to have unique struggles with different virtues. You cannot let this trait of Temperance slide, however. You can be open to love, but you can not hold on to love if you can't develop an ability to forgive those whom you bond with. Remember: the more time you spend with someone, the more often you will be required to forgive them. Even the most likable and wonderful people will require your forgiveness from sins that will seem incredulously stupid to you.

I don't mean to say that others shouldn't suffer "consequences" from wronging you either. It's okay to distance yourself a bit, express your anger, or even decide you can't continue the relationship in the same direction; those who never react to the misbehavior of their friends and loved ones in the name of forgiveness are those that become enablers for their bad behavior. When "punishing" friends, however, remember the other part of this trait, mercy, and don't overreact or cruelly hurt people for your own pleasure.

Since you are this deep into this website, you probably believe that people can change and with this in mind you should be emotionally liberate yourself to forgive those who have changed or are working to correct their wrongs. There will also be times that you will have to realize that some people will continue to struggle with their particular faults throughout their lives, and you will have to decide whether it is worth damaging or ending your relationship over a negative characteristic. Note two things as you make these decisions: 1) most people tend to hold on to anger too much rather than give it up too freely, and 2) never hold on to bitterness, even when you end a relationship.If you don't learn how you can end friendships without hanging on to poisonous hate, or you will be filled with the poison before too long.

How does one develop forgiveness? First of all you need to change your philosophy. If you have difficulty believing that developing forgiveness as a part of your life will benefit you, then I hope the above word inspired you—at least in part. If you understand you need to make a change, but can't manage an emotional conversion to a bitter-free lifestyle, then you will need to get counsel from a self-help book, a therapist, or some clergy member or other leader that you respect. Once you feel ready to make a change, you need to work hard with practice and self-reflection and make that change everyday. All people have a right to be angry at times, but when working on this trait, reflect heavily on every angry emotion you are working through and try to logically determine the value and true nature of your anger; avoid lashing out in anger at all—but calmly speak your mind so pent-up feelings don't tempt you toward deeper bitterness.

As far as working on other virtues to assist with this one, there are only a few Universal Values that won't help you become more merciful and forgiving. Those that deserve particular focus are Humanity, Courage, and Wisdom.

Final Note: It is always more rewarding to give to others that need you, than to withhold yourself to those that don't deserve you.

Here are some activities that should help you get started:

Activities

  • Self Reflection: This is so important that it has already been described above. Reflect on every day and every angry emotion that developed bitterness inside of you. Evaluate which moments of anger was justified and which ones were blown out of proportion. Self knowledge is essential for working on virtues, especially deeply personal ones such as forgiveness.
  • Forgive for a Week: Designate a fixed, limited time where you simply do your darndest to forgive every little infraction others commit against you—no matter how annoying. You can probably live with the consequences for letting these criminals "slip by" for one measly week. This will not only give you some good practice, but also help you evaluate what the actual consequences for giving up your bitterness are, and how difficult it is for you to quit cold-turkey. Hopefully this won't be the time people choose to embezzle from you and sell your deepest secrets to the tabloids, but otherwise you get the idea.
  • Work on the Self-Regulation Trait of Temperance: If you can control your behavior during your deepest rage, then you will be less likely to end relationships or hurt others when you don't have the capacity for forgiveness. Learn this trait and return to the matter when you can act like the humane, human being that you are working so hard to be.
  • Work on Humanity, Especially Love: If you sincerely feel connected to others, it is a bit easier to forgive them—or at least overlook their faults in exchange for closeness. Most angry people do indeed feel love, but if you work on love as a matter of sincerely caring for another's well-being, like I suggest in the page for that trait, then it might also be easier to help and work with others when you become less solely directed toward your own well-being.
  • Work on Courage: Many people hold on to bitterness and close others out because they are afraid. If you discover that this is the case after you evaluate yourself, you may want to work on your personal courage so connecting with others that you feel have slighted you won't make you quite so uneasy.
  • Work on Knowledge and Wisdom: Wisdom means, in part, being able to see beyond yourself and making sound decisions that truly benefit you and those around you. Having a lack of mercy can lead to many unwise decisions, and working on wisdom might help you gain the understanding you need to help you act against the rationale that your bitterness offers you.

Your Record

Whenever you let some slight bother you all day, mark yourself at "fault"—especially if you still can't shake it after a night's rest. Whenever you get revenge or overreact to a slight or offense committed against you, mark yourself at fault. Whenever you act out in a way specifically for the pleasure of seeing others suffer or get their "pay back," then gravely mark yourself at fault. When focusing on this trait, choose a goal using the above activities as a guideline and mark yourself at fault when you don't follow through on the activity or fail to meet a set goal.

Opinions

When a deep injury is done us, we never recover until we forgive.

Alan Paton, South African Writer and Educator

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.

Mahatma Ghandi, Indian Philosopher and Ground-breaker in the Doctrine of Nonviolent Protest

Always forgive your enemies - nothing annoys them so much.

Oscar Wilde, Irish Dramatist and Writer

Do not stand on a high pedestal and take 5 cents in your hand and say, "here, my poor man", but be grateful that the poor man is there, so by making a gift to him you are able to help yourself. It is not the reciever that is blessed, but it is the giver. Be thankful that you are allowed to exercise your power of benevolence and mercy in the world, and thus become pure and perfect.

Swami Vivekananda, Indian Spiritual Hindu Leader, Founded Ramakrishna Order of Monks

Golden Mean

Ruthlessness, anger, blame
Forgiveness and Mercy
Indulgence

Recommended Reading

Forgiveness Is a Choice: A Step-By-Step Process for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope — by Robert D. Enright

This book is a guide to resolving anger and forgiving others written by an educational psychologist. It is nonsectarian and written in a professional, no-nonsense tone—a tone that might be a little intimidating by some casual readers.

Forgiveness: How to Make Peace With Your Past and Get on With Your Life — by Sidney B. Simon and Suzanne Simon

This book focuses on finding peace over large, past offenses that still linger on in your daily life. It features exercises and organized steps based on a popular seminar.

From Anger to Forgiveness: A Practical Guide to Breaking the Negative Power of Anger and Achieving Reconciliation — by Earnie Larsen

This guide is especially intended to help readers achieve forgiveness by conquering deep rage and resentment. Written in a simpler, matter-of-fact style.

General Rules

Practice virtues daily so that they become ‘habits of the heart’.

Don‘t strive for perfection.

Never give up! Remember: even the greats have off days.

Rely on your intuition.

Avoid extremes. Strive to achieve the golden mean between excess and deficiency of a virtue.

Have fun and enjoy the program with humor and optimism.



On Amazon.com

Forgiveness is a funny thing, it warms the hearts and cools the sting. Peter Allen
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