My new book, Be Free. Be You., recently hit the shelves (you can purchase yours here!). In it, I discuss how forgiveness is so important to keeping it real and being your most authentic self. Read on for a sneak peek…
Forgiveness sometimes gets a bad rap. Many of us assume that if we forgive those who wrong us, we do it as a favor to that person. Unfortunately, that mindset is the deception. Forgiving others is more for you than for them. Most of the time, the people that have betrayed us have moved on with their lives while we wait for some miraculous and melodramatic thing that will make them see the error of their ways and come back to us. Does that ever happen? Yes, sometimes. But more often than not, it doesn’t.
I once heard someone say that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. I’ve sat on the sidelines of life far too long waiting for others to realize they were jerks. It got me close to a nervous breakdown and threatened the very existence of my purpose. I’m no longer interested in that life. I made a choice, and although the process wasn’t instantaneous, the choice allowed me to live life differently. I’m not perfect, so I must also forgive.
Humility is the gateway for amazing experiences of restoration. As we walk through apologizing, transforming, and aligning our hearts with what and who our Divine Father says we are, we are led to release people through our forgiveness. Please notice that I didn’t say to drop people. This process of forgiveness is also an act of compassion.
Many of us think we know what compassion is, but truthfully, a lot of us have no clue. I’m included in that bunch, by the way. I started reflecting on 1 Samuel 16:7: “Man looks at the outer appearance, but God sees the heart.” Hmmm . . . How many times do I just look at the behavior of a person and never at where it’s coming from? A lot. This makes me a really unhappy person sometimes. I’m convinced that focusing on someone’s guiltiness makes me feel justified in my anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness. Plain and simple, I feel it gives me the right to be mad. That’s the very thing that kept me walking in unforgiveness for so long, and it didn’t make me happy.
Don’t get me wrong: we aren’t to be doormats and tolerant of malicious and deviant behavior. However, there has to come a time in our lives where we exercise our will and move past our lack of compassion.
We must move past our need to be justified and right and into a happier place of contentment and peace in our lives. We need a strong will to move past someone’s actions to see the source of their behavior and empathize with them. I often ask myself, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?” Happiness and mental peace win out every time. I believe that if we practice this with people, our lives will be fuller. We will grow as humans, and our relationships will be stronger than ever.
Empathy is the highest point of forgiveness. It’s understanding the context and understanding that those who wronged you (whoever that may be) probably did the best they could with what they had.
Empathy changes your perspective. The misconception in the religious community is that forgiveness is instantaneous instead of continual. I often refer back to the life of Jesus. Whether you believe He was real or a fictional tale, consider this: Jesus must have been burdened during His three years of ministry. He understood His assignment and yet stood in the midst of mistreatment, hate, and being taken for granted by the very people He was serving. We still do it to Him to this day, yet He has never withdrawn His love, grace, and compassion toward us. It is my conclusion that this stance could not be possible without walking in forgiveness—continually. His act of releasing us while He was being crucified has been to our benefit because we have the opportunity to accept His love and be accepted into the Kingdom of God.
Most of our lessons on prayer should be based on empathy. We often block empathy with sympathy. We are drilled and conditioned to be sympathetic; however, with sympathy you aren’t challenged to really see the other person or feel their pain. Empathy is to feel it and respect it. We can do that. Even if it feels awkward, it’s worth it. It breaks up the hardness of our hearts. It’s freeing to wake up and know that you don’t have anything in your heart against anyone. You’ll add years to your life.
Make a list of people who have wronged you and how. Did you do anything to them or anyone else that resembled their offense? Don’t make excuses for their actions or yours, but just as you are able to explain and justify your actions, try to empathize with them and see things from their viewpoint.
Once you are ready, make a phone call or write an email or letter to make things right. Be willing to be brutally honest, but be po- lite. Make sure to adjust your expectations; this is not meant to help you get back in relationship with them, but to set your soul free. #GetRealJournalOp