Why You should Forgive Them
  Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

Ever stuck with anger over what someone did to you?  Did you also get the advice, "Forget what happened.  Put it behind you and move on."  It's not that easy, is it?  

Forgiving a wrongdoer is difficult because we feel that we are letting the wrongdoer off the hook.  A victim tends to think, "How can I ever forgive someone who has hurt me so much."  Forgiving does not equal letting someone off the hook.  Forgiveness doesn't mean that you have to condone what someone has done to you or ever having to tolerate someone's wrongful behavior.  

It is possible to forgive someone and still call the police if he or she has broken the law.  This might well be an act of kindness on your part.  For the sake of their own growth, wrongdoers should face the consequences of their actions.  Otherwise, how would they ever learn and grow to be better persons?  

The other day a couple came to me for marriage therapy.  Each spouse had hurt the other by his or her actions.  They said they loved each other and wanted to get past their anger.  I asked the wife if she could forgive him.  She right away said, "Yes."  The husband, after a long pause said, "I will forgive her if she really forgives me."  I asked him how he would know that she had really forgiven him and he said, "If she does not bring it ever again what I had said or done in the past."  I wondered how long will he wait to convince himself of that.   
Forgiving is not about the wrongdoer, it's about you.  You forgive people, not for their sake, but for your own sake.  You forgive because you want to set yourself free.  You set yourself free by breaking the shackles of anger, hurt, helplessness or shame and that occurs when you forgive the person who caused those feelings.  .  

Forgiveness is not about setting conditions with all those "ifs" and "buts," it's unconditional.  By setting conditions, we give power to our tormentors.  When we leave that power with them, they can hurt us again.  Forgiveness is really about empowering yourself and taking back the control of your life in your own hands.  

Forgiveness is about healing old wounds.  Bind your wounds.  Once you do that, you don't have to become a victim of those past experiences.  Should you feel that they can hurt you again, don't let them in your life again.  

There is a big drive for stress management these days. It seems that we just can't get enough of stress management workshops and seminars.  In fact, we should be going for stress reduction seminars and learning how to reduce stress.  If we can reduce stress in the first place, we wouldn't have that much stress to manage.  

Let's cut down stress at its source.  Stress is often caused by regrets and resentments we have been holding on to for years.  These regrets and resentments rob us of peace of mind and hamper our growth.  

Peace of mind is required for healing to take place.  Forgiveness can bring that peace of mind.  Health and happiness, after all, is the natural state for human beings.  Something has to happen that pulls us out of our natural state and prevents us from getting back into it.  I suspect persistent emotional stress is often the culprit.  Pills can sedate your mind but they can't restore your peace of mind.  They can't get you back into your natural state of happiness and health.  That's something that takes action, and that action is up to you.  .  

Forgiveness without the necessary emotional groundwork is not advisable.  Nobody should demand or expect forgiveness from you.  It is no body's birthright to be forgiven.  It's up to you when you are ready and when you want to forgive them.  You have to work through your anger and sense of loss before you will be able to do that.  Others can ask you for forgiveness but not expect it.  To expect forgiveness prematurely builds up more resentment and defeats the purpose.  

But we all should practice forgiveness at some point to clear our mind from persistent stressful feelings and thoughts.   In doing so we remove what blocks our energy and happiness.  When we forgive, we create happiness and health for ourselves and we open the doors for fresh air and light.  There is always a road somewhere nearby but you can only walk that road when you come out of your dungeon.  By forgiving, you get out of that box and begin to see all kinds of roads to places you want to go to.  More on forgiveness in my next article.             

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