“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” —Mahatma Gandhi
A simplified life is light, easy, and free. It is a life that has thoughtfully and intentionally removed many of the things that weigh us down.
On the outside, this can be accomplished by removing many of the material possessions that demand our attention.
But what about on the inside? Many of us carry in our hearts a heavy burden of past hurts from others. Because we live our lives in relationship with other people, we are bound to be wronged by somebody along the way. And sometimes these hurts can be very deep and heavy when they come from someone close.
Carrying the weight of these burdens can result in a life of resentment and bitterness. Simply put, our lives get trapped in the past. And as a result, many become depressed or anxious.
The path to removing this internal weight is to experience the life-freeing power of forgiveness. Learning to forgive others releases burden and brings freedom back to our heart. It results in less stress, less hostility, lower blood pressure, and reduced symptoms of depression. It provides the opportunity to live a simplified life on the outside and the inside.
To experience the life-giving nature of forgiveness, try putting into practice these six steps each time you are hurt by another person.
1. Admit that you have needed forgiveness in the past. We all make mistakes. We’ve all hurt other people in the past. One of the key steps in being able to practice the power of forgiveness is to realize that you have needed forgiveness at some point in your life too. When we are able to humbly admit that we have needed forgiveness from another, we are in a better position to offer forgiveness to someone who has hurt us.
2. Understand what forgiveness is not. You were wronged. Don’t minimize the offense by pretending it didn’t happen. Granted, if you were hurt accidentally, you only need to show patience. But if you were hurt intentionally, you’ll need to accept that fact and show forgiveness.
3. Realize the difference between forgiveness and trust. One of the most misunderstood aspects of forgiveness is when it is confused with trust. Depending on the nature of the offense, your ability to trust has been deeply compromised. Forgiving somebody does not mean that you need to restore that relationship without changes. Remember that forgiveness can be instant, but trust must be built over a period of time. Realize the difference. While offering forgiveness brings freedom, being wise about trust can protect your heart in the future.
4. Give up your right to get even. Too many people live life keeping score. They keep a mental list of people who have wronged them in the past and live their life looking for opportunities to get even. Forgiveness provides the opportunity to erase the list and to release your heart from the burden of revenge.
5. Choose to respond with kindness. Anyone can respond to evil with evil. But only the strong can respond with good. Kindness breaks the cycle. It can bring freedom to your soul and release your life from the never-ending, downward cycle of responding to evil with evil.
6. Repeat the process as needed. As long as you live your life in relationship with others, you are going to be wronged. Accept the fact that nobody is perfect and be prepared to repeat the process above as needed.
If you are harboring resentment towards another human being because of past hurts, choose to forgive and move on. The harm was their fault. But allowing it to weigh down your life today is yours. Free yourself today by taking the steps to experience the benefits of forgiveness in your life.