The Life-Freeing Nature of Forgiveness

forgiveness

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.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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Comments

  1. says

    Forgiveness is powerful, but it’s only a first step.

    If we really believe we are all one — parts of a whole — then there is nothing to forgive. Does your foot owe your nose an apology? One part of humanity doesn’t owe anything to another.

    If we can reach a point where we realize we are all one spirit having human experiences, the need for forgiveness goes away. Until then, forgiveness does feel good, though.

    And congratulations on posting something spiritual. I don’t see enough of that on the blogs I follow.

    Gip
    So Much More Life

    • says

      really??? if my foot kicks my nose — it hurts!! and yes it will hurt for awhile. my nose does not like my foot !!
      Do you really think that if a person rapes or kills someone you love that you believe they are PART of all of us as a whole??? I am confused as to who is this body?? and why believe that we are all part of one body? perhaps this is from the concept that as believers of something together we are all part of one body, as in Christianity. But I refuse to believe that I am part of a whole that does not believe that forgiveness is necessary — otherwise it absolves us from any responsibility for our actions!! we can do anything to the said “body” and no forgiveness is necessary???? that is one beat up body in the end I am thinking.
      I believe your comment is far to simplistic for a topic that involves forgiveness beyond gossiping or telling a lie. or forgetting a promise or date. Forgiveness is NOT for the offender it is for healing for the one offended —
      I owe myself forgiveness —- my body needs the act of forgiveness— and my body so disconnects myself from evil acts of other humans— I do NOT embrace them as part of MY whole!!
      make any sense???
      colleen

      • Maria Lessard says

        You are absolutely right about having to say you are sorry. Asking forgiveness helps us grow personally by making us realize that we are not perfect and can be better if we try. That old movie “Love story” in the 60s had a phrase ” love is never having to say you are sorry”. I don’t agree with that. When we are wronged we feel disrespected. There are people who say awful things and it causes disharmony in our lives. We have to forgive others if we want God to forgive us. How many times must we forgive? As many as possible., because we are are imperfect. This is how we become more spiritual and less human.

        Maria

      • bthm says

        Colleen; I understand what you are saying- articles like this irk me because they don’t address all situations- just push ‘forgiveness’ at all costs. Forgiveness is a lovely sentiment and applies to mundane or accidental hurts. Beyond that, I don’t think it’s right or proper to ‘forgive’ truly heinous acts. You can come to terms with them and decide to put them behind you for your own piece of mind but blanket ‘forgiveness’ is not always applicable to all people.

        • says

          I agree with Gip’s post. When we choose not to forgive, we are only spiting ourselves. Even in regard to heinous acts. Forgiveness does not mean that you agree to have weekly coffee with the person who mugged you and stole your wallet – but it does mean that you strive to empathize with that person; to remember that even the mugger is a fellow human being with an intricate life path that has led him/her to the place he is right now; a person who must be suffering a great deal to be capable of bringing that kind of suffering to someone else. Forgiving means that you let go of resentment; you let go of a desire for vengeance; you wish for the offender to find a little peace, too, so that the cycle of anger and pain ends with you.

      • Laura says

        Colleen…I share this with complete kindness and understanding. It’s important to fully understand the whole of Gip’s beliefs before embracing his view of forgiveness. If all mankind had the understanding that we all truly are one – one and connected with the true unchanging source who created us, we would then all live without the need of forgiveness. However, at this point in the universe we are all not there yet. I recommend reading Neale Donald Walsch’s Book “Conversations With God – Book 1″ and Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now” and “This New Earth” for a deeper understanding and awareness of conscious living the way Gip’s perspective describes.

        Namaste
        Laura

    • says

      Beautifully said, Gip! It’s all dependent on your level of consciousness to experience forgiveness or to experience oneness and thus release the need for forgiveness all together.

      Keep shining your light!

  2. says

    I totally agree! Forgiveness is powerful. I’ve heard that you have to learn to forgive not forget. I believe that forgiving is not forgetting, it’s taking back your own personal power. Great steps, I think people need to hear this. Thanks for sharing!!

  3. Alyse says

    Words and deeds to live by. Very inspiring, Kevin. What I’ve learned about forgiving is that it doesn’t make you more vulnerable – which is what we fear.
    Thank you.

  4. says

    You know, sometimes, the people who have “wronged” you don’t even realize they’ve done so, and oftentimes it was completely unintentional.

    Being the bigger person and reaching out will lead to that discovery.

    The venom in your heart will be gone. And very likely a friendship will result…

  5. says

    This is a beautiful post. I was wronged by a very good friend and for a time had a difficult time trusting other people. You’re right in all aspects about our reactions when someone has wronged us. I was consumed with thoughts of anger and revenge, especially when that friend did not show remorse to what she has done to me. But I’ve realized that holding grudges and holding on to the anger takes so much effort. So I chose to let go… It’s been freeing… Now I’ve realized that there are spiritual aspects to living a minimalist life. It’s not just a decluttering physical stuff, but your spirit and your mind, as well…

  6. mel says

    wonderful and timely post for me to read. i’ve been hurt by someone recently that i only less than a year ago let into my life. i tried just letting it go, but it kept coming to the surface and bothering me. i now realize that i need to forgive in order to move on. there is no more relationship between this other person and myself, but she will be somewhat in my life for at least another couple of years, so i need to be able to forgive and get past it.

    • Nat says

      I got here from the “no tv in the bedroom” post.

      I was recently hurt by two friends at a time when I was extremely vulnerable to pain (lost my husband in a tragic car accident in 1/2010). They considered my feelings when making a decision, but figured I would approve/accept without issue the choice they made. It was extremely hurtful. I felt betrayed by one especially.

      I’m confused by the concept of being forgiving and yet feeling like there is no more relationship/friendship between me and these people. I don’t feel angry or vengeful toward them, but I don’t want to extend my heart to them any longer. Is that forgiveness?

      • Laura m. says

        I have been hurt (and so have others) in several church issues, involving ethics/immorality; other past issues involved gossip and or telling someone in confidence and they tell others without your permission. Forgive them, don’t get revenge, but simply never trust them again. Distance yourself and cut ties is best in the long run. No revenge or retaliation in forgiveness. But trust is unlikely to be regained ever again. Associating with anyone who committed immoral acts (cheating on spouse, etc) or ethics (stealing lying, embezzlement) in the future is just not in your best interests and could damage your reputation. Never tell anyone anything you don’t want leaked out eventually. Cynicism of people in general is bound to happen over time. Keep an emotional barrier with friends in the future. I don’t put confidence in authority figures (clergy, politicians, etc) anymore.

  7. Jen says

    Quite a while ago I read that if we realize the person who hurt us was doing the best they could with the knowledge they had, it becomes possible to forgive. The key phrase is “with the knowledge they had”. Each of us has different life teachers, life experiences, and ability to interpret what we experience. And all of these go into forming our ability to understand, empathize, and otherwise deal with our lives and problems and the other people in our lives. This was a life-changing realization for me.

  8. Renee says

    Forgiveness versus Trust, Kindness versus Evil! Wise, wise words at a time when I very much needed to hear them – especially as to the difference between forgiveness and trust. Thanks for your excellent post!

  9. says

    its not easy at all….we were hurt by a family member….my first reaction is return evil with evil….it feels good temporarily however I know it is not the right direction to go….especially with family.
    thank you for this post….I am going to let it go….I must!!
    Ive been writing and thinking about clutter … both emotional and physical…and this is clutter as well….
    we will soon be invited to a function and my first reaction was Im not going…Im too hurt…and I have to give these people a gift too….are you kidding me??? but I will go….and I will bring the gift….and I will be the better person…..

    i would love for anyone who reads this to please comment on my blog….www.50plusstickingtogether.blogspot.com on clutter…..
    lets keep the conversation going…together hopefully we can help each other.

    • Laura m. says

      Best to distance yourself from certain people incl family (former drug/alcohol use, immorality, criminal acts, etc) Don’t hold grudges, just excuse yourself from being available, distance yourself, etc. as trust is gone. See comments to Nat.

      • lilian says

        I have been avoiding my MIL who went out of her way to cause trouble and made me feel unwelcome for more than a decade. Now that she is getting old and needing to take care of her stroke husband, she is trying to redeem herself with my husband although the person she wronged is me and not him. Hence, I do not trust her intentions. She apologized for her actions toward me to my husband. Never to me.I know I will need to forgive her but I can’t. Next year I am forced against my will to go see her. I know I need to forgive her and act accordingly. I just don’t know if I can do it.

  10. says

    I care for my 92 year old mom and try to do a blogradio show as my hobby I think it is important to share thoughts and feelings with others…I dont get the chance to do it nearly as often as I would like but i am posting the link on friendships for you to hear if you would like to…Im getting ready to do another show this coming week…Im actually just finishing it up….it wil be about the joys and pains of being 50. I attended a very sad and unexpected wake of my sons friends mother last week. she was only 58 which prompted that story…..for now I hope you are inspired by this one and would love to hear your comments…
    http://tobtr.com/s/1615661

  11. Nicole says

    This was a helpful blog to read. But what if the person that needs forgiveness the most is yourself? What are the steps then. How does one get past the wrongs they have done to others?

    • Shailee says

      The exact same question that I wanted to ask!! How does one rid oneself of guilt of having wronged others unintentionally? This is something that really weighs me down and may a times I end up over-compensating.

  12. Ramona says

    You are a brilliantly insightful writer Joshua. Everything you write resonates with me and I would guess the human race. You inspire me everyday. Thank you.

  13. mom says

    The man molested my daughter. His only remorse was getting caught. He has continued to be psychologically harmful at the rare opportunities he has been able. I have no desire to forgive him. The early attempts I made to forgive him because I felt it my “Christian duty” made me more anxious, more angry and more depressed. It did and still doesn’t feel right, or normal or “freeing”. I don’t want to forgive this man. To do so trivializes what he did to my child. I live free everyday knowing that I am content with my anger towards his evil. Forgiveness is a beautiful thing and should be offered whenever possible: I forgive the guy who cut me off in traffic, I forgive the relative that hurt my feelings, I forgive the friend who forgot my birthday. I do not forgive the man that calculated and devised a plan to molest my child, carried it out and then made every attempt to lie about it to save his own skin (of which he failed, miserably and I rejoiced in his punishment). If this makes me evil, then so be it…I am free in the knowledge that I am true to my inner most feelings.

    • Carla says

      I agree. People should pay for what they’ve done, because there are those who simply do not want to learn or be remorseful. They’re too selfish, wordly and full of false pride and ego and they would continue to be heinous and evil for as long as they can. This can be a sad and tragic reality that some of us unfortunately experience. How do you handle that?

  14. Cathy b says

    great article laying out exactly what forgiveness is..it frees one s heart up to be able to be in relationship with another again. I’ve had to learn this firsthand after being hurt by someone in a counseling position.It was difficult to trust and bring myself to share with her to begin with but then after being betrayed, I would relive the situation over and over and spent too much time planning a revenge. Just recently, I realized that I was hurting myself and my future relationship possibilities in acting this way. I released the hurt and forgave as best possible and have had some peace of mind since.

  15. carole says

    There is no way you can forgive someone with out being forgiven yourself. For me I needed the forgiveness of Jesus, only then could I forgive my first “offender”. If what you are doing isn’t working, you should try him. Really.

  16. says

    I read an interesting thought by Marilyn Meberg from her book, “I’d Rather Be Laughing”. She was talking about forgiveness and how it is a tough topic, especially because we have some misconceptions about it.

    The first misconception she brought up was that if you forgive someone, you have to “get back together” with that person. Not true says Meberg, we need to mentally separate the act of forgiveness and the act of reuniting. They are not the same nor are they synonymous. We can forgive someone and still plan never to see that person again. Forgiving the offender does not change the offender… it changes you.

    The second misconception is that if we forgive someones offense, it excuses that person’s behavior. Meberg stated that forgiving does not excuse or condone… it simply forgives.

    The third misconception is that forgiving means forgetting the pain that individual inflicted on you. The concept of “forgive and forget” is something only God can do. We can’t come anywhere near forgetting, wrote Meberg.

    Some of us have been deeply hurt by others persons actions and we harbor anger, resentment and sometimes even blame God for allowing the action to have happened. Perhaps it was an accident that claimed the life of our child, maybe it was sexual abuse that occurred when we were young. Perhaps our parents abused us rather than using loving discipline, or perhaps they favored one child over you and you felt that sting all your life. Remember the above wisdom offered from Meberg and forgive. It’s for you and your health and well-being.

  17. Gail says

    It’s a great general rule for one’s own piece of mind for most offenses.

    When it comes to serious deliberate offences by someone who shows no repentance, to forgive in the sense of “wiping out” the wrong (even if you reasonably not associate with them) is not just.

    Not only is it not just, it doesn’t help or encourage the one purposefully doing wrong to change their ways.

  18. Heidi says

    I read this recently and felt that it really sums up forgive for me:

    FORGIVENESS IS A CHOICE I MAKE, TO RELEASE SOMEONE FROM A DEBT THEY OWE THAT THEY CANNOT REPAY.

    • Gail says

      I’d say, you don’t. Then what motivation would they have to change or care that what they did was wrong? If there is some evidence of remorse or repentance then that’s different.

      • Gail says

        Then you move on without them and try to let go of hate or anger, that way oneself would have peace. That’s different than forgiving an someone who doesn’t care they’ve hurt someone. This is about purposefully causing pain, not they said something goofy or forgot to include you in something, I talking about serious abuse.

  19. Sally says

    Joshua, thanks for this article. The timing couldn’t be better. This was so well written and made important distinctions. I felt a sense of calm and peace after reading this.

  20. John says

    The deepest write up on forgvness whch iv bn struglng wth frm my childhood.wth ur permissn i cn teach d teens in my church.sir

  21. says

    True. We should never let these little life happenings create pain for the rest of your life. Life does not mean to stop here. Forgive and Show must go on.

    Thanks for the nice article JOSHUA BECKER :)

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