Forgive? Maybe Not Always, But It Helps

I used to have a hard time with this.  Then I realized it was hurting me more than anyone else.  I'm talking about forgiveness.

I've had a lot of experience in life at trying to practice it. Close relatives who cut me off.  Family dysfunction and abuse.  Cancer. Yes.  You can be mad at God.

There were some I thought I never could forgive.  But over time the weight of anger and sadness and hate just got to be too heavy.  

I've thought a lot about forgiveness. Then, when I was assigned a magazine article on it, I started digging into it.  The further I got, the more fascinating it was.  Then it became healing. The essay turned out to win first place in a statewide writing contest.  

At first I couldn't forgive because I thought I was doing it for the person who hurt me.  Why let him off the hook?  That took a lot to get around.  But then, over time, I began to stop being mad at me for letting people hurt me, and even, for being hurt.  I began to forgive myself. 

In an interesting twist, a new study  says that we need a "moral OK" before we can forgive ourselves for hurting others.  That means, make amends. Previous studies discovered that, to self-forgive, depression and anxiety may lessen and a weakened immune system, repair itself, according to
“One of the barriers people face in forgiving themselves appears to be that people feel morally obligated to hang on to those feelings. They feel they deserve to feel bad. Our study found that making amends gives us permission to let go,” the Web site quotes researcher Thomas Carpenter, a doctoral student in psychology in Baylor’s College of Arts and Sciences.
The more people in the study made amends, the more they felt self-forgiveness was morally permissible. Further, receiving forgiveness also appeared to help people feel it was all right.
But here's a shocking point: receiving forgiveness from someone else had little effect on whether one forgave oneself. And, big surprise, women were less forgiving of themselves than men.  
But back to when people hurt you.  Should you forgive? That's a decision only you can make.  It's really a choice between carrying around the resentment and anger, or letting it go.  I know at times I felt unprotected if I considered forgiving.  As uncomfortable as it felt, that heavy lifting gave me a purpose in life.  Being righteously, violently angry at someone for hurting you is a shield, of sorts. It makes you feel in control, I guess, at a time when you were hopelessly out of it, and vulnerable (my most hated way to be).
Damn.  I'm not going to forgive you.
But in the end, it was quite freeing when I suddenly decided to let go. Timing is everything and you sometimes can't do it right away, or even long after.  But what I came around to was that I could forgive -- good people do bad things -- but I couldn't forget. And that's what saved me.


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