The Art of Forgiveness: Why Forgive?

The Buddha said “Staying angry is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

Part two of this three-part series on forgiveness talks about why we should consider forgiving ourselves and others. As the quote suggests, an excellent reason to forgive is to let go of the poison. It hurts you more than it hurts the other person if you remain angry.

Here are some other reasons to consider forgiving:

• You’ll free up your thoughts and energy for more important things, like the goals you want to accomplish. Imagine what you could achieve if you redirected your mental scripts of arguments to scripts about your goals and the steps you’ll take to accomplish them.

• You can live in the present and be who you truly are today without limiting yourself with the baggage of past conflicts.  If you were bullied in school, for example, you might be wearing the label of weak. Forgiving the bully will help you heal and grow past that label.  This is not about making the bully right or condoning the bully’s actions; it’s about you getting past what happened and living your life fully.

• You can be more open to new relationships without being influenced by the past. Wouldn’t it be nice to let go of the anger at the ex who cheated on you so you can meet and experience each new relationship freshly? You want to be judged based on who you are, right, not based on someone in your new friend’s past? So be ready to give the same thing to someone else.

• Along similar lines, you can protect a new relationship by not harming it with baggage from your past.  Aside from romance, think about your other relationships. Do you always find a reason to hate your boss? Do your co-workers always annoy you? Maybe you’re carrying around something from your past that’s getting in the way of your happiness today.

• You’ll be able to look at the world in a bright, clear, new way.  You’ll be opening yourself up to insights that you didn’t know were possible, and these insights might well be the solution to problems you’re facing that seem daunting or even unresolvable. Finding new solutions to new or old problems just from forgiving might seem like a stretch if you’ve never done it, but after you’ve experienced that clearing just once, it won’t seem so crazy anymore.

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• You’ll be able to grow from the compassion you find for others. Again, this probably seems like a stretch until you’ve done it. But it’s a beautiful thing once you learn to look for it. When you’re angry, look for a reason to feel compassion. Maybe try thinking of it this way: Would you rather be you or the person who is doing the awful things? Now imagine being trapped as that person; that has to be unpleasant, right?

• You’ll understand yourself and your motivations better once you forgive yourself for something you’ve done wrong. Again, this isn’t a matter of condoning your past behavior, but if you’ve done something awful, it’s better to understand why, rather than just ignoring the problem and remaining angry with yourself. And understanding yourself is a great first step in making sure you don’t do more awful things in the future.

You will have the power when you forgive because forgiveness snatches control away from whoever harmed you.  It takes you out of the role of victim and allows you to look at the situation in a new way with a new label.

Who are you angry at and why should you forgive him or her? Also check out The Art of Forgiveness: Who to Forgive and The Art of Forgiveness: How to Forgive.

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