Sunday, September 11, 2011

Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it. Mark Twain

forgive -
1. to cease to blame or hold resentment against (someone or something)
2. to grant pardon for (a mistake, wrongdoing, etc.)
3. to free or pardon (someone) from penalty
4. to free from the obligation of (a debt, payment, etc.)
definition from Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged

Today I spent a lot of time pondering forgiveness.  It began this morning at Prince of Life Lutheran in Oregon City when Pastor John gave his sermon on forgiving, a sermon so appropriate for today (9-11).
This afternoon I watched the movie AMISH GRACE, a true story about an incident when a gunman killed five Amish children and injured five others in a Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania schoolhouse shooting in October of 2006. The media attention told about the tragic events and the extraordinary forgiveness demonstrated by the Amish community. The movie explores the Amish's astonishing reaction to the horrific shootings, that of forgiveness and compassion.
This all led me to researching differing religious views, the idea of forgiveness, and how to achieve it.
"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."  Colossians 3:13  
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”  Matthew 5:7
“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25
“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.” Luke 6:27-29
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:36
“Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:37
"Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”  Matthew 18:21-22
God is very clear about forgiveness. He provided us with direction in various Scriptures, all of which can be summed up in just one word -- forgive! 
Jesus had the power to forgive and granted us with the ability to forgive others just as we have been forgiven.  Forgiveness is such a hard thing to do, but it can be so liberating to our soul.  We define forgiveness as meaning that we should say all is forgotten, but how can you forgive something you feel is unforgivable? All that's required is that we make a decision to move forward, to let go of the hurt and anger, and let God guide us. We don't have to close our eyes to what's been done.
We forgive them because God forgave us (Ephesians 4:31-32 and Romans 5:8).
To “forgive” means to wipe the slate clean, to pardon, to cancel a debt, to release from blame, to hold no resentment. When we wrong someone, we should seek their forgiveness.  Forgiveness is not given because a person deserves to be forgiven.  Forgiveness is an act of love, mercy, and grace.
We forgive because we have been forgiven by God. (Ephesians 4:32). We forgive in respect to God (Matthew 6:14-15; Romans 12:18). We forgive to gain control of our lives from hurt emotions (Genesis 4:1-8). We forgive so we will not become bitter and dishonor those around us (Hebrews 12:14-15).
To receive forgiveness from God, a person must recognize the offense and admit it before God, make a commitment to not repeat the offense, do what you can to rectify the offense, ask pardon of the offended person, and ask for forgiveness from God. There are no set words to say when asking for forgiveness. 

In Judaism it is believed that if a person cause’s harm to someone, then sincerely apologizes to that wronged individual and tries to rectify things, the wronged individual is required to grant forgiveness.  "It is forbidden to be obdurate and not allow yourself to be appeased. On the contrary, one should be easily pacified and find it difficult to become angry. When asked by an offender for forgiveness, one should forgive with a sincere mind and a willing spirit.  Forgiveness is natural to the seed of Israel." (Mishneh Torah, Teshuvah 2:10)  One must go to those he has harmed in order to be entitled to forgiveness.  “One who sincerely apologizes three times for a wrong committed against another has fulfilled his or her obligation to seek forgiveness.” (Shulchan Aruch) OC 606:1
Islam teaches that God is Al-Ghaffur, which means "The All-Forgiving." God is the original source of all forgiveness.  Forgiveness often requires the repentance of those being forgiven. Forgiveness can come either directly from Allah, or from the person who was wronged. In the case of divine forgiveness, the asking for divine forgiveness via repentance is important. In the case of human forgiveness, it is important to both forgive, and to be forgiven.   The Qur'an makes it clear that, whenever possible, it is better to forgive another than to attack another. The Qur'an describes believers as those who, “avoid gross sins and vice, and when angered they forgive.”  (Qur'an 42:37) and also says that “Although the just requital for an injustice is an equivalent retribution, those who pardon and maintain righteousness are rewarded by GOD. He does not love the unjust. (Qur'an 42:40)   Muslims are taught many phrases and words to repeat daily to ask Allah for forgiveness. 
For example:
  • Astaghfiru-Allah, "I ask forgiveness from Allah"
  • Subhanaka-Allah humma wa bi hamdika wa ash-hadu al la Ilaha illa Anta astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, "Glory be to You, Allah, and with You Praise (thanks) and I bear witness that there is no deity but You, I ask Your forgiveness and I return to You (in obedience)".
In the Bahá'í Writings, this is how they teach you to be forgiving towards others: "Love the creatures for the sake of God and not for themselves. You will never become angry or impatient if you love them for the sake of God. Humanity is not perfect. There are imperfections in every human being, and you will always become unhappy if you look toward the people themselves. But if you look toward God, you will love them and be kind to them, for the world of God is the world of perfection and complete mercy. Therefore, do not look at the shortcomings of anybody; see with the sight of forgiveness."   
Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 92
Buddhism says that feelings of hatred and ill-will leave a lasting effect on our mind, aka karma. Buddhism encourages the cultivation of thoughts to provide a nourishing outcome. "In contemplating the law of karma, we realize that it is not a matter of seeking revenge but of practicing mettā and forgiveness, for the victimizer is, truly, the most unfortunate of all.   When resentments have already arisen, the Buddhist view is to calmly proceed to release them by going back to their roots. Buddhism centers on release from delusion and suffering through meditation and receiving insight into the nature of reality. Buddhism questions the reality of the passions that make forgiveness necessary as well as the reality of the objects of those passions.”  Spirit of Vatican II: Buddhism – Buddhism and Forgiveness". 2006.
If we haven’t forgiven, we keep creating an identity around our pain, and that is what is reborn. That is what suffers."  "Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery - Preparing for Death" 2006.
Buddhism places emphasis on the concepts of Mettā (loving kindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (sympathetic joy), and upekkhā (equanimity), as a means to avoid resentments from beginning. These ideas are used to help us understand suffering in our world, in our loves and in others.
Hinduism says forgiveness is a virtue of the weak, and an ornament of the strong. Forgiveness subdues all in this world.  What is there that forgiveness cannot achieve? What can a wicked person do to one who carries the saber of forgiveness in his hand? Fire falling on the grass-less ground is extinguished of itself. And unforgiving individual defiles himself with many enormities. Righteousness is the one highest good; and forgiveness is the one supreme peace; knowledge is one supreme contentment; and benevolence, one sole happiness." (From the Mahabharata, Udyoga Parva Section XXXIII
A Course In Miracles ( teaches that an individual's achievement of the ability to forgive fully, absolutely, and without any reserve, is in fact the "most direct path to the attainment of one's own personal salvation. Forgiveness is not simply the letting go of one's resentment of certain acts of others, but is the awakening to the remembrance of the inability of others to do anything but to assist one in returning to the awareness of God's loving presence in all things, in all people, and in all situations.  All creation is a loving and eternal thought of God.  Just as ripples do not change the underlying nature of the water in the pond, God's love IS, as always, unchanged and constant.  Forgiveness removes the blocks to seeing the eternal goodness in, and unity and equality with, one’s brother. Forgiveness removes the fog obscuring the reflection of God within others, which leads to the same sight within ourselves. We all remain as God created, united in God’s eternal love—and this is God’s will."
In 1988, the Gallup Organization did a poll and found that 94% said it was important to forgive, but 85% said they needed some outside help to be able to forgive.
It is impossible to live in this world without getting hurt, offended, misunderstood, lied to, and rejected. Learning how to respond to these events is a key of Christian life. How we act toward that person may change. It doesn't mean we will put ourselves back into a harmful situation or that we accept or approve of the person's wrong behavior, but simply means we free them from the wrong they committed against us.
Sometimes we don’t want to forgive those who have slighted, harmed or hurt us. Not forgiving others plants bitterness. When we forgive others, we free ourselves, both spiritually and emotionally. Forgiveness is an act of free will in accord with God’s will, trusting that God will give us emotional healing.  
When we experience cruelty, pain, hurt, or loss, we need time to ponder what has happened before we can allow God to guide us to a position of forgiveness. God’s timing is always the right time for each individual. The act of forgiving others is a pact between us and God.  We can help individuals who are struggling with the forgiveness of others. By supporting them with encouraging words and listening to them, we aid them in steps towards forgiving.
We must release the negative emotions associated with the event. As long as we hold onto the pain and hurt, we are choosing to allow that person to continue to hurt us. We choose to stop allowing them to hurt us. You must say, “I am choosing to let go of the pain you have caused me, for my own sake.  I am choosing to take back my power so that I may heal. I will release all of the hurtful emotions I feel.”
Every day we should forgive the small slights caused by strangers -- a discourteous clerk, an unsafe driver, someone who teased you, someone who snubbed you, etc. These events are practice to prepare us for tougher tasks of forgiving significant harms.  Tell yourself it is unrealistic to expect people to always act civilly and respectfully toward you. Acknowledge that everyone is imperfect and capable of making mistakes.
  "Holding a grudge takes mental, emotional, and physical energy. It makes you obsessive, angry, and depressed," states Barry Lubetkin, a psychologist and director of the Institute for Behavior Therapy in New York City.
Whenever a hostile or hateful thought enters your mind, try to be fully aware of the harm it can do to you.  Allow this knowledge to motivate you to forgive and let go. Lack of forgiveness is giving others power over you.  Forgiveness is a priceless gift which you can give to yourself and your family.
It is in our own best interest to forgive. Forgiving frees us from anger and enables us to receive the healing we need. We are the ones God is trying to protect, the ones who receive the most benefit from forgiveness, not the person who has harmed or hurt us. To be unforgiving jeopardizes our walk with God. The whole reason God has given us explicit guidelines is because He does not want anything to stand between us and the path to Him.  We need to fully forgive from our hearts.  We need to choose to be open to forgiveness and reconciliation.  Nothing can undo the past, but we can do something about our own present and future. Forgiving others makes a way for our own healing to begin.
Your forgiveness may ultimately have the power to transform the life of the person you are forgiving. Not always, but sometimes. And if it does, in forgiving them you're not only setting yourself free, but you're also contributing to something the world is crying out for in more places than you could probably name--peace.
A former inmate of a Nazi concentration camp was visiting a friend who shared the ordeal with him.  "Have you forgiven the Nazis?" he asked his friend.  "Yes."  "Well, I haven't. I'm still consumed with hatred for them," the other man declared.  "In that case," said his friend gently, "they still have you in prison."
We are not obliged to like anyone; but we are under a binding obligation to love everyone and through it experience a feeling of peace and happiness.
Simply say: "I freely forgive everyone."  It takes great courage, and commitment to forgive.
Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself. Bitterness and anger imprison you, emotionally, physically and mentally.  Forgiveness sets you free. 
Through the freedom that forgiving brings, we gain the capacity for greater joy, laughter and celebration.
I read this idea somewhere, and feel it is worthy of sharing:
Bury the grudge -- literally.  Write a letter to the person who hurt you but don't mail it. Express fully, clearly, honestly how you feel and why that person's act hurt you and made you angry. Conclude with the bold declaration that you have forgiven him or her. Then, bury the letter in a potted plant or somewhere in your yard. This is a powerful symbolic exercise which many people have found to be extremely therapeutic.
The most challenging forgiveness has been forgiving myself - forgiving my failures, my shortcomings, disappointments, angry words, and misunderstandings.  If I think I have caused someone hurt or pain or disappointment, I find it hard to forgive myself.  I feel horrified and horrible.  I feel I should know better.  But I must remember that I am human, with emotions and feelings, and I will stumble, I will do things that might be considered hurtful.  And in the end I must ask for forgiveness for what I may have done, purposefully or unintentionally, in jest or anger, and then forgive myself.  After all, no one is perfect, but we can all strive to be better.
Here are some quotes I found to be perfect for this discussion:
"I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him.-- Booker T. Washington's lifelong motto.
Let us forgive each other - only then will we live in peace.--Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy
Love yourself—accept yourself—forgive yourself—and be good to yourself.--Leo F. Buscaglia
He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. Martin Luther King, Jr.
To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love.  In return, you will receive untold peace and happiness. -- Robert Muller
When you forgive it takes you from the place of the victim to that of a victor. – Unknown
I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice. -- Abraham Lincoln
That moment inside of you where you forgive what’s happened is the moment when you are enlightening yourself. -- John-Roger
Did you know that March 15th is International Forgiving Day?
Imagine if everyone in the world gave and received forgiveness on that day!
What miracles could happen??


  1. You have such a gentle and generous heart.

    Part of the struggle for me is accepting that forgiveness does not diminish or detract from the wrongness of the injury done me. "I forgive you." is not the same as saying, "That's ok." Still working on that.

  2. To forgive one's self is, I think, the hardest thing of all. But your thoughts also bring to mind that old saying, "To err is human, to forgive divine." Alice

  3. There's a wonderful book on this topic called "Forgive for Good" by Dr Fred Luskin. You might find it interesting--I recommend it!

  4. Like Roxie, I struggle with separating forgiveness from the idea of "that's okay." There are some things I've had a very hard time letting go of simply because the person at fault refuses to change or admit any wrong-doing. On the other hand, when someone apologizes to me I have no trouble with forgiveness.

  5. The one thing I know and it's one of the things you've underlined: That not forgiving hurts us. We carry it with us. It festers. And yet, knowing this, I'm an unwilling forgiver. It's as though I think by not forgiving, I'm hurting the other person instead of my self. I need to ponder, too. Thanks for this post.

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