Relational Health

What is Forgiveness?

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For me forgiveness has never been something instant or immediate, it’s always been a process.

There’s no time frame for forgiveness. Each person needs a different amount of time to forgive. However, forgiveness is important if one wants to move forward and rebuild what they have lost.

Several years ago, my family and I went through a very difficult time. A member of our family fell mentally ill and caused my family to re-evaluate our roles and learn about ourselves: the good and the bad. During this time, one of the most difficult things for us to do was to speak about our feelings towards this family member.

While my family’s difficulties were going on, I began my journey into the land of eating disorders. I soon was anorexic and struggling greatly with the need to control my surroundings while feeling hopeless and inadequate that I couldn’t help my family rebuild itself.

What were my family and I missing? What were we forgetting to do?

We needed forgiveness.

Once we came to the realization that we needed to forgive our family member, we started down a long road that led us to forgiving them.

Out of this forgiveness came love; my family members once again found themselves. We spoke openly and with self-disclosure about how we felt. We worked through our issues amongst ourselves and always worked in seeking forgiveness as the end goal. More than that, we were able to fully forgive our family member. This forgiveness we gave them as a family allowed us to rebuild our trust, reaffirm our love for one another and understand ourselves in deeper more profound ways.

From my family’s ability to forgive, I was able to forgive myself: for my actions and my wrong doings in the past. Out of this self-forgiveness, I found a meaning to my life again; no longer was I living in the fear of not being able to control the circumstances around me, instead, I was happy and determined to forgive and completely forget the wrongdoings that had happened.

Thanks to this forgiveness, I am now closer to this family member than I ever have been, and along with my family members, have helped better their life and give them the support to become even better than any one of us ever thought possible.

All of this didn’t happened instantly. This forgiveness was a long process and is still ongoing, but it is fueled by love.

One man by the name of Viktor Frankl – an Austrian-Jewish author and psychiatrist – survived the Holocaust while in Auschwitz. Frankl, instead of turning to hatred and a life filled with the need for revenge, he in turn, said that man has meaning and that meaning can only be found if one receives and gives forgiveness. Through forgiveness we not only allow the forgiven to rebuild, but we are capable of forgiving our self. If Frankl could forgive – all those who murdered and tortured him and hundreds of others – then surely we are capable of forgiving. It can be hard, but it’s never too hard. Frankl explains forgiveness the best when he says:

“The more one forgives him self – by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love – the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself.”

I hope for all those reading, that, if they are faced with someone whom they need to forgive, then to allow themselves to forgive. It may not be immediate, it may take years to heal but forgiveness is the start of healing, finding your self once more and allowing the one forgiven to do the same.

To finish off I would like to leave you with some inspirational quotes about forgiveness and a reminder, that forgiveness cannot be just a thought, it must be a feeling and action, out of love.

Mahatma Ghandi: “Forgiveness is choosing to love. It’s the first skill of self-giving love.”

Thomas Fuller: “He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself; every man has need to be forgiven.”

Robert Muller: “To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love.”

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  • Thank you for this post, Amie! I struggle to forgive, but I know that holding onto feelings of anger and frustration can only hurt me. Those are some powerful words by Viktor Frankl- you're right that if he can find it within himself to forgive, we all can.