Sometimes we are afraid to forgive. It feels as though we would somehow lose power by forgiving someone. We fear that it would make us vulnerable. But in reality, forgiving is one of the most powerful of human activities.
There are a number of steps we can take in order to learn to forgive. But they must be taken in patience. It isn’t helpful to get angry at ourselves when we encounter our own recalcitrance toward forgiving. It cannot be forced. It must be done with kindness toward ourselves.
The first thing to consider about forgiveness is to examine deeply the cost of non-forgiveness. When we don’t forgive, we carry hatred and anger in our consciousness. When we do that, it is not the person we are angry at who suffers: it is ourselves.
When we have hatred and anger in our hearts, we live in a state of arousal. That part of the nervous system that deals with fight and flight is constantly activated. It is like having your foot on the gas pedal even when you are braking for a stop. The wear and tear on the car will be costly.
In the same way, the wear and tear of non-forgiveness on our minds and bodies is tremendous. Stress hormones circulate in our blood, causing problems like heart disease, diabetes, and other medical problems. But there are also more immediate effects. Examine closely what your body and mind are like when you are angry. Is this really a pleasant state? It’s a state of suffering and ill-being. There is a tightness in our bodies and minds that is most unpleasant.
So the first reason to forgive is for our own sake. If you look into this deeply and repeatedly, you will not want to make yourself suffer any more. It doesn’t affect the other person to hold onto anger and hatred as it does ourselves, and in a very clear and direct way.
In coming months I will discuss other ways we can overcome the suffering of non-forgiveness.