Researchers have found a powerful connection between forgiving others and our own well-being. What is forgiveness? Researchers who study forgiveness and its effects on our well-being and happiness are very specific about how they define forgiveness. Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky calls forgiveness “a shift in thinking” toward someone who has wronged you, “such that your desire to harm that person has decreased and your desire to do him good (or to benefit your relationship) has increased.” Forgiveness, at a minimum, is a decision to let go of the desire for revenge and ill-will toward the person who wronged you. It may also include feelings of goodwill toward the other person. Forgiveness is also a natural resolution of the grief process, which is the necessary acknowledgment of pain and loss.
Last week we concluded that forgiveness is not an option for the believer. We are to forgive others as we have been forgiven. For most of us (all of us if we will admit it), that’s a whole lot of forgiveness. Understanding forgiveness doesn’t make it easier to forgive, but it does make it more meaningful…perhaps even tolerable…but I believe understanding the process could make us more likely to offer the forgiveness we are commanded to give.
Last week I also talked about two concepts or types of forgiveness: decisional and emotional. Dr. Neil Anderson sums them both up in this statement: “Don’t wait to forgive until you feel like forgiving. You will never get here. Feelings take time to heal after the choice to forgive is made.”
Why Do We Find It So Hard to Forgive?
One reason we resist forgiving is that we don't really understand what forgiveness is or how it works. We think we do, but we don't. Most of us assume that if we forgive our offenders, they are let off the hook — scot-free — and get to go about their merry ways while we unfairly suffer from their actions. We also may think that we have to be friendly with them again, or go back to the old relationship. While God commands us to forgive others, he never told us to keep trusting those who violated our trust or even to like being around those who hurt us. The first step to understanding forgiveness is learning what it is and isn't. The next step is giving yourself permission to forgive and forget, letting go of the bitterness while remembering very clearly your rights to healthy boundaries.
Researchers are very clear about what forgiveness is not. We need to mentally separate the act of forgiveness and the act of reuniting. They are not the same. Forgiving the person is about changing us…not the offender.
Join pastoral counselor Kimberly in rest of this must-hear episode, and come to terms with the process of forgiveness. To hear what forgiveness is not: download it via theEvery Body Matters online radio show on BlogTalkRadio. May the message be a blessing to you!