Forgiveness = for + give + ness
Break this word down and its true meaning stands out! Forgiveness is the strength for-giving grace to oneself, to others, and to situations that we perceive as adverse. In this small segment, let’s explore the power of forgiveness in a relationship, what is forgiveness, and how you can harness this strength from within you!
The Need for the Power of Forgiveness in a Relationship
Humans, by our social wiring, are born to connect. For us, to be able to relate with a self or situation beyond us is one of the primary goals In our lives. We crave to belong, to love, and be loved. In this equation, the presence of another being or situation results in pleasant and unpleasant experiences. While we feel loved by them, we can also feel hurt by them! And feeling hurt, dejected, disappointed, or wronged is exactly the space we enjoy in our lives.
Hurtful remarks and actions in spiteful conversations in our relationships can be deeply painful and hurting. It is, of course, difficult to remember in those situations that these are only phases of our relationship and that we CAN deal with it. We can choose to look beyond what they said and did, give grace, dialogue about the hurt, or forgive. And this is because what people do may be wrong, but people are good. They have been a source of your happiness before and they may have lost that for a while only. We can choose to remember their goodness and forgive. And how can we do that?
Let’s begin with understanding the true meaning of forgiveness.
Did You Know That The Word ‘Forgive’ Has Three Hidden Meanings? Click here to know more!
What is forgiveness?
- Forgiveness is a strength that we are inherently born with. We need to tap and harness this strength within us during the course of our life events.
- Forgiveness makes us feel free of the negative attachment that we hold to the source of our hurt (Thompson, et al., 2005).
- When we forgive, we have a reduced desire to avoid, harm, or seek revenge towards the person or situation that has hurt us (McCullough et al., 1998).
- Forgiveness also includes an increased desire to act positively towards the transgressing (hurting) person, developing undeserved qualities of compassion, generosity and even love towards them.
- Forgiveness is the willingness to abandon your right to resentment, negative judgment, and indifferent behavior towards the one who hurt us unjustly (Enright et al., 2000)
- (The best meaning) Forgiveness happens when you chose to freely cancel the debt of hurt, cancel the negative emotion, and move out of the victim role through the process of realistically assessing the harm done (Tangney et al., 1999).
Now, let’s consider Forgiveness is NOT!
- Forgiveness doesn’t mean you are pardoning or excusing the other person’s actions.
- Forgiveness doesn’t mean you need to tell the person that he or she is forgiven.
- Forgiveness doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have any more feelings about the situation.
- Forgiveness doesn’t mean there is nothing further to work out in the relationship or that everything is okay.
- Forgiveness doesn’t mean you should forget the incident ever happened.
- Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to continue to include the person in your life.
- Forgiveness isn’t something you do for the other person.
Notice in the list that many practitioners and researchers suggest that it is not just reducing negative feelings, but forgiveness is also a process to develop positive feelings for them. How can we do that? How can we feel compassion and kindness towards people who have wronged and hurt us? The answer lies in the power of grace.
Grace & Hope: The Vehicles of Forgiveness
The power of forgiveness in a relationship, whether it is with yourself or with others, can be harnessed and amplified through the medium of grace. I admit it: it sounds intensely painful to forgive our transgressors (the ones who hurt and wrong us), leave alone feeling kindness towards them. And yet, research and practice in Positive Psychology tell us that humans can do this and that it is not entirely impossible. How can this happen?
I found the answers in God’s love, which is agape (unconditional, active, self-sacrificing, patient, thoughtful, and persistent). Not divulging into the background of how I found these answers, here is what I constantly find easy and effective to practice in forgiveness: give grace to people who have hurt you. (For more information about God’s love and grace, refer to the segment God’s love on Love Smitten.)
What is grace? Grace is undeserved kindness. In our educational system, when the passing grade is forty points out of a hundred, and if a learner scores thirty-seven points, we give them three grace marks and pass them in the test. Did they deserve it? No; they didn’t show learning worth forty points. But can they receive another chance at survival? Yes; they have shown their human nature in their failure. Does this mean that they will value this grace and not commit the error again? No. Grace is giving unconditionally, but with hope! They may or may not value the grace immediately, but we hope that the learner may value the grace and do better the next time!
Now use this logic in your relationships:
- Have they wronged you? Yes.
- Do you feel hurt? Yes.
- Do we have the option to give grace and forgive them? Yes.
- Does this guarantee they will not wrong you again? No.
- Can we hope that the human in them (who is also possibly so hurt that they displace their hurt onto you) may value your patient, unconditional grace? YES!
The Fruits of Forgiveness are for Everyone!
Contrary to the common saying that forgiveness is more for your benefit than others because you feel free, I wish to offer another perspective. We live in a co-created reality, which comprises of what I perceive, you perceive, how I respond to your perception, and then how you respond to my response. Through a series of such transactions, the reality we create is created together. In such a setting, I believe forgiveness benefits us, others, and humankind at large.
It surely relieves me from my victim, the inferior position of feeling wronged, hurt, pulled down, and discouraged when I choose to forgive. At the same time, it also signals the other that the norm may not always be the right way (the norm, in this case, would be to avenge the person and engage in a tit-for-tat).
You have modeled to the person who hurt you and others who observe you that you have an inherent strength, which you have successfully tapped, and are now strengthening the muscles of this strength (forgiveness) by practicing it in that situation! Your transgressor gets an opportunity to observe the unnatural response, thus, increasing the possibility for repentance and imitation. The ripple effect of such transactions, I am hopeful, will spread to the society, community, and mankind at large.
Let’s factor in what M.K. Gandhi shared with us in his works. He reminded us that, “An eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind,” and that, “We should be the change that we wish to see in the world.” When we factor in these powerful truths, add them with the strength of hope and grace, the outcome is a bitter-sweet feeling of forgiveness. It feels like the cord of sadness and inferiority is cut, and your wings are ready to kiss the freshness of the high skies!
How to forgive? How to give grace?
Let’s now unleash the power of forgiveness in a relationship through the following suggestions. They are not easy for sure, but they are proven effective by research, as a practitioner, and with experiences in my personal life.
- STEP 1: Practice to PAUSE in the moment of heat: Even though challenging, I admit, once mastered, this behavior has benefitted me in multiple ways. It is unnatural to take a deep breath, close your eyes, and pause in the middle of a heated conversation, especially when you are being wronged, verbally, and non-verbally. We usually feel like retaliating with a better logical statement, the ones that we feel the other won’t be able to beat in an argument. A series of such logical “I’m right” statements go on endlessly. To stop the train, pull the chain!
- STEP 2: During the PAUSE, flash before your eyes a sweet memory with that person: Again, it is challenging and yet, very effective. This requires more practice and willingness. Remember a few sweet memories you have with your person and keep cherishing them from time to time. During the pause, you take in a heated conversation, force yourself to flash the first sweet memory that comes to your mind with that person. How does this help? It reminds your brain that the person is not bad, but what they are saying or doing may be bad. What does this do? It allows you to be the chain-breaker.
- STEP 3: Break the chain: When you become the chain-breaker, what do you say or do? You have practiced pausing and remembering a sweet memory in the middle of a heated conversation by now. Now, you soften your voice, make eye contact, and give them a patient ear. While you do that behaviourally, in your mind try to fish for their hurt. Remember, they are hurt and are displacing their hurt onto you. If you know them well, this should be easy.
- STEP 4: Acknowledge the pain in you and them: It is essential to see and acknowledge the existence of smelly garbage to be able to become motivated to throw it out! So, respond now to their statements by acknowledging their hurt, validating their pain, expressing your pain, ask for, and offer support. Let kindness flow in. Be the chain-breaker!
- STEP 5: In your solace, cherish this experience and pick up the highlights: When you are alone, remember the experience, appreciate yourself for building the strength to choose love over war, acknowledge any remaining pain you may have. Let tears witness your hurt as they travel down to meet your bitter-sweet smile. Remind yourself that we are all flawed and that giving hopeful grace is a positive way forward. And this is because we love more than we hate the person we have chosen to be with! Consider drawing some boundaries, altering your behavior that could be a trigger for their hurt, and invite alterations in their behaviors that could be your triggers of hurt.
Remember to reward yourself every time you achieve a sub-goal (step) and keep rehearsing these steps till this becomes automatic for you! Consider evaluating your success in this process on a continuum, instead of aiming at perfection. Gradually aim at being a better chain-breaker than the previous time! And no, it doesn’t mean you should burn the burden of doing this every time in your relationship. It means that if your priority is the person and the love that you share (which may have reduced at the moment), then you may want to take this extra step in the power of forgiveness in a relationship, in your relationship, beloved relationship!
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