“Forgiveness has nothing to do with absolving a criminal of his crime. It has everything to do with relieving oneself of the burden of being a victim–letting go of the pain and transforming oneself from victim to survivor.” C.R. Strahan
The quote above comes from the book The Roan Maverick, by artist and author C. R. Strahan. It beautifully expresses what I believe is the true benefit and purpose of forgiving someone else. That purpose is as she says, “relieving oneself of the burden of being a victim—letting go of the pain and transforming oneself from victim to survivor.” Yes, forgiveness is primarily for the one doing the forgiving. But unfortunately, too many people fail to see it from this self-loving and empowering perspective. They see forgiveness as a liability, rather than a door to possibility.
Maybe you’re one of the many people who have somehow come to the belief that forgiveness is something you do primarily for the person who committed the offense against you. Or maybe you’ve decided that to forgive another makes it okay that they hurt you; that it’s a sign of weakness, or an indication that you’re willing to let others walk all over you. Perhaps you think that you have to forgive meekly, then let the perpetrator back into your life with no consequences for their hurtful actions or no new boundaries to protect yourself. Maybe you believe that by refusing to forgive you’re somehow punishing or hurting the other person by carrying anger and hatred against them. But those kinds of beliefs are so missing the point of forgiveness and they don’t have to be true for you!
First, when you forgive someone or something, you give up your attachment to the tremendous burden of resentment, shame, blame, hatred or whatever it is that has built up around the person or incident. You free yourself of an emotional or energetic load that you’ve been taking with you every where you go – for weeks, months or possibly even for decades.
Dragging around a burden of anger, resentments and blame produces a tremendous amount of strain on you, emotionally, spiritually and even physically. Holding onto negative judgments, grudges and condemnations drains your energy and hinders your ability to do and have what you want in your life. So in forgiving, you benefit by freeing yourself from the burden of the past, reclaiming your energy in the present and opening up new possibilities for the future!
Second, forgiving can free you from the victim game, enabling you to not only survive, but to actually thrive after being hurt, abused or betrayed. I’d assert that when you forgive, you’re gifted with the opportunity to reclaim your own power and personal responsibility in regards to the situation. Then you have better ability to set new boundaries, impose consequences and take care of yourself and your needs in ways that you never could as a victim. You’ll find ways of holding the other party accountable that you’d not have been able to recognize previously. You’ll have options open up to you that would never be available had you continued to hold onto the hatred, grudges, blame or victim mentality. You’ll be able to take actions that you never would be able to take if you allowed your mind and heart to remain clouded by fear, anger, resentments or negative judgments about the person or situation.
So let’s be very clear that forgiveness is really about you. You don’t need to forgive for the sake of the other person at all. From this perspective when you forgive someone, it does not condone their actions or make it okay that they hurt you. When you forgive a person or organization, you do it with the intention of benefiting yourself, freeing yourself and empowering yourself. The other party may also reap some benefit as a by-product of your forgiveness and that’s fine. But that doesn’t need to be your primary concern. You forgive for yourself first and discover that forgiving another is one of the best forms of self love there is.
Thank you Clifford Edwards for this post!