Several reasons prevent individuals from living a life of forgiveness.
In one of my earlier columns, I had mentioned that people walk around with open wounds (emotional wounds). Meaning, they carry around hurt related to resentment, anger, hatred, jealousy etc picked up in childhood or later. They carry it around every moment, even in sleep. Sometimes knowingly, sometimes unknowingly.
Sometimes people choose to forgive, but more often than not, they scoff at the idea of forgiveness. Sometimes individuals want to forgive but don’t know how. People can live with resentment for years, decades and even lifetimes without realising how self-harming it is.
People also suppress resentment and avoid confronting it because sometimes it is too painful to confront.
In this write-up, we will try to understand why people don’t forgive but continue to hold on the resentment/s. Understand that forgiveness is a choice. And the choice rests on your intention, willingness, and readiness to forgive.
Here are five common reasons (of the many) that prevent individuals from practicing forgiveness and ultimately, forgiving.
1. Forgiving means making amends with the offender: Not really a correct notion. The practice of forgiveness allows one to overcome resentment against the offender. It doesn’t imply overlooking the sin or the wrongdoing though. As regards getting friendly with your offender, it is up to your wisdom. In case of offences such as physical abuse, it might be dangerous to be friendly. In other cases, one may choose to restore friendship/relationship. One can set up healthy boundaries to prevent self from getting hurt while carrying no ill-will against the wrongdoer. “Hate the sin, not the sinner,” prescribes spiritualist and forgiveness teacher, Mahatma Das.
2. Re-living the hurt: Individuals don’t want to forgive because they don’t want go through the pain. In the practice of forgiveness, however, one must go through the pain, confront it to release it. There is no other way. People suppress pain, but it takes a lot of energy to do that. Hence, one feels constantly drained of energy. “Resentment is a constant form of stress,” states Das. Harbouring resentment leads to many kinds of physical and psychological ailments.
3. Belief: Individuals may have belief systems making it seem that forgiveness is not possible. Some such beliefs include: “I am hurt/abused, so why should I be the one to forgive,” or “the act was so hurtful that it is unforgivable” or “forgiving will make me weaker and more prone to abuse,” or “I will forgive only if I get justice.” With these beliefs, resentment is kept alive and well by the individuals, which makes them powerless and in a constant victim mode.
4. The Ego: Individuals revel in having an ego. It gives them an identity. It is human nature (instinctual nature), that individuals fear losing identity. Imagine going attribute-less. How does it feel? Like, ‘I am nothing’, isn’t it? But individuals also have divine nature to allow an ego-less state and be forgiving. The Vedanta philosophy defines ‘The ‘Existence’ as attribute-less (nirgun), nameless (anami) and formless (nirankar). As children of ‘The Existence’ we possess same qualities. Ego just wishes to protect the person but without differentiating good from bad.
5. Blame: Blaming is excuse to not forgive, because it involves an individual to take accountability of emotional adjustments- something which people don’t want to do. It is easy to point fingers on people, situations for the ‘failures’. Forgiveness, however, doesn’t have to be a failed effort. In taking full responsibility, one can create a better future, away from the pain and resentments of the past. Past is not destiny.
Reflect on the fact that forgiveness is possible. One should choose to forgive because it carries enormous benefits which overweigh the costs of resentment.