Forgiveness is a tricky concept – in part because it’s often misunderstood.
Most of us associate forgiveness with the past. We tie it directly to a specific action that’s already happened. When someone does you wrong, it’s easy to dwell on negative emotions like anger or disappointment.In reality, though, forgiveness is about the future. It’s about moving forward in a healthy and positive direction.
“Forgiveness actually does more to help the person who is giving it than it does for the person who is receiving it,” says Craig Wiley.
When you forgive someone, Craig says, you’re really just giving yourself permission to let go of negative past emotions. You're not saying, “What you did is OK” – you're saying, “What you did was wrong, but it's time to move beyond it.”
“When you forgive, you’re giving yourself permission to feel good again.”
“You’re allowing yourself to focus on positive emotions centered around the future,” Craig says.
Once you understand (and embrace) the power that comes from forgiveness, you’ll be able to move relationships forward in a positive way.
To help visualize what this all means, Craig shared a simple analogy.
“Imagine something negative is written on a chalkboard,” he said. “You can erase it, but it doesn’t disappear completely, right? You still see a faint outline of it on the chalkboard. But by erasing it, you are creating a space to write something new on top of it. Over time, you’ll notice that original negative statement less and less until – one day – it’s gone for good.
“When you forgive,” Craig said, “you’re not starting over with a completely blank slate, but you are giving yourself the freedom to create something new – something better – in its place.”
It is important to note, however, that if someone continually breaks your trust and loyalty, a different approach might be warranted.
To stick with the chalkboard analogy, if you’re continually erasing negative statements only to replace them with new negative statements, you might want to look into replacing the whole chalkboard. If someone continually requires your forgiveness, it’s worth considering whether that person should remain a key part of your life.
But if their betrayal of trust is the exception rather than the norm, try forgiveness first.
Give them the opportunity to erase the board with you and create something new in its place. Chances are, you’ll both be happy you did.
HOW TO GET STARTED
Forgiveness isn’t easy. We get it.
In order to fully embrace its power, you’ll want to shift your mindset to focus on the future rather than the past.
You can get started by gaining an understanding of how the anger you’re holding onto is currently impacting your life.
Think about a specific relationship where forgiveness has been difficult to grant, and answer the following questions to reflect on that relationship:
- How are the negative emotions I’m holding onto in this relationship affecting my life today?
- How are they affecting the way I show up for other relationships?
- How would I like to show up differently in the future?
- What steps can I take to help make that happen?
Want to dive deeper and explore the role judgment and expectation plays in your life? Begin our 8-week Foundational Growth Experience today!