The Power of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a powerful ally and an essential step in your quest for personal growth.

forgivenessWhen someone harms you, either physically or emotionally, you are faced with a choice: do I hold my offender in contempt and demand revenge or do I take the high road and offer them forgiveness?

Often that choice will be determined by three evaluations; the severity of the offense, the recipient’s perception of the intent behind the attack and the consideration of what is to be gained or lost by forgiving our attacker.

If my son is killed after riding his bike into the street in front of an oncoming car I may find it difficult to find enough divinity to let the driver off the hook and add him to my Christmas card list. While the tragedy was entirely accidental and the driver had no intention of harming my son, I will suffer the effects of the emotional wreckage for years to come but ultimately realize his lack of malice and absolve him. Despite the severity of the offense there was no evil motive for his actions and I came to realize that I had nothing to gain by harboring ill will against him.

My older brother once asked me to look closely into the end of a garden hose

…as it didn’t seem to be working properly. He had the hose pinched and hidden behind his back and when I got the hose right up to my face he released his hold. The pressure that had built behind the crimp shot the water forcefully into my face soaking both my head and my clothes in less than a second. His friends and mine all had a good laugh at my expense. I, of course, saw no humor and was embarrassed enough that I began to cry which only added to the hilarity.

My brother’s motive was obviously malicious;

forgiveness…he intended to embarrass me in an attempt to raise his standing in the eyes of his peers. However, after recovering from my embarrassment I admitted that the attack was minor, the result really was kind of funny and I stood to gain nothing by being mad at my own brother (who would have soundly beat one of his friends if they’d done the same thing to me).

The other side of the forgiveness coin is condemnation which is the result of our judgment of the offender. Condemnation carries with it a cornucopia of disempowering and malevolent emotions; anger, guilt, hate, sadness and the need for revenge are a few.

As an added bonus, the person who has assumed the role of judge and jury is now emotionally tied to the condemned who, because of the mindset the relationship evokes, will have a potentially significant negative role in the accuser’s life. Those disempowering emotions become part of the lens through which the accuser evaluates his world; viewing every stranger you meet and every situation you encounter while angry, vengeful and full of hate can turn your world into a very disturbing place.

“Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one who inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without it.”
Maryanne Williamson

Rudy’s head was full of snakes and their venom permeated nearly every aspect of his life.

power of forgivenessWhere there was beauty he did not see it. Where there was love he did not accept it. Where there was peace he saw turmoil or worse yet, created it. He saw himself as a strict yet caring father figure to his employees and was crushed when his manager sat him down and told him how much they feared and hated him.

While Rudy was aware of his feelings he was oblivious to how they were affecting his daily interactions with people and his interpretations of events. The only place he was consistently kind was at home; he loved Joan as much as he was capable and valued their relationship more than anything in the world. He knew she loved him too but his wounded self esteem made him wonder in private why she had bothered to stay with him.

Katherine was acutely aware of the tempest that wracked Rudy’s psyche…

… and realized that there was no hope for his escape from the hell he’d created as long as he harbored these feelings toward Doris. Her first order of business would be to free Rudy from the bonds that kept him tethered to his nemesis. She needed to show Rudy that as much as he despised her, Doris still was controlling a large part of life and that he did not even realize it was happening.

When he did finally realize that the person in his life he most wanted to be rid of was still pulling his strings, he decided to break the ties that bound and experience for himself the power of forgiveness. How did he come to that decision? For the answer let’s revisit our three evaluations in “The Power of Forgiveness Part 2.”

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