From having spent over a decade exploring concepts of forgiveness, I know that to forgive is both a choice and a process. I have come to see it as an intention, a change of perspective, a direction to line yourself up for rather than a final and fixed destination. When it comes to considering forgiveness everyone has their limits, especially in the case of murder, genocide, rape, or violent extremism.
However within normal, everyday relationships forgiveness begins to feel more like a necessity than a choice.
English poet and philosopher David Whyte believes that “all friendships of any length are based on a continued, mutual forgiveness.” But there is one caveat; forgiveness does not always mean reconciliation. Desmond Tutu puts it best. “If someone is constantly abusing you…it is far better to release the relationship than to renew it,” he warns. In other words, if forgiveness is about reconciliation, it doesn’t necessarily mean reconciling with the person who has hurt you but releasing and reconciling with the lingering resentment. Resentment has a tight grip in the same way as the more you focus on a problem the more ingrained you make it.
My interest lies in how forgiveness can ease what CS Lewis described as “the incessant provocations of daily life”, or what George Elliot referred to in Middlemarch as “the hideous fettering of domestic hate.” In his CNN blog Patrick Wanis, a human behaviour and relationship expert, noted that, “the most common denominator of the pain, mental and emotional affliction that I see people suffer is the lack of forgiveness – the anger and pursuit of revenge against mom, dad, brother, sister, aunt, uncle or self for something that someone did or didn’t do.”
In his bestseller Forgive For Good forgiveness expert Fred Luskin asks: “How can we be hurt and not end up with a smouldering grievance?” Luskin has spent decades researching and teaching the health benefits of forgiveness knowing that multiple clinical studies have demonstrated that forgiveness lowers your blood pressure, decreases depression and anxiety and improves personal relationships.
I would go as far as to say that forgiveness is the oil of personal relationships; in our most successful relationships we probably (unwittingly) do it many times a day.
And just as with the bigger and more extreme stories on The Forgiveness Project website, forgiveness in daily life is an extraordinarily useful tool that has the ability to repair broken relationships.