Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which the forgiver undergoes a change in feelings and attitude pertained to a person, offense or particular situation.
It has also been said that forgiveness heals the soul and allows the forgiver to move on.
It is then, that questions swirl around you, such as:
- What is forgivable vs. what isn’t?
- When do you forgive?
- Should you forgive the person or just the behavior?
- What if forgiving just isn’t enough?
- What if the behavior or situation continues?
- Am I capable of forgiving?
All of the above questions are very intimate, with answers that can vary from person to person, behavior to behavior and finally, situation to situation.
On any given day, a person can find themselves forgiving several times a day and most often for unimportant stuff such as:
- A parking space being snatched out from you by someone else
- Someone cutting in line ahead of you
- Your drive-thru food order being messed up
- A package not being delivered on the date that it was supposed to
- The repairman not showing up as scheduled
All of the above are annoying no doubt. But unless you have severe anger-related issues, you tend to forgive and move on.
But what if the behavior or situation is much more complicated and painful? What do you do then? Do you forgive and move on?
In order for us to answer these questions, we must first examine how not forgiving affects your body, mind, and soul overall.
When you are unable to forgive, you then chain yourself in a toxic prison, with anger and stress serving as your cellmates. This prison is ruthless and painful because it tends to break you down from the inside out.
Some of the effects that stem from this toxic prison are as follows:
- Residual anger that continues to fester within your mind (often causing you to strike out at others)
- Your stress level increases greatly, affecting your emotional/mental and physical health
- Your diet habits change
- Your sleep pattern changes
- Your immune system breaks down (causing you to become sicker easier and faster)
One of the most damaging effects of this toxic prison is the toll that it takes upon your body overall. Especially your immune system.
When your immune system is compromised, you become more susceptible to illness. Even the most-simple cold can turn into a severe case of bronchitis when you are chained in this toxic prison.
This is why doctors ask casual questions during the visit/exam. They might act like they are not paying attention and are creating small talk, but in reality, they are listening to the amount of stress that is in your life currently, while checking to see how it relates to whatever illness you may have at that point.
Once you decide to remove yourself from your toxic prison, you can begin to feel a change happen in many ways, including:
- Your blood pressure becomes normal
- Your heart rhythm becomes less erratic
- Your digestive system begins to regulate back to normal
- Your diet and sleep patterns return to normal
- Your anger level begin to diminish
- You become less distracted, able to focus clearly
- You tend to “feel” like a huge weight has been lifted off your body
- You find joy in your life
- You set different boundaries and adhere to them stronger
But the lingering question is how do you forgive? It is both as simple as deciding to do so freely and without reservation, as it is as complicated from being afraid of being hurt and/or used again.
Forgiveness has zero to do with the situation or the behavior of a certain individual. It has to do with your active removal of chains which binds you to the toxicity within your prison overall.
Forgiving also entails that your boundaries become refined and more definite, especially when it comes to a specific person and their behavior.
For years a stepmother and her stepdaughter have been at odds since the two met. As the stepmother tried to become a mother towards the stepdaughter, she was met with anger, resentment, accusations and screaming, thus creating fights that were a regular occurrence between the two.
Fast forward 15 years later and the relationship deteriorated more. Still, the stepmother attempted to create a mother/daughter relationship, though as hard as she tried, the harder the stepdaughter did everything in her power to destroy.
The end result of their toxicity was destroying the family overall, forcing each family member to pick aside. The family dynamic was crumbling with each battle.
It was during their last battle, which the stepmother quietly said: “I forgive you.” On the phone as her stepdaughter verbally lashed out horrific words. This threw the stepdaughter off, causing to accuse her stepmother of placing the blame back on the stepdaughter.
The stepmother repeated, “I forgive you.” Once more and then wished her stepdaughter well and hung up.
As she hung up, she reflected upon the turbulent relationship and the toxic prison she had placed herself in for years. She also reflected upon the stress that it took upon her and her family. With the simple words of “I forgive you”, the stepmother was able to unchain herself from the chains and began to feel better.
Over time, she began to understand the dynamics of her relationship with her stepdaughter, while creating healthy boundaries.
That next year, the stepdaughter crossed paths with her stepmother once more. This time, the stepmother understood that there would never be a true “mother/daughter” relationship between them and she was O.K. with that.
Once she released herself from her toxic prison by forgiving the stepdaughter’s behavior and creating better boundaries, she was able to enjoy a friendly relationship with her stepdaughter overall.
It is important to note here that forgiving doesn’t mean you still allow the situation or the behavior to continue. Nor does it mean that you are a weak (passive) person. It means that you are no longer engaging in the behavior that put you in your toxic prison.
Remember, it takes an incredibly strong person to forgive and to release themselves from their toxic prison.