When we forgive we win.
It is not that we should forgive, it is that we can forgive and that we gain many benefits from forgiving. The more we can see and appreciate all the benefits which forgiving bring to us the more we will want to forgive. Being aware of the practical benefits of something helps keep us motivated to move in that direction. Adding awareness of the practical benefits of forgiving to our high-minded ideals (about doing the right thing) helps us carry through with our intention. We then become more able to focus on developing forgiveness and not get distracted if life gets busy or the situation is challenging.
Forgive to win
A good reason to forgive is that it means that we win. No matter what happened, forgive and we have won. When we forgive we win, because we stop playing the loser. We will certainly feel much more like a winner when we forgive than if we don’t. Once we have experienced the feeling of winning, which comes from forgiving, we will want to forgive anyone and everyone. This is not the kind of winning which requires that someone else lose. What others do is up to them. Our job is to forgive to win. Forgiveness offers us the chance to experiencing winning in every situation – without anyone else ever needing to lose. It is hard to feel bad about a situation when we come out of it feeling like a winner.
When we forgive we stop being a victim
When we forgive we stop feeling like a victim. When we hold on to grudges and resentments then there is usually a feeling of being a victim as part of the package. Letting go of those grudges and resentments means letting go of the victim feeling also. If we do not feel like a victim then we do not behave like a victim, and we will not be a victim.
When we forgive we are free
When we forgive we unhook ourselves from the situation and also from the others involved. If we really forgive we free ourselves from the negative effects of whatever happened. We let go of any associated pain, shame, anger or guilt. We extract what is valuable and move on. If we feel stuck in a relationship and we forgive the other person we will find that we now feel much freer to either make it work or to walk away. We are no longer bound to them and may wonder why on earth we bothered to get so caught up with them in the first place,
Forgiving lets us off the hook, not them
Forgiveness lets us off the hook as it releases us from any sense of guilt or blame. It frees us from blaming ourselves, and from the feeling that we should or could have done something differently.
Forgiveness does not let the other person off the hook. They are still responsible for having caused pain or harm to another person and will need to face the consequences – but that is not our job. They may be facing the consequences already through ill health, misfortune, unconscious guilt, shame and remorse. Most people are very good at punishing themselves even when they do not show it.
If our forgiveness helps them in any way it will only be in making it easier for them to face the consequences of their actions and to face their feelings of guilt and remorse. We do not have to take on the job of teaching people their lessons. It is up to the process of evolution to do that, and we do not have the skills or wisdom to be up to that task. Besides if we are angry or upset at someone we don’t have an objective perspective and cannot see what he or she really need. It is best to let ourselves off the hook, forgive, and let life take its course.
Forgiveness reduces stress and depression
Think of someone you have not forgiven. Notice the effect it has on your body, notice what it does to your breathing and your heart beat. Notice whether you feel happier or less happy. Notice whether you feel more stress or less stress. Notice whether you feel more depressed and angry or less depressed and angry.
Chances are the experience of unforgiveness in your body will be uncomfortable, heavy and possibly painful. You will probably feel depleted and lack energy afterwards – once you cool down if you felt angry.
Every emotional state registers in the body. That is how we can feel it. If it did not register in the body – in our nervous system – we would not be able to feel it at all. This means that every emotional state releases a cocktail of chemicals into the body which we then feel as physical sensations. The chemical mix we experience when we are unforgiving usually feels debilitating and unhealthy. Unforgiveness is not a neutral state it is a very active state that uses up energy. It uses energy we could be using in more happy and productive ways. We may block out our awareness of the feelings so as to be able to carry on with life, but they will still be there using up energy.
By developing habit of forgiveness we free ourselves from many heavy, depressing and debilitating experiences. We release old pain, anger and resentment. Granted that some things will take time and attention to forgive completely, but anything that lightens the load will increase our well-being.
Forgiveness reduces fear and brings peace of mind
Forgiveness will lessen the level of fear in our life. Many of the situations we fear are the types of experiences we would have trouble handling if things went wrong. We fear the pain that might arise in those situations. We may be afraid we might not get that job or that promotion we really want. Maybe we are worried about money. As we grow in skill and ability to forgive we also grow in knowing we can handle life. We know that even if things go seriously wrong, because we, or others, make a mistake, or someone does not meet their commitments or keep their promises, we know we can forgive and move on. The perspective of our forgiving mind brings greater wisdom, insight and sense of right action. We are less likely to do things we feel guilty about and more likely to do things we feel good about.
Forgiveness can make our life safer
As we become more forgiving we become more conscious and more aware. We are more able to hold a detached perspective and less likely to be pulled into someone else’s unhappy game, or be caught out by dubious intentions. We become less reactive and less likely to create unhappiness for ourselves, or others. We are less motivated by guilt, greed and fear and therefore it is much more difficult for others to manipulate us into doing things against our own best interest.
Forgiveness bring skills, knowledge and wisdom
We tend to gain more from our experiences if we feel a sense of forgiveness. If we feel bitter, cynical or are wracked in pain, horror or shame about an event we are not likely to have gained anything much other than fear and aversion. Forgiveness makes whatever skills, knowledge and wisdom we can gain from an event more accessible. We gain more from our experiences when we forgive.
There may be situations which feel like they are so tough, and challenging to get through, that we wonder, “How could I possibly gain anything from this happening!” What we gain from those situations may have to do with becoming stronger in our commitment to our deepest values, rather than a specific insight or awareness. For example, if we lose someone really important to us this may cause us to value even more deeply whoever else we have in our lives who is also important to us. In extreme situations this may not seem much of a gain, yet it is still a gain. We may have preferred not to lose the person in the first place, but if that is outside our control it is better just to make the best we can out of the situation.
If we lose someone and stay bitter and resentful about it we don’t create any gain. Indeed those around us lose us, because we become unavailable to them to the extent that we become locked inside our painful experience and no longer able to connect with them. Forgiveness allows us to create and maintain a healthy sense of connection and feeling in the flow of the goodness in life.
Forgiveness connects us with life
The more things we hold within us which we have not forgiven the more we feel numb, lonely, isolated and disconnected from the flow of life. Forgiveness reconnects us with life and with other people. It frees us from the self-made prison we create if we put a shell around ourselves as a misguided form of protection. It allows us access to the experiences of beauty, wonder and delight which make life worthwhile, and which unforgiving attitudes deny us.
Forgiveness frees us from pain
Through forgiveness we experience less hurt, less guilt, less shame, less disappointment, less bitterness, less resentment, and so on. We experience less of these things because we no longer encourage the kind of thinking which supports these feelings. If we have not forgiven a situation we usually have unpleasant feelings when we think about it. If we have forgiven a situation we then have pleasant feelings when we think about it. We know what we have gained from it and know we do not need to create that situation again.
When we forgive we succeed
Whatever our idea of success is we may find that when we successfully forgive we experience a surprisingly intense sense of triumph. In many ways when we forgive we have triumphed. We have overcome a situation that held us in an unhappy state of mind and freed ourselves from it. We have turned an experience of loss into an experience of gain. Therefore we have turned what felt like a defeat into a triumph. It is a private victory at first. Yet it is a private victory that can also enhance many external aspects of our life. Forgiving someone who was abusive towards us can free us to create happier and healthier relationships with the people we value. We gain a better sense of when to be trusting and more able to see when it is safe to do so. We become more successful in relationships because we are more available to others in a wise and compassionate way.
Forgiveness makes us confident
If we lack confidence it is because we do not feel that we know what to do in a particular situation. When we cultivate a forgiving attitude we can go in to new situations with a strong sense of knowing how to handle it. Whatever happens we will use it to develop our forgiveness skill and whatever happens we will draw life enhancing benefits.
1. Make a list, in your own words, of the ways in which you gain by forgiving (have another look at the above if you need some reminders).
2. Read your list to yourself (out loud if possible) every morning and evening for a week or for a month.