We may have assumptions about forgiveness and what it is which may or may not be true. Having a clear idea as to what forgiveness is and what it is not is a good beginning to enabling ourselves to forgive more effectively. There are many definitions of forgiveness, but let us use a simple and basic one to start with. Forgiveness: is letting go of the desire to punish.
Forgiveness can be as much about letting go of the desire to punish ourselves as it is about letting go of the desire to punish other people. Forgiveness is not the same thing as reconciliation (more about reconciliation later) which is where we choose to re-establish a relationship with someone. Forgiveness is simply about letting go of wanting to punish.
It is a punishing experience to want to punish
For a few minutes, stop and think about someone you want to punish. Notice how it feels in your body to want vengeance or want to punish someone. When you notice all the stress and bad feelings that this creates in your body, you may wonder whether it is really you who is being punished instead! An unforgiving state of mind is not neutral. An unforgiving mind is at best feels numb and at worst feels highly negative and caustic. It is obviously not a happy state to be in.
Opportunity Cost of not forgiving
We pay a high price for not being forgiving. In business they talk about Opportunity Cost. Opportunity Cost is the cost of investing in one thing instead of another. Wanting to punish, has a huge Opportunity Cost. Every moment we are in that state, we lose opportunities to be happy, we lose opportunities to be creative, we lose opportunities to have fun and be playful. We also lose opportunities to have good healthy connection with friends, colleagues and relations as we have spells of being a miserable and complaining, angry and spiky, or of being sullen and uncommunicative while we are in that unforgiving ‘wanting to punish’ state.
Even if we do not say a word about it to anyone about it we pay a huge Opportunity Cost for holding onto being unforgiving. It diverts energy away from thoughts and feelings which are energizing and life enhancing into thoughts and feelings which isolate us and are exhausting and depleting. It may be that our unforgiving attitude has mostly sunk into our subconscious and we are not aware of it much. However, it is still be diverting a percentage of our energy away from being in the present moment. This is energy which could be used to create a better life rather than it draining away in unhealed pain, anger and resentment.
Lack of forgiveness can wreck our chance of being happy
If we look at our desire to punish, and all the things have to do to maintain and fulfil that desire, that is where lack of forgiveness wrecks many of our chance of being happy and having peace of mind. As soon as we hold the thought of wanting to punish someone we immediately start to hurt ourselves from the stresses this creates. For as long as we hold onto thoughts of wanting to make someone else unhappy we are losing chances to be truly happy ourselves.
True happiness and peace of mind can only really come to us when we forgive.