If we have not forgiven, sometimes other things masquerading as wisdom will take its place. If we get bitter and cynical and accept attitudes like, “People can’t be trusted.”, “Men/women are just impossible”, or whatever, then this is nothing to do with wisdom. It can be tempting to assume that we have learned a lesson by adopting such attitudes, but really these are lesions not lessons: they are wounds not wisdom. Our true lessons bring a sense of freedom and lightness not a sense of restriction and heaviness.
Unforgiveness is, in a sense, the regular and ongoing maintenance of an old pain. If someone hits us with a stick and we then pick up the same stick and strike ourselves with it many times, who has hurt us the most? It is obviously our own action which is hurting us the most. Yet that is what we do when we stay in a state of unforgiveness, we are hitting ourselves with our assailant’s stick – many times. Imagine we had a dial which showed how much pain we were in and for how long (some kind of “Pain-ometer”, a bit like an electricity meter). The original event may be, say, 10 units of pain. How many units of pain do I clock up every time I have angry or upset thoughts about the event? It might be, say, on average around 5 units of pain. If I think about the event 10 times I might clock up a total of 50 units of pain on an experience which only started at 10 units. if I keep dwelling on it often enough and long and refuse to forgive I might even clock up 100 or 1000 units of pain over a 10 pain event. Yet, who would be hurting me the most? It is my own thinking and my own attitude which is hurting me the most.
By being unforgiving, we may be causing ourselves many times more pain than the original harm done to us. We may have convinced our selves that by not forgiving we can prevent the same pain happening again, but totally the opposite is true. By not forgiving we continually recreate and re-experience the pain from the situation again and again. It is by forgiving we ensure the pain is less likely to happen because a) we do not recreate it with each memory of the event b) we allow healing to happen and we can grow in wisdom and be less likely to get into or the same situation again or into similar situations.
Try this exericise if you need help to move From Unforgiveness to Forgiveness