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Forgiveness is often seen as a virtue that can heal wounds and restore Harmony. But what does it mean to forgive someone who has hurt us deeply? And how does Forgiveness relate to Self-transcendence, the ability to go beyond our Ego and connect with something greater than ourselves? In this article, we will explore the psychological and spiritual aspects of Forgiveness, and how it can help us achieve Self-transcendence. We will also look at some of the challenges and benefits of forgiving others and ourselves, and offer some practical tips on how to cultivate a forgiving attitude.
What is Forgiveness?
Forgiveness is the process of letting go of Negative emotions and thoughts that arise from a perceived wrongdoing or harm. This does not mean condoning or forgetting the offence, but rather choosing to release resentment and anger that can affect one’s wellbeing and relationships. It can be seen as a gift to oneself, as it frees the person from the burden of bitterness and allows them to move on with their life. It can also benefit the offender, as it can restore trust and communication, and foster reconciliation. Forgiveness is not always easy or immediate, but it can be learned and practised with patience and Compassion. It is a complex and Multidimensional concept that can vary depending on the context, the severity of the offence, the relationship between the parties, and the personal and cultural values of the individuals involved.
Why is not forgiving harmful?
Not forgiving someone who has hurt you can have negative effects on your mental health and well-being. According to McCullough (1998), unforgiveness triggers those stressors which force a person to think that people have harmed them in an ethically and morally wrong way. A person with such a mental state can take potentially harmful steps, and in extreme cases, people develop suicidal tendencies.
Not forgiving can also lead to anger, resentment, bitterness, and self-judgment. These emotions can interfere with your happiness, peace of mind, and relationships. They can also affect your physical health by increasing your blood pressure, heart rate, and Cortisol levels.
Forgiving someone does not mean that you condone their actions or forget what they did. It means that you choose to let go of the negative feelings that are holding you back and free yourself from the burden of the past. Forgiving someone can help you heal, grow, and move on with your life. It can also improve your Self-esteem, empathy, and Compassion.
Forgiveness is a process that takes time and effort. It is not something that you can do overnight or force yourself into. It is a decision that you make for yourself, not for the other person. You may need to seek professional help or support from others if you find it hard to forgive. Forgiveness is a gift that you give to yourself, not to the one who hurt you.
Self-transcendence and Forgiveness
Self-transcendence is the phenomenon of experiencing one’s self as expanding beyond the Boundaries of the Ego and connecting with a larger reality that includes other people, nature, and the cosmos. It is a state of consciousness that involves moving beyond one’s personal concerns and interests and embracing a broader Perspective that values the welfare of all living beings. Self-transcendence can also involve transcending the limitations of time and space and feeling a sense of continuity with the past and the future.
One of the ways to cultivate Self-transcendence is through Forgiveness. This is the virtue of letting go of resentment, anger, and bitterness toward those who have harmed us or offended us. It does not mean condoning or forgetting the wrongdoing, but rather releasing the Negative emotions that bind us to the past and prevent us from healing and moving forward. It can also help us to develop Humility, patience, and Compassion for ourselves and others.
Forgiveness can be seen as a form of Self-transcendence because it involves rising above our egoistic impulses and recognizing the humanity and dignity of those who have hurt us. This can also foster a sense of interconnectedness with others, as we realize that we are all imperfect and vulnerable to making mistakes. It can also open us to a higher power or a transcendent reality that can offer us guidance, support, and grace.
Self-transcendence and Forgiveness are not only beneficial for our psychological well-being, but also for our spiritual growth. According to Maslow (1971), Self-transcendence is the highest level of human development, where we experience a sense of Awe, wonder, and Gratitude for the beauty and mystery of life. Self-transcendence can also lead us to seek Meaning and Purpose in our existence and to explore existential questions such as the origin and destiny of life. Self-transcendence can also inspire us to contribute to a greater good and to leave a positive legacy for future generations.
Benefits and challenges of Forgiveness
Forgiveness is the act of letting go of resentment or anger toward someone who has harmed you in some way. Forgiveness can have many benefits for your mental and physical health, such as reducing Stress, improving relationships, and enhancing Self-esteem. However, Forgiveness also comes with some challenges that may make it difficult or undesirable for some people. Some of these challenges are:
- Forgiving someone does not mean condoning or forgetting their actions. You may still need to set Boundaries or seek justice for the harm they caused you.
- Forgiving someone does not guarantee that they will change their behaviour or apologize to you. You may still face the risk of being hurt again by the same person or situation.
- Forgiving someone may require you to face your own emotions and vulnerabilities. You may need to acknowledge your role in the conflict or accept your feelings of anger, guilt, or shame.
- Forgiving someone may affect your relationship with others who were involved in or affected by the harm. You may face criticism, pressure, or resentment from those who do not share your decision to forgive.
Forgiveness is a personal and complex process that depends on many factors, such as the severity and frequency of the harm, the relationship between you and the offender, and your own values and beliefs. There is no right or wrong way to forgive, and you should not feel obligated to do so if you are not ready or willing. It is a choice that you make for yourself, not for others.
How to foster Forgiveness
Forgiveness is the process of letting go of resentment, anger, or bitterness towards someone who has hurt you. This does not mean forgetting or condoning the harm, but rather choosing to move on with Compassion and understanding. It can benefit both the forgiver and the forgiven, as it can reduce Stress, improve mental and physical health, and enhance relationships. Here are some steps to foster Forgiveness in yourself and others:
- Acknowledge the hurt. The first step to Forgiveness is to recognize how you have been hurt and how it has affected you. You may need to express your feelings to someone you trust, such as a friend, a Therapist, or a spiritual leader. You may also need to set Boundaries with the person who hurt you, such as limiting contact or asking for an apology.
- Empathize with the other person. The second step to Forgiveness is to try to understand the Perspective of the person who hurt you. What were their motives, intentions, or circumstances? How did they feel at the time? How do they feel now? You may not agree with their actions, but you can try to see them as human beings, who make mistakes and have their own struggles.
- Decide to forgive. The third step to Forgiveness is to make a conscious decision to let go of your negative feelings and thoughts towards the person who hurt you. You may need to repeat this decision several times, as Forgiveness is not a one-time event, but a process that takes time and effort. You may also need to forgive yourself for any role you played in the situation or for holding on to resentment for so long.
- Act on your Forgiveness. The fourth step to Forgiveness is to act in ways that reflect your Forgiveness. This may include reaching out to the person who hurt you, expressing your Forgiveness verbally or in writing, or doing something nice for them. You may also need to work on rebuilding trust and repairing the relationship, if possible and desired. Alternatively, you may decide to end the relationship or keep a healthy distance, but still wish them well and move on with your life.
Famous examples of Forgiveness
Forgiveness is a virtue that can heal wounds and restore peace. It is also a challenge that requires courage and grace. Throughout history, there have been many inspiring examples of people who have forgiven those who have wronged them, even in the most extreme situations. Here are some of them:
- Pope John Paul II forgave his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Ağca, who shot him four times in St. Peter’s Square in 1981. The Pope visited him in prison and asked for his pardon. He also kept in touch with him and his family until his death in 2005.
- Gee and Dominique Walker forgave the killers of their son and brother, Anthony Walker, who was murdered in a racist attack in 2005. They said that their Christian faith taught them to forgive and to release their anger and bitterness.
- Martin Luther King Jr forgave his enemies who persecuted him for his non-violent struggle for civil rights. He was arrested, beaten, and eventually assassinated for his cause. He said that Forgiveness was essential for love and that there was some good in everyone.
- Maureen Greaves forgave the men who brutally killed her husband, Alan Greaves, on his way to church on Christmas Eve in 2012. She said that she prayed for them to repent and to experience God’s love and mercy.
- St. Stephen forgave the people who stoned him to death for preaching the gospel. He was the first Christian martyr, and he followed the example of Jesus, who also prayed for his executioners on the cross. He said, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60).
These are just some of the famous examples of Forgiveness that can inspire us to overcome hatred and violence with love and Compassion.
If you are interested in learning more about Forgiveness, here are some articles that discuss Forgiveness in more detail:
Forgiveness | Psychology Today: This article provides an overview of what Forgiveness is, how to forgive others and yourself, and the benefits of Forgiveness.
Forgiveness: Letting go of grudges and bitterness – Mayo Clinic: This article explains why it is so easy to hold a grudge, what are the effects of holding a grudge, and how to move toward a state of Forgiveness.
What is Forgiveness? | Greater Good: This article explores the essence of Forgiveness and how it can help us cope with life’s challenges and uncertainties.
Psychology of Forgiveness: 10+ Fascinating Research Findings: This article summarizes some of the most interesting and relevant research findings on Forgiveness, such as how Forgiveness can improve our happiness, health, and relationships.
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