What does it mean to forgive? When it comes to different the vast difference in cultures all around the world, the behaviors to express forgiveness are vastly different. However, at its core forgiveness can be seen as a moral issue. At the end of the day, why is forgiveness so important? Forgiveness falls into two groups: forgiving others and forgiving yourself. As parents, it is extremely important to teach our children the importance of forgiveness.
“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” -Nelson Mandela
The Importance of Forgiveness
According to Merriam-Webster, to forgive means “to cease to feel resentment against an offender.” Merriam-Webster only uses eight words to define the word forgive. The definition makes it sound so simple, so cut and dry. It isn’t simple. It isn’t cut and dry.
On a personal note, forgiveness has been such a big part of my life in the last three or four months. I am not going to go into detail about the situation or the person that I have had to forgive because it is not my story to share. It has affected me greatly, broken my heart, and shattered my foundation, but it is still not my place to share their truth.
For me, my battle with forgiveness has taken place on my knees. I prayed and prayed some more. When you become a parent, the decisions you make affect them. If I had cut this person out of my life, it would have hurt my children. This situation really tested my ability to “adult.” I had to put my initial reactions aside and think about my children and the future. Ephesians 4:32 says, “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” I also wanted to handle this situation in a way that if my kids ever reacted like I did that I would be proud of them.
Why Should We Forgive?
However, you might look at forgiveness differently than me. I think forgiveness is necessary for everyone. Why should you forgive:
- For your emotional health
- To repair relationships
- For your personal growth
- To extend the hand of friendship, even if the other rejects it
- You want to teach kindness and forgiveness to others in your family
- Be the bigger person
- To show that goodness wins, not anger and resentment
- To honor your personal belief
Life is too short to live with such bitterness and anger in your heart. Even if you choose to not have a relationship with the person that wronged you, you should still forgive them for yourself. You don’t want to carry that anger around with you and you don’t want that baggage in your new relationships. Think about it this way, if this person died tomorrow would you have any regrets? Forgiveness is just as much for you as it is the person that hurt you, and in some ways, I think it might be more important.
Why is it so much harder to forgive yourself than it is to forgive another person? I think it is even more crucial to learn to forgive yourself. Why is it we seem to hold ourselves more accountable than we do others?
“Forgiving yourself, believing in yourself and choosing to love yourself are the best gifts one could receive.” -Brittany Burgunder
For me, I believe that I hold myself more accountable because I can control what I do, but I can’t control others. I feel like I know better so I should have done better. I know right from wrong, so I should have chosen correctly. We tend to make excuses for others, especially people who we love.
For example, maybe they weren’t taught right from wrong, maybe they didn’t have good role models, or maybe they are just people who have been hurt in the past. When we give a reason for their behavior it tends to make it easier to forgive them. I know that if I don’t understand why a person did something, it is a lot harder for me to forgive them. I have much higher expectations for myself than I do of others so when I fall short it makes me feel like a failure. Here are some reasons why you need to forgive yourself:
For Inner Peace
You won’t be able to truly move on and learn from your mistakes until you forgive yourself. Do yourself a favor and stop being held captive by resentment, grudges, anger, or disappointment. Joyce Meyer says, “Our past may explain why we’re suffering but we must not use it as an excuse to stay in bondage.” We can’t truly move forward, while we still continue to constantly look backward.
You Can’t Forgive Others If You Can’t Forgive Yourself
If you are still carrying around old baggage from past mistakes, you won’t be able to look at others through clean glasses. Your past hurts and disappointments will directly affect how you treat others.
So You Can Be A Healthier Person
By not forgiving yourself, you will probably carry around a lot of guilt. Guilt can present itself as anger or sadness. Anger and sadness can deplete your energy, can lead to anxiety, panic attacks, low self-esteem, depression, stress, and all this can have a huge negative effect on your body and personal relationships. According to WebMD, guilt “puts you at risk for minor stuff like headaches and backaches” And that isn’t all, WebMD also states, “it [guilt] also contributes to cardiovascular disease and gastrointestinal disorders. It can even have a negative impact on the immune system over time.”
Because You Love Yourself
Forgive yourself because you love yourself and you deserve forgiveness.
I know that it isn’t always easy to forgive, yourself or others. However, it will be worth it. The importance of forgiveness doesn’t just affect you, it also affects your children and the generations to come.
“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31