To forgive is your choice. The one who forgives, let’s go of anger, resentment and revengeful thoughts. Forgiveness allows a person to release buried anger, resentment, bitterness, guilt, regret, hate and other toxic emotions which make the person ill both physically as well as emotionally. Forgiveness is something which happens on the inside of you- It comes solely from your desire to forgive for the sake of forgiving. The person who intentionally harms the other person does not deserve to be forgiven, but still, it is a good idea to forgive to have emotional freedom and health than to suffer from life long feelings of hatred, resentment, and revenge. Forgive the person who caused you the pain, not because he/she deserves it but because you deserve the peace of mind.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that we undermine the amount of pain the person goes through, or it also does not reduce the importance of the painful experience. To forgive also does not mean that the person is saying “I am ok with whatever you did to me” or “This wasn’t a big injustice committed against me”. Rather it is saying that “I no longer choose to hook onto those toxic emotions or feelings of unforgiveness towards the person who hurt me.
It is easier to brush off minor hurts, superficial offenses, or occasional Emotional Hijacks from the other person, by having feelings of empathy and even sympathy for that person. But forgiving deep emotional wounds and grave offenses like infidelity, abuses on a continuous basis, is always a process and cannot happen overnight. It takes time and effort to forgive.
Whatever we may say or claim but there will be some relationships which we cannot avoid. E.g. A son needs to carry on with the abusive father all through his childhood (which may leave scars on his personality for life), a wife may carry on with her toxic and not-caring husband for years, etc.
At some point in time the individual needs to decide if he/she can forgive that “close” person which will depend on the many factors such as:
- The victim’s nature: Some people may be naturally more forgiving by birth and hence find it easier to carry on with their perpetrators. They are naturally more Empathetic perhaps and may convince themselves that “the other person did what he/she thought was right at that point in time” Or they rationalize by saying that there is always a positive intention for every action. Such people don’t carry the baggage of anger, guilt, revenge or any other disruptive emotion against the person who caused them harm. They are likely to attain peace quicker in life.
- The intensity of the damage: Forgiving or not will also depend on the extent on the damage the other person inflicted on the victim. E.g. a husband may not have spent any quality time with his wife ever, or may not have given her any gift or sometimes hurled abuses as well, but if he has remained faithful that may perhaps reduce the resentment the wife carries against him and hence may find it easy to forgive him.
- The value system of the individual: What is the most important thing for the victim? People may find it very difficult to forgive a person if they have inflicted some harm to the person you love the most. If Love and caring are some of your top values and the other person has miserably failed on these counts, you may find it difficult to forgive him/her.
- Infidelity: Women normally find it very difficult to forgive a husband who has strayed. They just cannot accept him eroding their self-respect, sharing husband with someone else without their consent, their Ego getting hurt very badly. They can tolerate all the other atrocities such as verbal abuse, insults, demeaning, or even physical assaults. However, infidelity is unpardonable.
Pardoning or not for infidelity may also sometimes depend on being forced to stay together for children, adjusting with having own affair as a spouse, and the financial condition of the spouse. If the marriage is already fragile, infidelity can prove to be the last straw. However, if “It had just happened”, and was not intentional on the part of either partner, marriage is otherwise going very strong and long-lasting, things can always be worked out.
As Gaur Gopal Das very beautifully explains in his book ‘Life’s Amazing Secrets’, “Forgiveness means to take note of the higher purpose”. You need to forgive your spouse if it means togetherness/love for your children, their upbringing, and seeing the whole thing in a holistic manner.
- Then there will be other factors such as the age of the perpetrator, relationship and weighing other things that he/she might have done right, etc will decide how early one can forgive that person.
Finally, the one who forgives and also the one who is forgiven must always remember, that it is an act of strength and not a weakness to be able to forgive. It requires a great deal of courage to let go of anger and seek to walk in peace. Not everybody can forgive. It’s a great virtue one should be proud of.