THE TRUTH ABOUT FORGIVENESS
Forgiveness is a virtue that society holds in high esteem. It encourages the need to easily and quickly forgive. And although the healing benefits of forgiveness cannot go unappreciated, the over-emphasis on the need to swiftly forgive creates a world where many offenders feel entitled to forgiveness. Here, forgiveness is not about the person who has been offended, but about the person who offends. People, therefore, ask for forgiveness, not for the benefit of those whom they hurt, but for themselves. On the contrary, forgiveness is for, and about the person who has been offended or hurt.
THE WRONG REASONS WHY PEOPLE ASK FOR FORGIVENESS
Some people ask for forgiveness for reasons other than the fact that they are genuinely sorry for their conduct. They ask for forgiveness because;
- (1) They do not like to face the consequences of their actions;
- (2) They do not like the perception created in the minds of others about them because of their actions. They, therefore, apologize to change (sometimes force a change in) that perception; or
- (3) They want the offensive thing they did to go away for their benefits.
Such people will pressure, shame, or guilt others to forgive them.
On the other hand, people who are genuinely sorry for their conduct apologize because they want to help eliminate the pain they cause in another’s life because of their actions. Such people are remorseful. They are troubled by the mere fact that they brought pain into another’s life. And their only interest is to help eliminate that pain. Such people are understanding and respectful of the length of time it takes another to forgive their offenses. Forgiveness, rightfully, is about and for the person whom they offend.
WHAT THE STOIC PHILOSOPHERS SAID ABOUT FORGIVENESS
Similar to other ancient philosophies and religious texts, stoicism as a philosophy, advocates for the need for a person to forgive him or herself daily, as well as to forgive those who offend him. Stoic philosophers understood the healing benefits of forgiveness.
“The spirit ought to be brought up for examination daily… I pass the whole day in review before myself, and repeat all that I have said and done: I conceal nothing from myself, and omit nothing: for why should I be afraid of any of my shortcomings, when it is in my power to say, “I pardon you this time: see that you never do that anymore”?
Here, he emphasized on the need to forgive oneself daily.
Forgive others for their misdeeds over and over again. This gesture fosters inner ease.
And Seneca underscored this point by saying:
Anger always outlast hurts.
THE TRUE ESSENCE OF FORGIVENESS
The essence of forgiveness is for the sole benefit of the person who has been offended. By forgiving the offense of others, we release the negative emotions and negative energy that is inspired within us by the painful conduct of others. And by releasing such negative emotions, we enjoy peace within ourselves
FORGIVENESS AS AN EMOTIONAL JOURNEY
Forgiveness is an emotional journey that requires a person to fully feel the emotional pain that is generated within him or herself by the conduct of others. To fully heal and forgive another, we must feel the pain others cause us. There is no way around it. And because this journey is a painful one, it would be ideal if it were a short one. However, if a particular road to forgiveness is long, a person should not be pressured to speed it up.
Because while on that journey, what is most important is the action a person takes. The stoic philosophers will remind you of this fact: we are not the emotions we feel. Instead, we are the actions we take as a result of those emotions. While on a journey of forgiveness, it is paramount that we actively chooses to show dignity and respect towards the person who has offended us. Our actions must be motivated by our virtues, and not by the conduct of others.
WHY YOU SHOULD FORGIVE
To conclude, forgiveness is an important virtue to uphold. It is also a journey—a process. The process of forgiveness leads to inner peace and tranquility. Stoicism encourages forgiving others, as well as ourselves to attain this inner peace and tranquility. And as you embark on this journey, understand that it is a journey for you, and not for the person who has brought you pain.
Stoic – The Invincible Soul is a podcast inspired by stoic philosophy. And on this episode, I break down what it means to forgive, and why you should forgive those who offend you.
Listen for an even deeper understanding of forgiveness.
Listen to more episodes of the stoic – the invincible soul podcast here!