Forgiveness in its most basic sense is letting go of the desire, the need, and the “right” to require punishment or restitution for the perceived offense. In forgiving, we renounce the right to hold resentment; we stop fanning the flame of anger, and instead seek to restore that which has been lost.
The alternative to forgiveness is to allow little seeds of anger to be planted, watching them take root in the form of resentment which eventually leads to distance and walls developing in your relationship. You may have a situation currently that has taken root in your relationship in the form of resentment, anger, or perceived inequality. As you experience the implications of this circumstance, consider some of these aspects of forgiveness:
- Forgiveness is about you – your choice to let go of the experience of hurt and pain.
- Forgiveness is not about another person’s perception of your situation or relationship.
- Forgiveness offers grace – unmerited favor, undeserved, and free of expectations.
Forgiveness provides a unique way to deepen your relationship and strengthen what you have together that is not possible any other way. When we are hurt, our natural response is to protect ourselves to ensure further harm does not occur. This happens through the release of adrenalin putting us into the “fight or flight” response. This could take the form of a spouse withdrawing emotionally, withholding who they are, their expressions of love, in an attempt to reduce vulnerability for a future wounding, an attempt to “flee” from potential hurt. An individual may protect themselves by becoming “armed”, by having an arsenal of criticism ready should they need to “fight” when anticipated pain is triggered in the future.
The alternative to holding on to the hurt and protecting oneself from future pain is choosing to offer the gift of forgiveness and letting go of resentment. Nelson Mandela summed up resentment quite visually, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
No one wins when pain is left unresolved. Pain is a signal that something is wrong and within a relationship when pain comes through insensitivity, lack of support, misunderstandings, or unmet expectations, forgiveness offers a remedy that has a twofold benefit.
Forgiveness allows us to move beyond our pain, to heal, and to grow. Forgiveness also provides grace to your partner for a wrong that has been experienced. Forgiveness does not look to equalize a situation, does not look for whether a situation is fair, rather, looks at not allowing pain to take root. Forgiveness is about allowing yourself to stay vulnerable with hope for growth in your relationship. It requires a willing heart to look beyond the injury and see the person whom you love, whose dreams you hold as your own, and to see their own pain that has now become your own.
Forgiveness is one of the greatest, unearned, unmerited gifts we can offer to our partners. We let go of our right to bring a sense of equality to the situation and instead, disarm the pain and hurt, by looking beyond and ahead.