When a partner, family member or friend hurts you, it's rarely easy to move past it. Resentment can eat away at you, affecting every aspect of that relationship for years to come. In some cases it can even mean the end of the relationship. Forgiving may not be easy, but often it's necessary, for both parties. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself as well as the person who wronged you.
So why is it so important to forgive and move on?
1. You empower yourself with responsibility
Part of the forgiveness process for me involves looking at why something happened the way it did, and how I was responsible. This doesn't mean we should beat ourselves up over our part in the incident. It means we should look at our own actions, and be aware of how we contributed to a situation. Maybe we gave our power away, failed to draw up strong boundaries, or took the easy way out rather than sticking to our principles.
In going through this process I've come to realize something very important: "It's my fault" are three of the most empowering words in the English language. Taking responsibility, even in a very small way, means we take back our power and feel like less of a victim. As soon as you take responsibility you have the power to change your behavior to avoid something similar in the future.
2. You can use that power to move forward
While you're feeling empowered, make a resolution to do things differently from now on, or to deal with similar situations differently in the future. This can be scary. Maybe you need to be more assertive. Maybe you need to keep your own counsel rather than sharing confidential information with others. Maybe you need to re-negotiate your whole relationship with your spouse or a family member.
In some situations you won't have to do any of these things. You can just quietly, privately decide that you will act a little differently next time around. Often no one will even notice.
3. Forgiveness will give you more than you realize
Forgiveness really is a gift we give ourselves. It offers us peace of mind, freedom, grace and the courage to change our lives. It allows us to release our anger and resentment, while still letting us learn from our experiences and grow.
When we forgive someone it doesn't mean we accept that it was OK to treat us that way. It just means we made peace with someone else's actions, and moved forward. In an article in The Christian Post, Russell D Moore explains that sometimes it's hard to forgive because we feel that by offering forgiveness, we are allowing the injustice to stand. He goes on to explain that in fact, 'When we forgive, we are confessing that vengeance is God's.'
When I have trouble forgiving, I think of it that way. I am not allowing or condoning injustice, I have simply handed it over to God. He will take care of it so I no longer have to concern myself with it. I am free to move on. The burden is no longer mine to bear.