"We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
"If you're not forgiving; you're not living." - Mark Hutchinson
We often recognize that we should forgive others for wrongs we have suffered, but we also understand that that is easier said than actually done!
I’ll leave the conversation about “how” one forgives for another day and instead focus on one part of the motivation to take forgiveness seriously.
I love MLK Jr.’s quote above and I am humbled in placing my own quote next to his. (It is one of the benefits of being the writer of MWM!) In particular he hits upon the ideas of forgiveness as a personal ability and also that it is directly connected to our ability to love.
My somewhat trite quote tries to sum up the overall idea by reminding us that if are not forgiving of others and ourselves, then really we aren’t living the full life that we could be. The skill, the ability, to forgive allows our capacity to love to expand and as we love ourselves and others more, life becomes more meaningful and enjoyable.
I think of it almost like a gate that can open wider or close down to restrict the flow. The anger, the hurts, the disparaging thoughts that flow through our minds from actual or imagined suffering can continue to echo for a long time. In fact, if we repeatedly put our attention on those things it just amplifies and extends the negative effects. This causes the gate to close a little more and then the ability for our love, and our life, to flourish becomes restricted. The bits and pieces of forgiveness we can muster constantly chip away at the suffering and quiet the echo chamber allowing the gate to open more.
How open or closed is your gate today? Is the echo chamber of resentment and anger loud and jarring or is it just a background noise?
So, in the pragmatic reality of your own life, the act of forgiveness is the ability you can apply to increase your experience and enjoyment of life. Holding on to hurts and stoking the fires of anger only serves to close the gate on life. If you want to enjoy life, then developing your ability to forgive is important.
Of course forgiveness is not restricted just to the forgiveness of others. I would argue that the most pervasive and difficult challenges in the efforts to forgive are those applied to ourselves.
Are there things that you have difficulty forgiving yourself for? How long have those things persisted in your life? Why do you hold on to them?
It is your life to live and you hold a powerful lever with the ability to increase that life. Find a way to crank that gate open a little wider each day.
Forgive. Forgive. Forgive. In big ways and small ways. It all helps and the more you practice the more you improve.
Find something right now that you can forgive. Practice and develop that skill. You will see valuable results in no time at all!