This post is Part 6 in an 8-part blog series on forgiveness. (If you missed the first post, you can find it here.)
In Part 6, I want to talk to you about giving an altruistic gift of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a gift. It isn’t necessarily something the person who hurt you deserves. You don’t have to forgive. Forgiveness is a gift you can choose to give, or you can choose not to give. It’s up to you.
I think viewing forgiveness as a gift can take some of the pressure off. Sometimes we might feel like we have to forgive. Maybe we feel pressure from the person who hurt us. Maybe we feel pressure from our family, or our religion. We often put pressure on ourselves to forgive.
I don’t think this pressure is very helpful. In fact, I think the pressure can sometimes get in the way of forgiveness.
That’s why I like to view forgiveness as a gift. You have complete control of whether you want to give this gift or not. If you think about it, and you decide forgiveness would be a good step for you to take, then you can do it. But if you consider the situation, and decide you don’t want to forgive, or you need more time, that’s okay also. You don’t have to forgive.
For individuals who want to forgive, but are struggling with the idea of giving an altruistic gift of forgiveness, I want to offer two short exercises you might find helpful:
- Think about a time when you did something wrong and needed forgiveness. Write a description of the event. If you can remember, write down any thoughts or feelings you had when you were in the situation of needing forgiveness. Think about what you wanted. Think about what you truly needed, on a deep level.
- If you were granted forgiveness for what happened, think about how it felt to receive forgiveness. Write a summary of what happened. If you can remember, write down any thoughts and feelings you had when you were given a gift of forgiveness for what you did. Think about how great it felt to be forgiven.
I wonder if experiencing humility about having been in situations where you did something wrong and needed forgiveness, as well as gratitude for having been forgiven might help you move toward being open to giving an altruistic gift of forgiveness to the person who hurt you.
Discussion: Are you willing to extend a gift of forgiveness to the person who hurt you? At this point, how much forgiveness (0-100%) have you experienced toward the person who hurt you?