For you or them?
We usually refer to forgiveness as an act, the end of a process, as most of us see it: forgiveness happens “when” you have been able to “forgive” someone for something unpleasant they have done or said to you. To forgive someone means very many different numbers of things: to let go, to accept again, to forget, to hold on… and whatever else it may meant to us as individuals. Basically though, it is just to be able to heal from the hurt and/or anger you felt at something or someone, to finally be able to save your heart from the constricting pain of remembering an incidence or surrounding circumstances, to finally be able to smile at that person or memory of that thing or situation, sincerely, when you meet or remember them.
On the other hand, forgiveness may be seen as a process (rather than a product), which I think is more rightly so, involving all of the steps and activities that take place from the moment your heart is ready to forget till you feel your heart has finally been rid of the hurt and/or anger that held it captive towards an individual, place, group, situation, or even memory.
Forgiveness should be a conscious process: something you go through because you want to, because you are willing and ready to go through it. It shouldn’t be unconscious or forced: have you ever been in a situation when you feel “forced” to accept an apology, or utter the statement “It’s okay, it’s fine, I understand”, or even a straight “I forgive you”, when you can feel that your heart isn’t anywhere close to feeling that forgiveness your mouth is pronouncing? Or, ever been in a situation where all you needed to really forgive was a simple “I’m sorry” from someone? And you really feel the pain and hurt and all lingering feelings leave your heart immediately they pronounce that statement?
If you will honestly answer “yes” to those questions, it means you can really define forgiveness as a simple act, something you do on a spot and get done with. If however, you cannot honestly answer “yes” to all of those questions, then, you have to agree more with the fact that forgiveness is more of a process than an act.
Is Forgiveness Always a Process or an Act?
Forgiveness can actually be either of the two, depending on the situation and the persons involved. Some offences can be forgiven on the spot, overlooked without ado, and forgotten immediately: that’s when it’s an act.
When we talk of serious offences though, hurts that really get to your heart and affect your psychological state, it takes much more than that, it goes a lot deeper and requires some more efforts, and that is why it is a conscious process. And usually, when we talk of offences that require us to seek someone’s forgiveness (or that require us to forgive someone), we are talking about ones that require our conscious efforts of moving over the pains inflicted and making our bonds stronger, if at all the forgiveness process ends successfully.
Is Forgiveness Instant?
It is the best, always the best, it comes after every other thing has been settled and there’s nothing left to do! Forgiveness is something you do when you are ready. And, how do you know when you are ready?
You have the answer to that more than anyone else can ever tell you: your heart will inform and guide you towards when you are ready to forgive and move on. When you no longer feel that hurt so intensely, when your heart doesn’t constrict anymore at the sight or mention of that person, when your heart tells you that “it is not too bad, dear, you can let it go”, when your heart has finally been able to accept an apology (not) rendered and accept it as a mistake that anyone can actually make, when your heart has finally agreed with the rational thoughts and ideas presented by your mind (and other people) about why you should forgive, when you know that you are not going to remember the hurt and feel upset at this person when you meet them after, when you know that you are not going to hate yourself for not being able to hold on to the hurt anymore, when you know that you are not going to pronounce forgiveness with your mouth but keep a boiling rage within your heart where no one can see… then, you know, that you are indeed ready to forgive them.
Don’t be forced by anyone or critics to forgive when you are not ready for it: would there be sense when you say you have forgiven this person but can’t help feeling latent anger/pain/hate for letting them think that they have been forgiven? Would there be sense in that forgiveness when the hate is redirected to yourself when you have to force yourself to smile at that person whilst your heart constrict in pain in the cage of your chest where no other person can see?
Is Forgiveness Relative or General?
The answer isn’t farfetched; we just tend to distrust our judgements somewhat, sometimes, wondering if we can actually be right or a bit “emotional”, i.e. talking from our emotions and trying to justify our actions/inactions rather than speaking the real truth that is buried somewhere within the depths of our souls.
Yes, you are right to say it is “relative”, dependent on the personalities involved, the offenses involved, and also the surrounding circumstances; such as the environment, societal values, and, relationship of involved persons, among others.
Forgiveness is a common attribute, it is a characteristic expected to be possessed by every “good” member of the society, because, as we all know and must have all come to accept, “there cannot exist any interpersonal relationship without conflict, however subtle”, which necessitates the need to be able to forgive and overlook some little mistakes and shortcomings from the other party in order to keep peace.
However, that is only the general phase of it, that is only an outlook, an overview of what forgiveness is “generally”, and not what it is to every individual “specifically”. It is relative to all individuals, in the sense that, we do not feel upset/hurt by the same things, and, the amount of hurt we feel at the same action vary depending on our relationship with the doer of such action, and hence, forgiving two different persons for the very same offence might come with different levels of pain/efforts. In the same vein but on a different branch (lol), it also takes different amounts of efforts from two different persons to forgive the same offence: take for instance, lady A is given some money to share with two of her friends, lady B and C. However, instead of sharing the money with them, lady A takes all of the money for herself without informing either of them. The other two ladies find out sometime later and confronted lady A, and, she admitted her faults and apologized. Lady B says it’s fine and asks her to never repeat such again. On the other hand, lady C continues to seethe in anger, unable to get it off her mind that someone she calls a friend could cheat her like that, and as such, honestly says that she cannot ever trust lady A anymore.
Now, lady A committed the same offence to the both of them, right? And, one of them has chosen to forgive after a short while, while, the other person finds it difficult to do so. Before we start wondering how “sincere” lady B is about her forgiveness, and how “unforgiving” lady C is for holding onto a “fault” of her friend which is just over “some money” anyway, I will say that we overlook those sides and focus on the aspects most involving this piece: the relativity of forgiveness!
They were both just being honest about their feelings, quite all right, and that is just what we want: remember what I said about not “forcing” forgiveness”? Exactly! That is just what it means when we say that forgiveness is relative: we cannot take the same offences the same way, or, react to them the same way, and, that is why we need to understand that we should be free to feel whatever we’re feeling without feeling “wrong” as “compared” to some other person. Forgiveness is something that should come naturally, give you peace and relief, frees your mind to attain greater heights, and, that is why it is something you do for yourself more than the other person.
Next: is forgiveness compulsory in all situations? In other words, must you feel obligated to forgive “every” offence committed against you at some time, however long it takes?
The answer will be provided in another episode of this article, in shaa Allah.