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The power of forgiveness

The power of forgiveness

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If you were brought up on the Christian Bible, you would have encountered a portion of scripture where Jesus teaches about forgiveness. The scripture in question is Matthew chapter 18 verses 21- 22, where Peter asks how often he should forgive his brother who sins against him, to which Jesus replies 70 times seven. In other words, Jesus is suggesting that you forgive your brother forever, for as many times that he transgresses against you. The idea of forgiveness permeates the New Testament. It is exemplified in the Lord’s Prayer, where Jesus teaches us to say “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Forgiveness is present at the moment of crucifixion when the dying Christ pardons the repentant thief and asks his father to forgive the people who were crucifying him.

Jesus has big shoes; by this I mean, the story of his life and the example he offers his followers and believers requires much of us flawed human beings, prone to carrying grudges, being long-memoried, and holding on to hurt. It is often a challenge to forgive others for slights and transgression, mainly because it goes against our ideas of justice and revenge. Forgiveness goes against the ego that feels that it might lose face if it lets the opportunity for vengeance or justice pass. There is the risk that the transgressor, having not directly faced the consequences of their actions, might feel emboldened to do it again. Christianity teaches that the meek inherit the earth, and it will probably be because they forgive as much as they suffer for the cause of righteousness.

As much as it is a challenge to forgive others, an even greater challenge is learning to forgive yourself. As humans we hurt others and we hurt ourselves. Learning to accept our flaw-proned nature is important to forgiving ourselves and others. Aiming for perfection is noble, but falling short of that mark should not be seen as the end of all that is good. Once the wrong has been done, then we should seek to make restitution. We may not always receive forgiveness, and that is okay. Healing is a process that should not be forced, and it takes some folks longer to get to that point. However, in order to truly move forward, free of the spiritual and mental weight of guilt and regret, the next step should be forgiving of yourself.

Forgiving yourself enables you to embark on your own journey of healing. It enables you to accept the things you cannot change, and if you are honest, it enables you to learn from your mistakes. On the path to forgiveness you can learn about yourself, meditating on the journey your life has taken thus far and direction you are headed. It requires thought and reflection and a true desire to be better than the person you were before.

Indira Gandhi is noted for, among other things, saying that forgiveness is the virtue of the brave. There is truth here, and perhaps the bravest thing a person can do is acknowledging their own failings, to themselves and others, and learning to forgive themselves.

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