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Article:   Forgiving Someone Powerful Decision

By Janet Pfeiffer
Daily Record
Oct. 26, 2007

Oct. 22, 2000. 5:30 pm. A telephone rings.

"Hello, Mom? It's me. I got your letter and want you back in my life." After five and a half long, painful years apart, a mother and daughter are reunited because each chose to forgive.

The concept of forgiveness is a powerful one. It is the path to healing on every level: emotional, spiritual and physical. Yet for many it remains somewhat of an enigma. Many choose to hold on to their anger and pain. Some even wear them proudly, like a soldier pinned with a purple heart acquired after being wounded in battle. They defiantly declare that they will never forgive someone for committing an offense against them.

It is not humanly possible for any of us to go through life without ever hurting another no matter how nice, kind or thoughtful we are. Mistakes are a part of our very nature. And yet, some take great offense and hold them hostage to their actions rather than letting go.

This doesn't mean that the offender isn't held accountable for their actions. They must be. I can address the incident to ensure that it does not happen again. I may, however, have to distance myself from this individual if the negative behavior continues.

Many years ago, I was in an abusive relationship. He was a wonderful but deeply troubled man acting out his pain on me. Did I hate him? No. I was deeply saddened that he was unable to heal his past wounds. . I left (to preserve my own life) without feelings of animosity or thoughts of retaliation. Forgiveness replaced anger with compassion.

Which one of us has never offended another? I know I have. Try as I do, there have been times when I lacked good judgment. Does that mean that I am not a kind person, that I am evil? No. It means that sometimes I fall short of being a person that I am proud of. I try. We all do. But we struggle with so many personal issues that sometimes our own pain interferes with the way we treat others. This is why we need forgiveness.

To forgive is to allow the other party to make mistakes without judgment or criticism. It's a choice to remove all negative thoughts and feelings associated with that person or event. It puts to rest all thoughts of resentment, bitterness or revenge and restores my inner peace and tranquility. To choose not to forgive is like stabbing yourself with a knife and expecting the other person to bleed. Who suffers?

Forgiveness has a flipside as well: the apology. To apologize is a sign of great inner strength, intelligence and compassion. It's a risk but one worth taking. Admitting my shortcomings while expressing my sincere desire to right a wrong opens the door for a possible reconciliation. Without it, many find it difficult to move beyond the anger.

The mother mentioned in the beginning of this article went through a very long and painful estrangement from several of her children. After many misguided attempts to reconcile, she finally admitted to her role in contributing to their suffering and offered the following letter of apology:

"For anything I said or did that hurt or offended you, please know that I am truly sorry. That was never my intent. In whatever ways I failed you, please accept my apology. I know I let you down. If I ever did anything that made you feel unloved, I can't even begin to tell you how saddened I am by that. I wish I had known because I have never loved anyone as deeply as I love you."

No lame excuses, no blame: only her sincere regret and a desire to heal their pain. Her children chose to forgive her and they were finally reunited. I know, because I am that mother.

Oct. 27 is National Forgiveness Day. Why not reach out to someone you have hurt and extend your heartfelt regrets, or choose to forgive one who hurt you? Either way, you will restore peace in your heart and hopefully in theirs as well.

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