Taking the First Step
The biggest obstacle to forgiveness is confusing an unforgivable offense with an unwillingness to forgive.
You may not feel like forgiving today, or it may feel awkward at first, but so what? Remember, you are changing a habit, so stick with it. Choosing to forgive places you on the pathway of forgiveness. It is the first step of the journey, a journey that can be completed only after you make the initial choice to forgive. If you are not ready to forgive at this time, come back to it when you are ready. Every wrong does not have to be forgiven immediately. The pain may be too deep right now. But every hurt will need to be forgiven at some time if healing is to take place. So the next time someone hurts you, remember you have a choice: to forgive or not to forgive.
But every hurt will need to be forgiven at some time if healing is to take place. So the next time someone hurts you, remember you have a choice: to forgive or not to forgive.
Reflection Before Action
To fully grasp the importance of making a conscious choice, let’s go back to something we all learned in basic psychology. Do you recall Pavlov’s dogs and how they salivated every time the bell rang? That story led to the insight that a stimulus causes a response, depicted in this simple diagram.
The problem with this thinking is that it leaves you reacting to everyone else’s actions toward you. Rather than being in charge of your destiny, your life is determined by the circumstances surrounding you. You are not an actor but a reactor, living your life in response to what others do toward you.
You have another option. Between stimulus and response, insert a second R that stands for “reflection.” In this space is where I choose my life’s direction, rather than letting other people choose it for me. Reflecting before acting is choosing your response, as depicted in the following diagram:
STIMULUS REFLECT RESPONSE
In this way, forgiveness does not depend on an apology from the offender; rather, forgiveness depends on my choice to forgive. When I forgive, I take responsibility for my life.
Let’s take a look at that word responsibility. You can see the meaning of the word in the word itself: response-ability, which is my ability to choose my response.
Your life is defined by the choices you make. You can make good choices or you can make bad choices. But only you can make the choice to forgive. While forgiveness does not change what happened to you, it does change how you feel about what happened and what it means to you. In a real sense, choosing to forgive is choosing to live life your way.
Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lays our freedom and power to choose our response. – Victor Frankel
If forgiveness is not on your list of options for when someone hurts you, why isn’t it? When you have been wronged, you have only two possible futures: the life of pain and suffering you don’t want (vengeance and victimization will get you there) or the life of fullness and satisfaction you do want (and forgiveness will get you there).