The Implications of Forgiveness

By J. Ibeh Agbanyim

Have you ever been offended to the point of wishing the other person ill health? Do you know anybody at work who you think deserves to be fired or reprimanded for offending you so deeply? These feelings reflect unforgiveness. In most cases, it is very convenient to wish another person evil, but have we ever offended others at work and not apologized or shown remorse? If you answered yes to any of these questions, this article is for you.

Researcher Michael Stone emphasized that “our ability to appreciate the strengths and admirable qualities in others and ourselves is reduced, discretionary effort is limited, and our ability to be fully present and focused on current issues and projects are greatly diminished” when we fail to forgive. In other words, when we come in close proximity with people who have offended us, their presence has the tendency to sap our energy if we fail to forgive. Conversely, if we let go the thoughts that sap our energy, we can essentially have more will-power to devote to other things of great importance to us. Therefore, holding grudges and ill feelings toward people who offended us is committing spiritual suicide.

Our optimistic way of thinking is distorted when we think negative thoughts toward people who offended us. Instead, we should share the knowledge of C. Philpot from University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia who posited that forgiveness aids psychological healing through positive changes. The thought that forgiveness is a powerful tool in a wise man’s hands is the first step to psychological healing. Applying forgiveness through words and deeds demonstrate wholeness.

Five Steps to Actualizing Forgiveness

  1. Reverse the Situation: Oftentimes it is very easy to focus on how people have offended us, yet we fail to consider the fact that we have offended others as well on different occasions. Ask yourself, if I have offended others, how do I want them to treat me? Internalizing the situation allows us to re-examine the experience and helps us take a closer look at how we want others treat us when in a similar (if not worse) situation.
  2. Ask an Honest Question: Ask yourself what may have brought about this ill-treatment. In other words, how may I have contributed to such treatment? Did I do something to provoke such treatment? Most of the times, “it takes two to tango.” In other words, we must have done something directly or indirectly to provoke that behavior. For example, a manager who fires an employee Friday knowing that employee is starting his vacation the following Monday has just provoked an individual’s deep disappointment. It turned out that employee had been ignoring the manager’s directions and making numerous excuses for his inactions. When sudden termination occurs, it is very easy to conclude that persons in authority are unfair or inconsiderate. But a thinking person who really wants to be honest about the situation should admit that he might have put himself in such a situation. In this context, soul searching would aid this employee to forgive his manager for terminating his appointment.
  3. What Am I Gaining out of This: When it comes to unforgiveness, ask yourself, what am I going to gain from not forgiving my opponent—knowing the emotional and physical stress such behavior can cause to your overall health. Researcher Bath Shapiro concluded that forgiveness should not just be perceived as spiritual cleansing but also as a physical and emotional well-being. Forgiveness frees the mind and shifts thoughts to what matters in life.
  4. Forgiveness Increases Interpersonal Relationships: Nelson Mandela’s approach to forgiveness was evidence of the power of forgiveness. In this paragraph, editor Johann Lochner narrated this memorably. Nelson Mandela achieved forgiveness by seeking to sincerely befriend his white Afrikaner prison guard. He learned his language and studied his culture, and even went to church with him. His openness to forgive his captors changed his heart. His forgiveness toward his oppressors gave way to becoming the first black president of South Africa in 1994. His sincere approach to forgiveness allowed him to embraced rugby which was once a symbol of apartheid and despised by blacks. During Nelson Mandela’s presidency, South Africa was awarded 1995 rugby World Cup—a sport South Africa was banned from for decades. Through Nelson Mandela’s act of forgiveness, South Africa’s rugby team regained international recognition. Other great events exist as a result of one single man who embraced forgiveness as a tool for freedom.
  5. Action is the Interpreter of Thoughts: In order to experience forgiveness, conscious effort is required. Only one person holds the key. That person is you. Make a conscious decision to forgive your enemies so you may in turn also be forgiven.