Last Sunday, I mentioned the term “self-love” (and then made a masturbatory joke). It would only make sense that I discuss the concept of forgiveness. Forgiveness is one of those things that is certainly easier said than done. In fact, more often than not, the person that we have the hardest time forgiving is ourselves.
What is forgiveness? The term forgiveness comes from the Greek word συγχώρεση which means “to let go.” A literal example of this would be the Student Loan Forgiveness Act or letting go of your enemy while holding them over a cliff.
According to the Bible, as described in the book of Luke (11:4), “Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is in debt to us.” It is very clear to anybody that reads the text that we are all to forgive one-another no matter what the trespass may be.
In the book of Matthew (18:21-22), Peter asked Jesus how many times should we forgive those that trespass against us? He thought that perhaps the answer was seven times. Jesus swiftly answered back, “No, not seven times, but seventy times seven!” For those of you that struggle with math as much as I, I went ahead and did the calculation: 70 x 7 = 490. This, like many things in the Bible, is not meant to be taken literally. According to biblestudy.org, the point that Jesus was trying to make to his disciples was that if we’re keeping count, then we are doing it wrong.
But don’t just take Jesus’ word for it, there’s science to back up the claims. According to apa.org in an article titled “Forgiveness can improve mental and physical health”, they found that people who forgive are more likely to have reduced symptoms of mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. Whats more, the same study concluded that people who forgive are physically healthier and have a lower mortality rate. The belief here is that by forgiving we are not only relieving ourselves of unneeded stress, but we are also not allowing ourselves to become consumed by toxic anger.
As noted by Bob Enright in the article, “there is nothing wrong with healthy anger, but when anger is very deep and long lasting, it can do a number on us systemically.” Basically, it’s okay to get mad at people, but if you hold on to your grudges, you become a prisoner of your own anger, leading to a plethora of health problems. This may be Spiritual Sunday, but I just scienced the fuck out of your ass.
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that the hardest person to forgive is often ourselves. This being the result of being our own worst critic. We expect people to let us down because we understand that people aren’t perfect. Unfortunately, we tend to not apply that same philosophy to ourselves. All too often, we expect perfection from ourselves, after all, we’re not the same as the people we share this planet with. We’re better than them. Those people suck. We’re supposed to know better than to make mistakes. How dare we forget to pick our friend up from work. How dare we fantasize about another woman when we’ve got a great one at home. How dare we get wasted and steal a cop car and then strip our clothes off and lead them on a bare-ass chase through New York City, forcing them to tackle you and tase you in the gentiles.
None of this is to excuse those mistakes. Mistakes are mistakes (some are bigger than others) and it’s healthy for us to take full ownership of them, but it’s also healthy for us to forgive them, too. To break free of this notion that we are perfect is to accept that we are going to make mistakes, but we can learn from them as well. If forgetting to pick up your friend from work made you feel like a horrible person, then forgive yourself and analyze ways you can prevent this from happening again. If drinking tons of alcohol turns you into a cop car stealing sexual deviant, then maybe not drink so heavily (or at least be sober enough not to get caught). We can thank 6 million years of evolution for our ability to adapt. Analyzing data and outputting desired results is what we do best as a species, so let’s do it.
Forgiveness, whether it be of somebody that trespassed against you or it’s you trespassing against yourself, you must learn to let it go before it consumes you which will lead to bigger mistakes. If there is one article for you to take my word on, it’s this one, because I’ve made a great many mistakes in my life and only recently have I been able to forgive myself.