What is forgiveness, anyway? According to the Old English word, “forgiefan,” it means to “grant, allow, or give up.” In the modern sense, it refers to “giving up the desire to hurt a person.” (Source: Online Etymology Dictionary). Forgiving someone does not excuse the behavior. It does not require us to keep relating to that person in some sort of friendly or sentimental way. There’s the phrase, “forgive and forget.” But if we forget, we have to forgive the person all over again. We have to forgive and remember. Remember, and forgive anyway. It becomes a sort of mantra: remember, forgive, remember, forgive. We can’t change the other person, but we can change our thoughts and attitudes. The other person can’t help the way they are.
There’s a remarkable brochure on forgiveness published by the Order of St. Luke the Physician. It states that: we need to “forgive in self defense.” The author goes on to say that: “we have a tendency to carry the people we do not forgive around on our back, or somewhere in the body. We are literally punished by the one we condemn until we forgive. I have no idea how my unforgiveness affects the other person, but I know it makes me sick. I forgive to set them free, so that I might be set free in the process. I turn loose the grasp in which I hold them that I might turn that hand to God to receive the forgiveness that He extends to me. I cannot hold both in the same hand…I must release to receive, and so I forgive in self defense, to receive the healing power of God’s love into my life to banish dis-ease, and embrace the healing power of His love.” (Source: “What is Prayer, Anyway?” Order of St. Luke the Physician, P. O. Box 13701, San Antonio, Texas 78213).
There’s one thing that’s important in forgiving someone who has harmed us, and that is not to apologize to them. Their behavior is not our fault. I once had a boss who was openly critical and accusative. A bully, actually. Targets sometimes have the feeling that what they are doing is not “good enough,” and that if only they work harder or longer, then they will finally land in the good graces of the perpetrator, and be off the hook. But the role of a bully is criticize and condemn, actions which come out of a place of deep insecurity and fear. It helps to consider the bully a sick person.
Jim Glennon, a well known teacher of Christian healing, believes that forgiveness is essential to healing.