When I ask my clients how they feel about forgiveness, I get a variety of responses: I could never forgive that person, if I forgive him/her it gives them a pass, what they did was wrong and does not deserve forgiveness, I’m not ready to forgive, I just can’t let it go, etc. When I ask if forgiveness is selfish or selfless, they really get thinking.
At first glance, forgiveness seems selfless; not only are you being empathetic, but you are also releasing the person who wronged you, perhaps doing him/her a favor by letting them “off the hook”. However, forgiveness encompasses much more than selflessness, it can also be a selfish act. For many people, selfishness has negative connotations, and for good reason. Entitlement, greed and superiority can all be categorized as selfish. However, I consider those ideas to fall into the emotional realm of “lacking” and a fear based mindset. What if we considered another style of selfishness, a sacred one?
When selfishness is a sacred thing, it allows one to live from a place of self-awareness where one thinks, feels and acts from a place of truth. Knowing what is inherently right or wrong for oneself is the key to this inner wisdom. When combined with the choice to forgive another person or situation, it becomes a way of letting go and moving on. By withholding forgiveness, you inevitably hold yourself to the past and create grudges and place blame. Resisting forgiveness keeps you rooted in the past and this keeps you for letting go and moving on. When we view forgiveness as a necessary selfish act, it becomes a beautifully healing shift. A shift from, “I’m giving this situation, event or person power in my life,” to “I’m ready to release the past and move forward.” Forgiveness does not mean righting the wrongs of the past, it means you have come to peace with the events that took place, and you are ready to stop letting the past root itself in the present. So go ahead, get selfish! Unhook yourself from the toxic claws of the past and allow yourself the gift of being completely at peace with the past and solidly rooted in the present moment.