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To forgive any form of wrongdoing is, in a sense, to condone it.

The confessional is a example of forgiveness at work. Individuals can commit practically any form of wrongdoing and, by simply confessing or showing remorse, be absolved of any guilt, shame, or blame.

One wonders whether such a convenient method of absolution actually discourages future transgressions.

Our courts, in terms of how severe a sentence they impose on a criminal, do display a measure of forgiveness if the criminal shows genuine remorse. While it does not excuse the crime, it takes repentance into consideration.

If a close look is taken at forgiveness, there is a difference between the person doing the forgiving and the one being forgiven? Research has shown that active forgiveness produces a number of valuable health benefits. It improves cardiovascular function, reduces chronic pain, lowers blood pressure, relieves depression, enhances immunity, and creates an elevated level of self-worth.

Those who forgive also have their faith in human kindness and compassion confirmed.

Forgiveness is widely misunderstood. It is not a simple statement of ‘that’s O.K.,’ but is instead a process allowing the victim to vent intense emotional pain and replace it with inner resolution and peace.

It is a constructive gesture that breaks apart the cycles of violence and vengeance, offering a prospect of hope for the future. You can forgive the person without forgiving the act.

Now, a look at those who are forgiven.

Will being forgiven cause the perpetrators to refrain from committing similar crimes in the future? Does forgiving condone what they did? Should the Japanese be forgiven for attacking Pearl Harbor? Should America be forgiven for dropping the atom bomb on Nagasaki and Hiroshima? Should Adolph Hitler be forgiven for exterminating millions of Jews? Is there anything that is unequivocally unforgiveable?

People unwilling to forgive the perpetrators of these heinous crimes have their reasons; e.g., they do not deserve forgiveness, that forgiveness is a sign of weakness, that being forgiven will not discourage them from committing future inhuman acts, and that revenge provides greater personal satisfaction.

Developing the ability to forgive keeps small disappointments from developing into big ones. It is not a skill that can be learned like driving a car or operating a computer. We all have the inherent ability to forgive. Forgiving someone does not mean you have to accept them back into your life, and it doesn’t mean you necessarily accept their apology.

Forgiveness is giving up any hope that the past could have turned out differently. The uplifting reward goes to the forgiver, not to the forgiven. Individuals who persist in faulting someone who said or did something to them many years ago significantly increase the unpleasantness of the experience. In time, it takes a terrible toll on their physical and emotional sense of well-being.

A choice has to be made. Not forgive and stay stuck, or, forgive and move on. Since it is impossible to be resentful and satisfied at the same time, forgiveness is the best way to eliminate the desire for revenge.

— Professor Eisenberg was born in New York City and now lives in Belleair Bluffs. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II. His career consisted of teaching interpersonal/intercultural communication, public speaking, organizational communication, nonverbal communication, group dynamics, and persuasion at four major universities including Pace University and Manhattanville College in New York. His publications include 19 textbooks on various aspects of communication. Send comments to: aeisenberg3@tampabay.rr.com.

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