Today, I was honored to present to the Fresh Start students of Living Classrooms on the subject of forgiveness.  Unlike the common adage “forgive and forget,” I have a very different take on forgiveness.

Forgiveness– what is it NOT:

1. it is not about forgetting;
2. it is not about excusing bad behavior;
3. it is not about becoming vulnerable again; and
4. it is not about continuing to have a relationship with someone.

What is it about then?  It is a process of leting go.  It is multi-layered.  It is an individual choice– no one can force it on you.  There is a difference between acknowledging someone’s apology and accepting it– and a lot depends on the reasons behind the apology.  Is someone truly seeking forgiveness or do they just want to sleep better at night because life is all about them?

Forgiveness is a key component of love, and it is necessary to finding peace.   It is a gift– mainly to yourself.  It is about putting something behind you so that you can move forward.  More than anything, it is meant to lighten your load.  Holding grudges is a heavy burden to bear, and it will wear you down.

There are 3 steps to forgiveness:
1. Identify the source of anger/pain;
2. try to understand a person’s motive or intent;
3. Weigh your options and find the best workable solution for you.

While doing this exercise, try to keep the 3 Ws in mind:

WHO was it that hurt you?  It makes a difference whether it is someone close or a stranger.  The latter don’t really rank, and they are much easier to cut out of your life.
WHAT was the transgression?  Was there an agreement that was breached or were expectations not met?
WHY did this happen?  Was there a breakdown in communication?  Maybe a misunderstanding?  I’m willing to cut someone a lot more slack when they are just clueless– but intentional acts of cruelty require a zero-tolerance policy.

Unfortunately, our modern society embraces a win-lose view of the world.  Darwin’s survival of the fittest theory is being taken to all new extremes.  The sink or swim mentality is quite prevalent, especially in corporate America, and we see forgiveness as a sign of weakness.  In fact, we view emotions as a sign of weakness.

To forgive, you need to work through your emotions.  It is a complicated process that requires an open mind, and an open heart.  To do so, you may need to reach out to others and get some inspiration from their stories about the power of forgiveness.  Sharing mine today, hopefully I helped these young men with a troubled past move a little bit closer towards a more peaceful and promising future.

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.