4 Reasons to Practice Forgiveness

One of my classes in grad school consisted almost entirely of Midwesterners, much to the professor's delight.  He looked forward to our good-natured and polite demeanors topped off with a hearty work ethic.  

One day before class, my colleagues and I were discussing the intricacies of our Midwest culture.

"Maybe we choose our actions carefully because we know we're only one person removed from someone who knows our mother," I surmised.  Being from South Dakota, with an entire state population of under a million people, this was legitimate conjecture.

My colleagued agreed and added, "And you do NOT want to cross a Midwestern woman because they will never, ever forget.  They will hold it against you FOREVER!"

My heart sank.  That was me.  I held on to things, neither forgetting nor forgiving.
I had been keeping a subconscious running tally of the transgressions of my loved ones.

Realizing this made me want to change, so I started looking for reasons to forgive so that I'd be compelled to change my behavior.

These are the 4 main reasons I used to convince myself to forgive:

  1. Forgiveness is about you.
    The other person may never be affected by your holding a grudge against them,
    but you will.  Forgiveness frees your mind and heart from the weight of carrying around heavy resentment and hard feelings.
  2. Forgiveness allows you to live more fully in the present.
    Ruminating on previous offenses means your mind is spending time in the past, which in turn means you aren't able to devote your entire attention to the present.
  3. Forgiveness creates positivity.
    Holding on to past grievances has a negative effect on your energy.  Forgiveness fosters a more positive outlook on life as you let go of that negative luggage.
  4. Forgiveness allows others to evolve.
    When we create a picture of someone based on their previous actions, we don't allow for them to grow and change.
    That also means that when you don't forgive yourself, you are holding yourself back from personal growth.

For me, #4 was the most compelling.  I hated the thought of holding my loved ones back on their journey of personal growth.  I wanted to love and nurture them instead and encourage them to grow.  

Forgiveness may not be something that was given easily in your culture of family or friends or even your work environment, but that doesn't mean it has to continue to be that way.  Not only was I able to forgive others more because of these compelling arguments, but I was also able to begin the process of learning to forgive myself.  Ultimately, #4 was the most convincing there as well.

Dr. Nancy Williams is a music educator and leadership & life coach.  Click here to receive the free guide to Overcome Being Overwhelmed and get weekly messages of inspiration and leadership sent directly to your email inbox.

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