What Does Forgiveness Mean?

What does forgiveness mean to you?

Practicing forgiveness essentially means making the choice to give up seeking revenge against those who wronged us and letting go of feelings of resentment. Forgiveness is one of the core strengths in Positive Psychology. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting what happened or siding with those who have hurt us, but rather learning to act out of kindness and compassion. We don’t forget the offense that occurred nor do we excuse it. Rather, we substitute the negative with positive feelings, behaviours, and thoughts. (Enright et al., 1998)  

Forgiveness in Judaism

Forgiveness is one of the cornerstones of Jewish thought and teachings. Hating our fellow man in our hearts is forbidden. “Do not hate your brother in your heart,” (Leviticus 19:17). It is also forbidden to hold a grudge against him even if he has wronged us. The Torah also forbids a person from seeking revenge. It is only by overcoming the instinct of seeking revenge and truly being able to forgive another person that we become truly strong.

One must take care not to remember the evil that his friend has done against him. About this it is written (Leviticus 19:18) “And do not bear a grudge,” but one should cause all hatred to be forgotten from his heart (The Ways of the Tzadikkim, the Gate of Remembrance, pg. 353).

A Jew awakens with graditutde

and sleeps with forgiveness.

Judaism is also a religion which practices forgiveness at night before retiring and gratitude in the morning upon waking.  We make sure to erase all hatred from our hearts before we sleep and when we wake up, we thank G-d for restoring our soul, ensuring a healthy frame of mind. The following prayer is recited at night:

Master of the universe, I hereby forgive anyone who has angered or antagonized me, or who sinned against me -- whether against my body, my property, my honor, or against anything of mine; whether (he did so) accidentally, willfully, carelessly, or purposely, whether through speech, deed, thought, or notion; whether in this transmigration or another transmigration--I forgive every Jew. May no man be punished because
of me. (Siddur Ohel Sara)

What does forgiveness mean for you?

Forgiveness has also been linked with longer life. Luther college psychologist Loren Toussaint and colleagues studied the relationships between forgiveness and religion, spirituality, health, and mortality in a study named Forgive to Live, published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine. They studied 1500 individuals who were over the age of 66.They found people who practiced conditional forgiveness died before those who did not.  People who were connected to G-d and spirituality were more likely to live longer, provided that they avoided high risk behaviours such as smoking and drinking.

What does forgiveness mean to us? When we forgive readily, our bodies have less stress. Angry feelings by their very nature attack our bodies with sad consequences. Practicing forgiveness releases the anger within us, allowing us to make peace with our sorrow, while holding tightly to the love that remains, making us truly stronger people. 

The Positive Psychology People
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