I have had two reasons this week to think about forgiveness. A colleague queried whether forgiveness was something you did every day, and on Q and A someone asked if you needed a thick skin to be a politician. My immediate thought was that a thick skin could take away an essential sensitivity to others – you can’t be empathic if you don’t allow yourself to ever feel hurt. I quite like the idea of ‘streaming forgiveness’ as an alternative. This means allowing yourself thoughts about others such as ‘she’s under pressure’, ‘he doesn’t understand’, ‘it’s out of character’ and perhaps putting yourself in their shoes to say ‘I’ve done that too’. Forgiveness does not mean condoning – neither does it mean being patronising and superior! It is not letting another person’s actions dominate your thinking and eat up your emotional reserves with resentment, anger, frustration and revenge. It means taking the bigger picture and the longer view. An ‘eye for an eye’ leaves everyone blind. Forgiveness does not mean being a doormat or a victim – forgiving a person is not the same as tolerating unacceptable behaviour – especially if it happens repeatedly.
Forgiveness also means not beating yourself up too much for mistakes you have made or hurt you have caused. Focusing your energies into what you can do to repair and restore is a more constructive use of resources.
Someone once said that forgiveness was a gift to yourself. It isn’t easy, but it is worth doing. You travel more lightly.