To err is human, to forgive, divine.Alexander Pope
Forgiveness comes easily to nobody.
Reluctantly, begrudgingly uttering the words “I forgive you…”? Anyone can do that. But a genuine acceptance and letting go of the resentment someone else has caused you to bear? God, no.
Perhaps it’s down to a simple fact of biology – we are if nothing else wired to value immediate gratification. We want to feel good now, and we want to think about what it costs later – if ever. Freud’s “pleasure principle.”
That’s the thing – resentment feels good now. Why don’t we just admit it? Thinking about all the ways you have been wronged, all the different people you would love to see suffer for it, that delicious feeling of self-righteousness you anticipate when those responsible are are inevitably brought to justice… I know it’s not just me that takes a kind of sick pleasure in this.
But like any nasty habit, the damage shows itself over time. Because there is no such thing as a free lunch. Resentment gets you high and it gets you hooked, and then after the first time you can never quite get there again. Now, every slight you hold on to, every injustice you refuse to let go of, every resentment you cling to, costs you. You carry them like a boulder around your neck. And with every day that goes by, the load gets heavier and heavier.
The price you ultimately pay for holding onto resentment is your life.
Forgiveness, on the other hand, is no fun at first. In fact it’s downright painful. Because unlike resentment, which lures you in with a hit of pleasure before condemning you to chronic misery, forgiveness asks for payment up-front, without so much as hinting at what you are going to get for your money.
The initial price forgiveness demands, which nobody in their right mind wants to pay, is that you swallow your pride. The big surprise? Once you do it, you are free.
Forgive. Not for their sake. For yours.
Forgive. Not because they deserve it. But because you deserve it.