I have done quite a bit of reading on the concept of forgiveness over the years...personally and professionally. While I can respect and understand a person’s choice to not engage in forgiveness, that will never change my personal and professional viewpoints about the benefits of forgiveness. I will always see forgiveness as personal growth, strength, and generosity, no matter what the circumstances. The positive outcomes will always outweigh the negatives.
When we think about the concept of forgiveness, we might include many of the following, or parts of the following subconcepts: remission, generosity, exoneration, clemency, absolution, pardoning, the granting of mercy, or even dispensation. Forgiveness is a universal concept. It is gift that a human being gives when another commits a wrong towards him/her.
I believe that there are a number of elements to the concept of forgiveness, and they do not have to occur in any particular sequence. I also believe that in order for the forgiveness to be complete, all of these elements have to be in motion...it is not a static, or step-based process. I believe it is ongoing and it takes effort. Just as it is an ongoing effort to be a whole healthy person, it is also essential to engage in the act of forgiveness once the intent is there.
Since I have mentioned intent, the logical the first element of forgiveness can be cognitive-based. A person’s cognitive processes are where intent begins. This is also where one controls thoughts and desires. Once a person has made the decision to forgive, this is where the cognitive restructuring and reframing begins. Examples of this would be attempts to view others’ motives and behaviors in a positive light, or changing one’s thoughts from all-or-nothing-type thinking.
Another element of forgiveness is behavioral. This is more about taking action and practicing the behaviors so that they become habits. Examples of this would be to actually engage in choosing battles wisely, letting things go, giving to others, positive talking, and always engage in forward movement.
Sometimes we forget about the spiritual aspects of forgiveness. This might be religious for some, however, it merely means being in the present and staying grounded/centered. It can also include such values or subconcepts as truth, dignity, faith, hope, and love.
From the self-reflective perspective, this is where during the forgiveness journey a person also develops a positive relationship with self. There is more self-awareness, more self-control, and self-acceptance.
Emotionally, it is important for a person to reduce negative feelings like defensiveness, anger, and depression, so that there is more room for positive emotions, like empathy and motivation. This is also where a person focuses on emotional intelligence, in general, so that one has some emotional self-regulation.
Finally, from a social perspective, it is essential for a person to not go into the forgiveness journey with expectations from others. We cannot control the thoughts, feelings, or behaviors of others. We can, however, control how we react and our own intentions. We can set boundaries for ourselves. Remember, it is not a gift if there are expectations from others.