#1 – Make it unnecessary
Where there is no offence taken, the need for forgiveness would not arise. So the foremost strategy for avoiding the stress of having to forgive is to make ourselves inaccessible to hurt. We can do this by being more mindful of our words and actions – choosing to desist from speaking or acting if we sense that such would demean ourselves or hurt others. We also need to guard against taking ourselves too seriously, though, so as not to open ourselves wide to many real and imagined hurts.
#2 – Take a humorous view
A favorite teacher often told me, “Don’t be annoyed – be amused!” Taking a humorous view of an otherwise exasperating situation often defuses tensions and may provide the added benefit of allowing you to have an insight into the most appropriate response to make.
This verse from Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” has many a time assisted me to see the funny picture:
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts… ”
Needless to say, if you succeed in finding amusement in a situation you’ll be more willing to forgive all parties involved, if at all such is still needed.
#3 – Maintain your peace
You may not be able to determine what other people do, but you can decide how you would react. You can simply refuse to be offended. Just reword the famous quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, former American First Lady: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” to read “No one can make you feel hurt without your consent” It boils down to the same formula, really – just let it go.
St Paul expressed a similar idea thus, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:18
While all the forgoing strategies have been aimed at avoiding having to task our power of forgiveness, the next two would aim at transmuting feelings of hurt into forgiveness.
#4 – Out of evil comes good
You can choose to see the good that has come out of what was directed at you with evil intent. Did they make you toil – well they may have made your tougher thereby; did they expose you to ridicule – well, maybe they’ve succeeded in strengthening your character. Life has a way of balancing misfortunes with benefits. The old saying goes “It’s an ill wind that blows no one any good.”
Said Napoleon Hill, “Every adversity, every failure, and every heartache, carries with it the Seed of an equivalent or greater Benefit”.
Painful though it may be, try to see the good that has come out of the evil intentions of others and move on. Realize that the important thing is what the experience has made of you. Above all, know that you can only radiate the splendour that the experience has bestowed on you when you wash off the bitterness with the balm of forgiveness.
#5 – Take it as redemptive
Choose not to see the scenarios of your life as concluded chapters. Exercise your imagination – and hope – to see a happy ending to each episode that hurt you deeply. It is said that what was hard to bear often turns out sweet to recount. Know too that those who hurt you the most may yet see the wrongness of their acts and seek to make amends.
But then, even if the perpetrators never come to make amends, Nature, through her spiritual laws of compensation, does so anyway. For as you choose to forgive, so would you be forgiven and granted the privileges of divine grace.
In the words of the Rev. (Dr). Martin Luther King Jr:
“My personal trials have also taught me the value of unmerited suffering. As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways that I could respond to my situation: either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course. Recognizing the necessity for suffering I have tried to make of it a virtue. If only to save myself from bitterness, I have attempted to see my personal ordeals as an opportunity to transform myself and heal the people involved in the tragic situation which now obtains. I have lived these last few years with the conviction that unearned suffering is redemptive… “