How Do You Define Forgiveness?
Forgiveness is not based on finding some redeeming quality that makes a person worth forgiving. We can never base genuine forgiveness upon an individual's "good behavior" compensating for his previously hurtful behavior. Forgiveness is something that happens on the inside of you-it comes solely from your desire to forgive for the sake of forgiving.
Nobody who intentionally harms another person truly deserves forgiveness from the person he has hurt. Even so, it's far better to forgive and to live in the resulting emotional freedom and health than to suffer the consequences of failing to forgive.
Forgiveness does not require that a person minimize the validity of his pain, the amount of pain he suffered, or the importance of a painful experience. To forgive does not mean that a person is saying, "This didn't matter" or "This wasn't a huge wrong committed against me." Rather, it is saying, "I choose no longer to hold this feeling of unforgiveness toward the person who hurt me."
Forgiveness does not mean letting a person off the hook so that no justice is required. A forgiving person can still require a person to appear in court or face legal penalties for a crime committed against him. Forgiveness means putting another person squarely in the hands of God, and allowing God to work His justice in that person's life. It is trusting God to deal with the offending person, the hurtful situation, the horrible memories of terrible events. It is trusting God to heal the wound inside. In the end, God's justice coupled with His mercy, love, and desire to redeem and forgive will always be far superior to man's.
Some contend that emotional wounds heal over time. I have rarely seen that to be the case. Memories may fade slightly over time. People may mature and change over time. But there's nothing about time that causes a painful toxic emotion automatically to dissipate. Extremely painful events in childhood can hurt just as much seventy or eighty years later.
We may brush off minor hurts, superficial offenses, and irritating trespasses in seconds or minutes. But forgiving deep emotional wounds and seriously damaging offenses is nearly always a process. Often it takes both time and intentional effort to forgive.
We must never lose sight of the fact that forgiveness is a matter of the will.
Finally, forgiveness is an act of strength. Some people see forgiveness as a flaw in a weak person. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It takes little inner fortitude to harbor anger, resentment, or hate. It takes a great deal of courage to lay down one's anger and seek to walk away in peace. Some of the people considered the strongest have voiced the need to forgive. Mahatma Gandhi once said, "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."
from Deadly Emotions―Understand the Mind-Body-Spirit Connection That Can Heal or Destroy You pp.164-166