Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are but princesses that are waiting to see us act just once with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest essence, something helpless that needs our love.
-Rainer Maria Rilke

From "The Woman's Book of Resilience: 12 Qualities to Cultivate," by Beth Miller:

Forgiveness is about letting go, really

letting go of resentment and bitterness - both personal and global. Forgiveness requires strength of character, it requires courage, a courage that needs to be replenished daily and rekindled when it falters. Forgiveness requires a commitment to something other than revenge and the natural desire for retribution and/or an apology. It requires, since there are events and behaviors that are unforgivable, ultimate compassion.

To forgive someone or something implies that there has been a transgression. You have been violated, hurt, insulted, treated badly or inhumanely, or somehow suffered greatly by another's actions. Something very valuable has been taken away; there has been grievous harm. Sometimes the transgression is factual; someone has been murdered, tortured, raped, neglected, beaten, publicly humiliated, or oppressed. Sometimes the transgression is subjective; we get our feelings hurt in ways that would not necessarily hurt someone else's feelings. Someone forgot your name at a party, your child was overlooked for a scholarship, someone assaulted your leadership style, or your boss did not pick up your ideas. As author and Buddhist meditation teacher Sylvia Boorstein says, 'We all have tucked away in our unconscious a little list of people who have hurt us in some way in our lives. And we keep the list even though they can no longer hurt us, as if forgiving them will give us amnesia, and we'll get hurt by them again.'

When we have been hurt, we show a feverish intensity to the situation, we hold a magnifying glass on the person or people who hurt us, and we are exquisitely aware of the effect the injury has had on us. Whether objective or subjective, we are faced with similar feelings of being upset and resentful of being treated wrongly. Whether subjective or objective, whether it is a slight or a grievous transgression, when the hurt and insult has created a bur in our psyche we are faced with the heroic task of being responsible for the resulting psychic pain.

Hatred, resentment, and a desire for revenge and getting even are heavy emotions that weigh us down. Heavy emotions, reliving the trauma or fight, and being tied to the past robs creativity, spontaneity, fun, and any semblance of a free life. We become virtual prisoners caged inside our own moods and dark thoughts, whether we are painfully tied to the traumatic insults waged against our bodies and spirits or fueling the flames of everyday grudges and insults. We instinctively know holding hate and resentment is not good for us, but being willing to let it go, knowing we are so justified in feeling a sense of outrage and a desire for justice, is another kettle of fish altogether.

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Also on Beliefnet:

  • Forgiveness Prayers

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