Let’s face it: we all do some pretty stupid things. There is no doubt that you (along with everyone you know) have been guilty of being insensitive or inconsiderate, and probably more often than you might think. We all do things (and have had things done to us) that are just plain wrong. We hurt others, and are hurt by them.
What is there to do? Well, hopefully, one apologizes for one’s wrongs, once one has acknowledged them. Apologizing can be difficult, but forgiveness can be even more so. Whether you are seeking forgiveness, someone else is seeking is from you, or even if you are trying to forgive yourself for things you’ve done, it is not always an easy or simple thing to achieve. Nonetheless, forgiveness is essential for growth and continued happiness.
There are many ways to walk the path of forgiveness, and this online class, called “Journey to Forgiveness,” is a good start. If you need any further proof that forgiveness is not only important but necessary for human existence, today we’ll look at some quotes about forgiveness, including many by famous thinkers and philosophers, that will make you think twice, and hopefully make you more ready to forgive when it’s your turn.
Forgiveness Changes Things
One thing that is required for forgiveness is an open heart. If you can somehow manage to forgive a wrong without an open heart, the act of forgiving in itself will most likely accomplish the job of opening it for you. There is an online class called “Open Your Heart” that explores forgiveness, self-love, and how the two intertwine, and it might be just the thing if you find that you cannot forgive.
Famous radio host Bernard Meltzer once famously said, “When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.” He could not have been more correct about the dynamic of forgiveness. The past can never be changed, and most of us would not want to, even if it could. Rather than holding a grudge (the opposite of forgiving), Meltzer suggests that we can transform future interactions with the person in question by forgiving, making them more positive and productive.
One of the prettiest sentiments along these lines comes from Mark Twain, which may be surprising considering he was not known for such mawkishness. Still, one cannot deny the beauty in Twain’s assessment of how forgiveness changes things: “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” Both poetic and true, Twain’s image paints forgiveness as an inevitable part of the cycle of nature: offenses will occur (especially unintended ones) and forgiveness follows.
Forgiveness is Strength
One thing that can be said with certainty about forgiveness is that it empowers the one who grants it, in a number of ways. Let’s say you’ve been wronged, and the person who wronged you has apologized. This individual clearly wants to be forgiven, and the only person with the power to do so is you.
There are two ways to go with the power that comes with this situation. One way is to think like one of the greatest humanitarians of our time, Mahatma Gandhi. He once said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” In other words, it takes great strength, regardless of how much power the situation gives you, to forgive. Bitterness and anger are easy, but forgiveness is difficult and requires great self-control.
Then again, you can go the other way when dealing with the position of power that forgiveness creates. Many people over the years have expressed this in a number of ways, perhaps none so eloquently or humorously as writers Oscar Wilde and Josh Billings, both of whom were noted for their sarcastic and witty way of looking at things. Billings said it simply when he wrote, “There is no revenge so complete as forgiveness.” Indeed, by forgiving, you show the one who has wronged you that whatever the wrong may have been, it did not matter to you.
Wilde, as was typical for him, put it somewhat more flowery fashion: “Always forgive your enemies—nothing annoys them so much.” Wilde had many enemies during his short life, and knew a thing or two about the need to forgive. It should be noted that he did not do so very often.
Perhaps the greatest quote that deals with the power realignment that comes with forgiveness came from our 35th President, John F. Kennedy. He said, “Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.” This may be the best advice on the topic, an harkens back to what your parents always told you (although you may not have realized it was sage advice at the time): “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
We All Need Forgiveness
One of the only absolutes in the universe is how much we all need forgiveness once we realize that we have transgressed, that we have offended. This seems to be at the core of humankind: the need to be forgiven for what we have done wrong. Most of the great religions of the world offer some way for believers to ask their God for forgiveness, and whether the process is simple or requires great effort and elaborate ritual to accomplish, forgiveness for sins is at the core of why religion still attracts so many believers.
Evangelist Billy Graham put this principle very succinctly when he said, “Man has two great spiritual needs. One is for forgiveness. The other is for goodness.” If we feel we are doing good and good is being done around us, the only other thing we need is to be forgiven for those instances when we have not been able to maintain that goodness.
Perhaps more poetically, the great statesman Dag Hammarskjold once wrote these words: “Forgiveness is the answer to the child’s dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is made clean again.” Forgiveness is what reassembles us when we’ve been taken apart by guilt. When our worlds are destroyed, forgiveness acts, in other words, as a “CTRL+Z,” a “re-do” function on the situation. Who doesn’t want a “do over” when they’ve done wrong? Think about how many times you’ve said to yourself, “You know, if I could do it all over again, I think I’d do a few things differently…” Then, think about how forgiveness fills that role.
If you’re looking for some ways to remind yourself of this, why not read Travis Bennett’s blog entry on Positive Affirmations? It is an eye-opener.
Forgiveness and Love
The actor Peter Ustinov once said, “Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit.” He zeroed in on the emotional core of forgiveness when he spoke those words, showcasing its interdependence with love. In any long-term love relationship, we must forgive and forgive again, acknowledging that our partners are not perfect, and that (perhaps more importantly) we are also not perfect. You can, for example, get all hot under the collar every time your spouse leaves the bathroom a mess, or you can simply forgive that in light of all the love and history you have together. Healthy relationships mean forgiving every day.
There are some excellent online classes on relationships and love that include significant information on the power of forgiveness. If you wish to focus on loving and forgiving yourself, a class called “7 Days of Self Love” may be just what you were looking for. If you’re past that point, and want to heal your relationship with another person, “Secrets of True Love Soul Mate Relationships” is just the ticket. Check them out.
It is perhaps fitting to end this study of forgiveness quotes with the words of the poet and writer Maya Angelou. She summed up the interconnectedness of forgiveness and love better than any of the politicians, humorists, or other great thinkers quoted above when she wrote, “You can’t forgive without loving. And I don’t mean sentimentality. I don’t mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, ‘I forgive. I’m finished with it.’” Love, courage, and forgiveness: none of these are sentimental or corny. Rather, they are ways of life that will light the path to happiness for all who follow them.