Forgiveness is a gift that an individual not only gives to themselves but also others. Forgiveness is defined as a quality that we practice voluntarily, i.e., letting go of thoughts and feelings of anger, resentment, and bitterness towards other people. According to Social Psychology, forgiveness is a part of our human behaviour. It is a social behaviour that differs from individual to individual. Various religious and spiritual practices focus on how forgiveness leads to the ultimate measure of internal peace. Marcus Aurelius also said that “The best revenge is not to be like your enemy. It is essential to understand that forgiveness is not an act of forgetting about the incident or forgiving as an offence.
Forgiveness is not only an emotional but also a cognitive process. It can be initiated in various ways. Some people are quick at forgiveness, while others may take time. Our personalities play the most critical role in cultivating the act of forgiveness. There are various types of forgiveness. Cognitive forgiveness is based upon the perspective which sees forgiveness as a perceived transgressor. The transgressor’s primary source is that it may be for ourselves, other individuals, or a situation that might seem is beyond control. For example, an individual may see a situation as the act of ‘fate’. The second type of forgives is Decision-based Forgiveness. This type of forgiveness focuses upon the fact that an individual lets go, i.e., ignores based on their will power. In simple words, Decision-based Forgiveness is viewed as an act of letting go by choice. Here, individuals can separate their thoughts of bitterness from their feelings of hurt, which may have been caused by other individuals or groups of individuals.
The last type of Forgiveness is Emotional Forgiveness. This type of forgiveness focuses upon the fact that an individual can only engage in the act of forgiveness when they can forgive through their emotions. It focuses on the fact that when an individual replaces their negative emotions like anger, vengefulness with positive thoughts like love, empathy, sympathy, and compassion, only an individual can forgive. Emotional forgiveness even focuses on the theory that change happens only through emotions and not by changes in thought processes or behaviour. Although, when feelings change, all other changes occur themselves, like change in our behaviour and thoughts.
Forgiveness occurs as a process. All three aspects of forgiveness, i.e. cognitive, affective, and behavioural, must appear to fulfil the act of forgiveness. Few steps are involved in the front of forgiveness. A few of them cultivate acceptance, develop empathy, think and understand different perspectives, and even benefit from finding. Various scientists in their study have focused on how forgiveness is learned and is often a situational response.
An inspiring example of forgiveness would be when a bride was jokingly pushed into the shallow lake before her wedding night by her friends, and her head hit the bottom stone. She not only cracked her neck but also got paralyzed. Even though the accident totally changed her life, she forgave her friends. She believed that it was an accident and keeping grudges will only make us depressed and won’t help anyone.
Various researchers in the field of Positive psychology have focused on how forgiveness can improve our well-being. An individual who practices forgiveness tends to experience the following benefits of forgiveness are-
They have a more remarkable ability to cope with stress
It increases our self-esteem and self-confidence
It helps in focusing upon positive thinking and improves our relationships
It helps in reducing our anxiety and depression
It strengthens our feeling of spirituality
There are various books which focus upon forgiveness and how it plays an essential role in our life. These books are available in multiple online stores and are highly recommended.
A few of those books are –
Forgiveness by Matthew West
Handbook of the Psychology of Self-Forgiveness by Lydia Woodyatt, Brandon J. Griffin, Everett Worthington and Michael Wenzel
Don’t feel stuck! by Jaclyn Johnston
The Forgiving Life by Robert Enright
Do let us know which book is your favourite.