Not just ‘another public holiday’, December 16th is in fact the Day of Reconciliation. Reconciliation, ‘the restoration of friendly relations’ very often won’t be possible without forgiveness. We have found, whilst teaching the skills of Authentic Resilience to thousands of people, that that many people battle with forgiveness.
It has been shown that resilience has a strong relationship to forgiveness and studies have found that resilient people have more characteristics of forgiveness. Research shows that forgiving also has emotional, physical, psychological, relational and spiritual benefits. So, if we know it’s good for us, and we know we should forgive, then why is it so hard?
There are many reasons – we feel justified in holding on, we regard forgiveness as a weakness, we want to punish the person who has wronged us. Our reasons will be personal to each of us. But what we do know is that when we fail to forgive, the only person we are hurting is ourselves. It has been said, unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.
In South Africa, we are fortunate to have some extraordinary role models of forgiveness. Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned for 27 years was a shining example for us all of how to forgive and move forward. When he was asked by former President Bill Clinton how he was able to forgive his jailers, Madiba responded, ‘When I walked out of the gate I knew that if I continued to hate these people, I was still in prison’.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who headed South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said, “Forgiveness is the only way to heal ourselves and be free from the past”. ‘The Arch’ -as he is popularly known, wrote ‘The Book of Forgiving’ with his daughter Mpho. This is a book that we thoroughly recommend for anyone who is struggling with forgiveness in their lives.
The first step to forgiving is recognising and acknowledging that you need to forgive – and to be forgiven. This Day of Reconciliation, let forgiveness be on your radar, and between now and the end of the year think about what conversations you need to have. This will allow you to go into 2021 free of the shackles that have bound you to a person or relationship that you would like to let go of.
As the Tutu’s write in The Book of Forgiving, “Without forgiveness, we remain tethered to the person who harmed us. We are bound to the chains of bitterness, tied together, trapped.
“Until we can forgive the person who harmed us, that person will hold the keys to our happiness, that person will be our jailor. When we forgive, we take back control of our own fate and our feelings. We become our own liberator.”