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Forgiveness: The Why, What, and How

Most people think of forgiveness as something you do for someone else. Very few people see it as a core part of an effective fitness program. And that is one reason why so few people have an effective fitness program.

To understand how forgiveness can be of great benefit to you, it may help to understand what happens without it. Think of a time when someone has wronged you. How did that make you feel? I'm going to go out on a limb here and take a wild guess that it didn't make you happy and energetic. In fact, maybe it even gave you a headache.

At the moment we discover "somebody done us wrong," we typically:

  • Are angry.
  • Can't focus on much else.
  • Feel tense, instead of relaxed.
  • Get knots in our stomach, headache, or other physical symptoms.

If the offense is bad enough:

  • We may lose our appetite for the next several days (or go the opposite route and binge on junk food).
  • Sleep is difficult.
  • Small things set us off.
  • Desire, drive, and ambition take a nose-dive.
  • Negativity replaces optimism.

During this time, a medical analysis would reveal:

  • Lowered immune response.
  • Extended catabolic (muscle-eating) states.
  • Heightened presence of the body's stress chemicals.
  • Decreased storage of calcium in the bones (due to excess cortisol).
  • Decreased ability to recover from hard physical training.

So the question is, "Why would you want this situation to persist?" There is nothing good about it. And when you stop to think about this situation, what purpose is served by punishing yourself for a (real or perceived) transgression committed by someone else?

If the other person actually hurt you, what motivation can you possibly have for continuing to hurt yourself? There is only one correct answer.

Given this information, why would someone not forgive? Two reasons:

  1. A mistaken idea of what forgiveness is.
  2. Not knowing how to go about it.

Let's tackle each of those. First, understand that forgiveness does not mean you condone what the other person did. Nor does it mean you are willing to forget it as if nothing happened. Forgiving and forgetting are not the same thing.

Forgiveness means letting go of the emotions surrounding the event. Harboring hatred for someone else is like holding a hot coal in your hand. The longer you hold it, the deeper the burn. Let it go.

More about forgiveness, below....

How do you go about this process of letting go? There's no "right" way and there's really no "wrong" way. Exactly what you do will vary depending on the situation and who is involved. Rather than apply somebody's formula, let your desire to forgive guide you in what to do.

This means you must decide that you are going to forgive and move on.

If you were wronged, it's not wrong for you to feel angry about what happened. Just decide, though, that you aren't going to hold onto that anger while awaiting the apology that will never come. Or awaiting some other outside action. Forgiveness does not need to be a response to someone else for you to do it.

Two don'ts:

  • Don't confuse reality with perception. Often, we assign far more importance to a slight than it actually merits. Or we get it wrong entirely. For example, some friends of mine invited me to a musical event in which the wife was playing an instrument. I'm an early riser, and this event started not long before my normal bedtime. I attended, spoke with them during the half-time intermission, and left just as the intermission ended. To me, I had gone above and beyond the call because my support of them resulted in my staying up late and being sleep-deprived for the next several days. They saw it differently, and took great offense at my leaving when I did. They thought I had snubbed them, when the opposite was true.
  • Don't look for the "hidden meaning" and thereby delay the healing process. Many people view negative events as serving some deliberate purpose of a higher power or their own life plan. And they look for whatever that meaning is, instead of letting go of the negative emotions. Consequently, the original negative emotions remain and are compounded by frustration or confusion. The answer they seek almost never exists or requires a delusion to come into existence. Sometimes, bad things happen just because another person is a psychopath or has some other moral defect. Or is just ignorant and insensitive. It's not about you, it's not your fault, and it didn't happen to teach you a lesson.

Many people think they need to confront the other person, then get an apology, then extend forgiveness. This is not the correct order. First, you forgive. Then you approach the other person with forgiveness already in your heart. This allows you to, without malice, tell the other person how you felt injured (or were injured). An apology isn't necessary for your well-being. If the other person apologies, that benefits the other person.

If someone else apologizes, don't respond by sloughing off the offense unless it actually was no big deal. If it was no big deal, you can state that and just forget the incident ever happened.

But if it's a recurring offense or a major one, you can:

  • Accept the apology without condition.
  • Say you will accept the apology with condition.

With condition means you have an "only if" for accepting the apology. An "only if" needs to be related to the offense. It has no relation to forgiveness, though. "John, I forgive you. But I will accept your apology as sincere only if you give me back the $20 you stole from me."

In some cases, it is not possible to repair the damage that has been done. Consider, for example, the murder of Nicole Simpson. Of course, O.J. was unrepentant and never apologized. Admitting his grisly crime would have made the case for prosecution even stronger than the nearly airtight case it already was. But suppose he had apologized. That would not have brought Nicole back to life (or Ron Goldman, either).

In cases where it's not possible to undo what was done or simply shrug it off, forgiveness is difficult and an apology hard to honestly accept. If you find yourself unable to forgive the other person or accept an apology due to the nature of the offense, it is worthwhile to seek professional help. Not because there is something wrong with you (there isn't), but because if you don't get past this situation you will continue to suffer harm from it.




Article Authorship

The articles on this site are authoritative, because:

  • Every contributor is an expert in his or her field.
  • The articles comply with the accepted principles of the bodybuilder literature.
  • The articles comply with the teachings of such luminaries as 8-time Mr. Olympia Lee Haney.

 Where an article is not bylined with a specific author's name, it was written by Mark Lamendola (see photos on home page and elsewhere on this site). Mark is a 4th degree blackbelt, has not been sick since 1971, and has not missed a workout since 1977. Just an example of how Mark knows what he's talking about: In his early 50s, Mark demonstrated a biceps curl using half his body weight. That's a Jack LaLanne level stunt. Few people can even come close. If you want to know how to build a strong, beautiful body, read the articles here.

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