This week’s conflict resolution tip is about why forgiveness is important in peacebuilding.

When we are hurt by someone else, we often like to stay put in our anger and resentment, considering options like forgiveness not viable for us. To a certain extent, this can be seen as true. There is time for anger and even resentment. It is important for us to feel these emotions and understand why we are feeling them.

But at some point, we need to ask ourselves: Do we want to be angry forever? If we don’t want to be angry forever, then how do we approach the direction of healing? We would suggest that forgiveness is one of the major steps to approaching healing. Forgiveness holds space for two possible outcomes depending on the individual’s openness and desired goals: (1) Personal liberation from past hurt and (2) An opportunity to rebuild trust with the other.
First, it must be noted that forgiveness does not mean forgetting the past and what happened to you. We often want to avoid forgiveness because we don’t want to forget the past and we sometimes feel that we are morally superior in some way by not forgiving. But it is possible to hold space for remembering the past while forgiving the other person. As for moral superiority, at some point we must recognize that the anger we’re holding onto to feel morally superior is only hurting us, not the person that violated our trust. In this way, forgiveness is therapeutic and transformative because it allows us to process and let go of anger.

When we forgive someone else, we do not have to reconcile with them or decide to build trust with them again. But in some cases, we may want that option or may need that option. In these situations, forgiveness provides the opportunity to open space for trust building. At times, deciding not to remain open in relationships can affect other relationships in our lives, making it difficult to build trust with anyone. But forgiveness allows for the possibility of rebuilding trust again, which can positively affect all our relationships.

Ultimately, forgiveness is something that should be considered moment to moment. It may take time to fully recognize a need for forgiveness and to fully forgive someone else. Have patience with yourself in this process—it’s not easy. But when the time comes to let go of anger and pain, forgiveness can truly be a transformational way of bringing more peace into your life.

Jeremy Pollack

Jeremy Pollack is the Founder and CEO of Pollack Peacebuilding Systems.

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