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According to the dictionary, to forgive is to stop feeling angry or resentful toward yourself or others for some perceived offense, flaw, or mistake. Keeping that definition in mind, forgiveness becomes a form of compassion. This is because compassion is the act of reaching out to yourself and others to help alleviate suffering. Forgiving yourself and forgiving others has just that effect.

To inspire you to work on cultivating forgiveness for yourselves and others, I’ve provided commentary on ten carefully gathered quotations. I hope some of them will resonate strongly enough with you that you’ll jot them down on a piece of paper as a reminder you can refer to now and then.

Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness. —Marianne Williamson

In my own life, I’ve found this to be true: peace comes when I’m feeling good-will toward others and not contending with them. Both of these require that I forgive those who may not have acted as I’d hoped they would. This can be a challenge.

Many of us find it hard to forgive. We’ve been conditioned from childhood to think of forgiving as a sign of weakness. But we can change our habits. That’s one of the most wondrous characteristics of the mind: it’s malleable. Each time we forgive ourselves or others, it becomes easier to do so the next time. This means that we are gradually changing a habit in a way that will bring us peace of mind.

It's one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody. —Maya Angelou

This is a tall order—not only to forgive ourselves and some people, but to forgive everybody. The best way for me to get a handle on this is to remember that we can “forgive but not forget.” And so, if someone has treated me badly, I can work on generating compassion for how much they must have been suffering to have behaved the way they did. That can lead to forgiveness. But forgiveness doesn’t mean I should forget, meaning that I may need to take steps to protect myself in the future from this person. Our minds should be forgiving…but they also should be wise!

Resentment is like a glass of poison that a man drinks; then he sits down and waits for his enemy to die. —Nelson Mandela when asked why he was not resentful about his imprisonment

To not forgive, as we’ve seen from the definition, is to continue to harbor anger and resentment. That’s the poison that Nelson Mandela is referring to and, as he suggests, it won’t do a thing to change the other person. It will only hurt us.

We are all full of weakness and errors; let us mutually pardon each other our follies. —Voltaire

I touch on this theme in my book, How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness, when I write about how we’re all equals on the path of life. Here’s what I say:

When you’re chronically ill, barriers fall. Illness and pain don’t care about your background or your life circumstances: whether you’re financially secure or struggling to pay the rent, whether you have an advanced degree or a high school diploma, whether you have plenty of support from others or are utterly alone. Should I regain my health, I’ll never lose sight of the fact that, underneath the trappings of society and our particular life circumstances, we’re all equals on the path of life.

You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well. — Christian author, ethicist, and theologian Lewis B. Smedes

As someone with a chronic illness, for years, I was angry and resentful toward those whom I perceived had not supported me when I needed it the most. Then one day, I called to mind one of those people. I could still feel the disappointment, but for the first time, I was also able to wish her well. Immediately, I felt a huge burden lift. In the space that opened up during that moment of relief, my heart filled with acceptance and peace of mind. It was a day I’ll never forget it.

Life is an adventure in forgiveness. — American author, professor, and world peace advocate Norman Cousins

Readers of How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness know that I’ve been working on looking on my life as an adventure, even when I’m forced to embark on one that isn’t the one I’d have ordered up! I like this quotation because it poses a challenge: to add practicing forgiveness to the adventure of life.

Forgive me my nonsense, as I also forgive the nonsense of those that think they talk sense. —Robert Frost

I love words that come from the mind of a poet.

It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend. —William Blake

Is this true for you? It is for me (although I don’t think I have any enemies—just what I’d call non-friends).

As we know, forgiveness of oneself is the hardest of all the forgivenesses. —Joan Baez

“Hardest” is a good word to use here because when we’re not able to forgive ourselves, our hearts harden, making it unlikely we’ll be able to generate enough compassion for others so that we can forgive them when they disappoint or hurt us.

Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it. —Mark Twain

This is what I aspire to, even if that heel is my own struggling self.

© 2016 Toni Bernhard. Thank you for reading my work. I’m the author of three books:

How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness: A Mindful Guide (2015)

How to Wake Up: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide to Navigating Joy and Sorrow (2013)

How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and their Caregivers (2010) 

All of my books are available in audio format from Amazon, audible.com, and iTunes.

Visit www.tonibernhard.com for more information.

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You might also like: “What to Do When Gratitude is in Short Supply.”

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