Just as remembering the future changes time, so does forgiving. We are often advised to begin with forgiving ourselves, but forgiving others also changes who we think we are. In fact, forgiving others works because it changes who we think we are. Forgiving works whether or not others change. Because forgiving changes who we think we are, it can help the others change who they think they are when they experience how we are changing.
Forgiving changes who we think we are by changing how we relate to time, i.e., our relation to who we thought we were and will be. Emmanuel Levinas explains:
Pardon in its in its immediate sense is connected with the moral phenomenon of fault. The paradox of pardon lies in its retroaction; from the point of view of common time it represents an inversion of the natural order of things, the reversibility of time. Totality and Infinity 282
Forgiveness is not always easy to extend–especially to certain individuals, and sometimes it’s not at all deserved–or even appreciated by the one, or those, to whom it is given, but no matter. It remains the best course of action to take nonetheless.
Moreover, sometimes forgiveness is a process; there are times when we struggle to grant the needed forgiveness, but it’s usually more of a struggle with self than with the other person/people.
Forgiveness is not a feeling, although feelings may certainly be involved, and it is not a denying that wrong was done. Rather, it is a decision of the will to not hold the other(s) “in debt” for what s/he (they) did or failed to do.
And forgiveness not only changes the way we think about ourselves; it also changes us profoundly–and grants us a freedom that we cannot enjoy without extending that forgiveness to the offender(s).
Finally, when we truly do forgive, the freedom that it brings strengthens us immeasurably and is often accompanied by peace, and having peace in one’s life is priceless.
Hopefully, none of us will have major things happen to us and/or in our lives that would require that we seek to exercise forgiveness, but if and when such things do enter our lives, may we be able to forgive and be peacefully free, no longer able to be “chained as a slave” to the non-forgiveness in our hearts that could, unchecked, (fully) ruin our lives and the lives of those around us!