Forgiveness, one of the most noble and altruistic actions a human can perform. It requires a lot of courage, empathy and self-understanding to truly forgive those who have wronged you. In fact, it seems that this action, at times, goes against every fiber of our human nature. It seems illogical to willingly pardon a person who has committed even a mundane act of treachery or dishonor. Would you willingly forgive a friend who robbed something precious from you? Is there truly an innate desire to forgive a partner who’s broken a sacred vow of monogamy? Can a murderer, rapist, racist or war criminal ever be forgiven for the heinous acts they’ve committed?

If you were to ask me this question a couple years ago, I would have hastily answered, “No.” However, as time progressed so too did my understanding of this action. It’s easy to forgive someone who has committed an insignificant sin: we can forgive those who have argued with us, stolen trivial material objects, and hurt our feelings. This level of forgiveness does not require much from the human soul or mind, for in the larger picture these actions have not affected us deeply. 

What if we change the sin; instead of dealing with minor infractions we now face the major ones. If you are walking late at night and a person assaults you based on your skin color or ethnicity, can you forgive them? If someone breaks into your home and steals a precious family heirloom, can you forgive them? If your brother, sister, mother or father is sexually, physically or verbally assaulted, can you forgive the perpetrator? 

There is no shame in admitting that you or I cannot impart clemency upon the person who has wronged you. In fact, I believe that it is impossible to forgive major infractions the same way we forgive minor infractions. When a child steals a lollipop or a friend doesn’t show up for a plan you guys made, there is a sense that reconciliation can occur. In this moment of resolution, we tend to forgive and forget the trivial wrongdoing. However, in the presence of major infractions we must use a different form of forgiveness. 

Whereas reunion and forgetfulness lay the foundation of simple forgiveness, complex forgiveness is supported by understanding. Rather than looking past the action committed by the individual, we must now look within it and the person committing it. Examine their rationale, their philosophy and, most importantly, their past. Once each of these topics has been covered you will have imparted forgiveness upon the wrongdoer. By no means is this a way to justify heinous crimes, rather we have willingly offered our time to someone who is not worthy of it. By our own judgement, we have decided to look inwardly and have attempted to attain personal consolation through empathy and understanding. Instead of finding peace through forgiving the action, we find peace by understanding why that action was taken. This will not make the burden of the sin any less, but it will enlighten the man or woman who has decided to determine the origin of evil.  

Truthfully, this may be one of the most difficult actions to take as an imperfect human being. Whenever I come face to face with evil, I am drawn towards an emotional response. At the worst of times, I wish unimaginable horrors upon the wrongdoer for the rest of eternity. Frequently, I have to calm myself and recall my moral code before attempting to tackle complex forgiveness. I can tell you one thing for sure, and it is that this attempt at understanding evil never gets easier. I do not want to give the impression that this ability comes naturally to anyone. It is human to feel anger and hate in the presence of wickedness, and you should never allow someone to tell you to withhold such feelings. Instead, allow them to run free and liberate them from your inner self.  

Still, it is my belief that a person should strive to achieve this form of forgiveness. Not because of any sense of pride or because it is the morally superior choice to make, but because it can provide peace. I think many times people underestimate the effect closure can have on the soul. I hope that the knowledge I have imparted upon you liberates you from pain and can provide you a form of peace in the face of horrendous circumstances. 

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