There are probably a million different views on what forgiveness is, who deserves to access it and how atonement is made possible, but every single religion, culture and belief system around the world, including most mainstream non-religious views, are in agreement that forgiveness is key to achieving mental and emotional balance and psychological and spiritual happiness.
Many of them are even in agreement that holding onto anger, resentment and other negative emotions is the key cause of the physical discomfort, illness and dis-ease that so many people around the world seem to be experiencing.
Sadly, even when you prescribe to a religious view and follow all the rules and practices, you are not guaranteed that you'll achieve a sense of relief or peace, or even know that the blessing of forgiveness is bestowed on you by your chosen Higher Power.
One thing is for certain though, when you achieve that breakthrough moment in which you know that forgiveness has been found, you will feel an immediate sense of relief.
It washes over you like a euphoric high, and it's pretty easy in that moment and all the days that follow to understand why forgiveness is so powerful, so revered by all the cultural, spiritual and religious traditions - and so well worth the mountain of work that it sometimes takes to get there.
Native American Culture
A Native American belief states that an illness is caused by not forgiving.
This is also the basis of the majority of spiritual healing that takes place today: any illness or dis-ease that occurs in the body is a direct result of erroneous belief systems and negative emotions like anger.
Christians believe that Christ died on the cross to forgive Christians their sins, making forgiveness a cornerstone of Christianity.
Forgiveness is a grace of God and an ideal that Christians should aspire to.
The Catholic Church promotes the idea of purgatory for atonement.
If you haven't been good enough to get into Heaven, but you aren't bad enough to go to Hell, then you spend a period in purgratory as penance, which purifies you and enables you to enter Heaven later on.
An African expression of Ubuntu says: Your pain is my pain; my wealth is your wealth; your salvation is my salvation.
In one of the African languages, Shona, it is customary to respond to enquiries with a general concept of I only have what you have – I am what I am because of you.
So if someone asks if you slept well, the reply would be, "I slept well if you slept well."
There is an intrinsic understanding in Ubuntu that we are all connected and that what happens to one of us happens to all of us.
In the consciousness of Ubuntu, when met with conflict or harm, forgiveness is the path that one must travel to know freedom.
Islam has an interesting take on forgiveness: the religion teaches that Allah is Al-Ghaffur, The Oft-Forgiving, and the original source of all forgiveness.
Seeking forgiveness from Allah through repentance is a virtue.
Forgiveness offered to other believers is highly encouraged because Allah values forgiveness, however Islam does allow for revenge or retribution to the extent that harm was done.
Conversely, while Islam teaches that believers of Islam should be treated with forbearance, tolerance and forgiveness, it is not recommended that Muslims should offer forgiveness to non-believers, infidels, apostate and blasphemous peoples.
Judaic belief states that God doesn't forgive our sins against others until we ask for and receive forgiveness from the person we have wronged, compelling Jews to accept apologies given to them in order to facilitate the wrongdoer's spiritual development.
If a person who has caused harm sincerely and honestly apologizes to the wronged individual and tries to rectify the wrong, the wronged individual is religiously obliged to grant forgiveness.
Someone who sincerely apologizes three times for a wrong committed against another has fulfilled his or her obligation to seek forgiveness.
In Hinduism, forgiveness is considered to be one of the six cardinal virtues, and it is believed that a person who does not forgive carries a baggage of memories of wrong, negative feelings, anger and unresolved emotions that impact their present and future existence.
In Hindu culture not only should one offer forgiveness to others, but you should also actively seek it if you have wronged someone else.
Insofar as the practices of seeking forgiveness, you should not only look to the person you have wronged but also society at large, engaging in acts of charity, purification, fasting, rituals, meditation and introspection.
In Buddhism, forgiveness is seen as a practice to prevent harmful thoughts from causing havoc with one's mental, emotional and spiritual well being and recognizes that feelings of hatred and ill-will will leave a lasting effect on our mind karma: If we haven't forgiven we keep creating an identity around our pain and that is what is reborn.
That is the part of us that suffers.
Pacific Tribal Cultures
Reconciliation and forgiveness practices were commonplace among tribes and cultures in Samoa, Tahiti and New Zealand.
The most widely known of these is Ho'oponopono, an ancient Hawaiian practice that advocates forgiveness, reconciliation and prayer for healing of all forms, often incorporating the family members of persons who are physically ill.
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So, you might suddenly realize you want to go even further, and probably faster, or you've hit a major stumbling block that you need help clearing, or you are in shifting overload and experiencing physical, emotional and mental symptoms you need help with. That's what this section is for!
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