“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
~ Lewis B. Smedes
Eva and her twin sister, Miriam, were only ten years old when they were taken to Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. There, they became part of a group of children used for medical experiments. In 1995, as part of the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Eva decided to publicly forgive the Nazis for what they had done to her and her sister.
This act of forgiveness was her way of healing from the trauma she had endured. She believed that by forgiving, she was releasing herself from the grip of the past and the victimhood that came with it. Eva made it clear that her forgiveness did not mean she was forgetting the atrocities or excusing those who committed them. Instead, it was a personal act of liberation.
“As I did that [forgave], I felt a burden of pain was lifted from me. I was no longer in the grip of hate; I was finally free. So I say to everybody – forgive your worst enemy. It will heal your soul and set you free.” ~ Eva Mozes Kor
This act of forgiveness can be seen as a form of ‘miracle medicine’ – a tool that is available to everyone, costs nothing, and has the power to heal deep emotional wounds.
It might seem incredibly challenging, perhaps even unrealistic, to expect you to embrace the concept of forgiving your enemies just from reading one email. The journey to forgiveness, especially for deep-seated hurts, is a personal and often gradual process.
What I can share with you is the power of starting small and starting today.
Practice small acts in everyday life. For example, if someone is rude or cuts you off in traffic, use that moment to recognize the wrong, realize it wasn’t directed at you personally, and forgive him or her on the spot. This way you also can learn to immediately stop the negative reaction and the feelings that come with it.
While our evolutionary history suggests holding grudges is good for us, in today’s world, the ability to forgive is more beneficial to our overall health and happiness. Which one are you going to choose?