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The Power of Forgiveness

I forgive you. This three-word phrase is one of the most beautiful and powerful phrases that can be spoken. It has the power to set people free, to make them feel like they can breathe again, and to bring people back together. Forgiveness has the power to strengthen a relationship or destroy it.


One of the greatest examples of forgiveness comes from Nelson Mandela, who fought to end the apartheid and racial inequality. He led peaceful protests that landed him in jail for over 20 years, but when he was freed he did not harbor resentment–rather he embraced forgiveness.

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”- Nelson Mandela

Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. The decision to forgive is so difficult because it involves navigating through feelings of anger and resentment and of “being right,” which can be difficult to release. The true power of forgiveness is not to free another person who has wronged you, but rather to free yourself so that you will feel lighter, at peace, and form tighter connections with those around you.

Dr. Ira Byock, an international leader in palliative care has seen firsthand how, even at the end of life, forgiveness can bring a large emotional healing and a sense of wholeness to both people and relationships. In his book The Four Things That Matter Most, he shows how the four simple phrases, “Please forgive me,”  “I forgive you,” “Thank you,” and “I love you” can help us navigate our daily lives and strengthen our relationships.

Here at Samaritan, we have seen people transformed by these phrases, and know how valuable it is to state the obvious to our loved ones so they know exactly how we feel.

June 26th, Forgiveness Day, is the perfect opportunity to channel Nelson Mandela’s and Dr. Byock’s wisdom to both forgive and seek forgiveness. In the end, grudges won’t matter and bitterness will just be self-punishment that keeps you trapped in the past. Let go and choose one of the most freeing, beautiful and powerful forces: forgiveness.