The Transformative Power of Forgiveness: Healing Hearts and Strengthening Souls

The Transformative Power of Forgiveness: Healing Hearts and Strengthening Souls

by Andy Johnson

Forgiveness was a lesson I became intimately familiar with after a major accident I experienced. I had just completed a half marathon in 2007 and was at the pinnacle of life at age 21. 

One fateful day, I decided to go out on a training run in preparation for a 10-kilometer race, but little did I know that day would change my life. I was struck from behind by a speeding pickup truck and sustained serious injuries from the incident. My road to recovery was long, but I managed to regain much of what was lost cognitively in 3 years. One day, I made the decision to contact the person who hit me with his truck and say that I wanted to meet him and that I had harbored no ill will toward him. 

During this meeting, I used three words that have released both him and myself:  I… Forgive…You…

Forgiveness is so much more than words. It is a virtue that challenges us to look beyond our own pride and ego. It has the potential power to transform lives for the better. The act of forgiveness is not just about absolving someone of wrongdoings; rather it is a process that benefits both the forgiver and the forgiven. 

Here are three ways it can help both of them:

Liberation from Emotional Shackles

For the Person Being Forgiven:

Forgiveness releases the person being forgiven from the enormous weight of guilt and shame. When someone recognizes their mistakes and is genuine about seeking forgiveness, the act of being forgiven grants them respite from this bondage with a sense of liberation and redemption.

By extending forgiveness, the forgiver offers the person being forgiven an opportunity to release themselves from the shackles of their past actions. This newfound freedom can empower them to make amends, learn from their mistakes, and strive towards becoming a better version of themselves. When forgiving the person who hit me, I could see the immediate relief on his face and posture when I forgave him.

For the Person Forgiving:

Similarly, forgiveness liberates the forgiver from the grip of resentment and bitterness. Holding onto grudges only serves to poison the mind and heart, trapping individuals in a cycle of negativity and pain. I held onto anger and hatred for a couple of years; however, after working with a therapist, I was able to move closer to an emotional center of being able to forgive him. When someone chooses to forgive, they break free from this cycle, reclaiming their inner peace and emotional well-being.

Forgiveness is an act of self-love and compassion. By letting go of resentment and extending forgiveness, individuals prioritize their own mental and emotional health. They release themselves from the burden of carrying past grievances, allowing space for healing and personal growth to take root. I felt much relief having said the words of forgiveness to the other person. It was as if a weight I was carrying was being lifted as well. After forgiving him, we cried and hugged it out. It was an emotional experience for each of us.

Restoration of Relationships

For the Person Being Forgiven:

There is a Korean poem called Just One Word. A line in the poem goes Just the right word can lighten an uneasy heart

Forgiveness has the power to begin mending broken relationships and rebuild trust. When someone sincerely apologizes and seeks forgiveness, it opens the door for reconciliation and healing. By acknowledging their mistakes and demonstrating genuine remorse, they pave the way for rebuilding the bonds that were damaged by their actions. 

While there was no way the person could repay what had been taken, I did share how it had drastically changed the trajectory of my life for the better.

For the Person Forgiving:

Forgiveness offers the forgiver an opportunity to reclaim agency and autonomy over relationships. By choosing to forgive, they break free from the role of victimhood and reclaim their power to shape the dynamics of their relationships. Instead of allowing resentment to poison their interactions, they foster an environment of empathy, compassion, and understanding. 

I was in the victim role for much of the 3 years leading up to the act of forgiveness. This was my opportunity before graduating and leaving campus to forgive and move on with life.

Forgiveness doesn't necessarily mean condoning or forgetting past wrongs; rather, it signifies a willingness to move forward with an open heart and a commitment to fostering positive change. By extending forgiveness, individuals create space for authentic connection and intimacy to flourish, thus strengthening the bonds that unite them with others.

Personal Growth and Empowerment

For the Person Being Forgiven:

Forgiveness serves as a catalyst for personal growth and transformation. When someone is forgiven, it offers them an opportunity for introspection and self-reflection. It prompts them to confront their shortcomings and take responsibility for their actions, paving the way for meaningful change and growth.

Acknowledging one's mistakes and seeking forgiveness requires courage and humility. By embracing the process of forgiveness, individuals embark on a journey of self-discovery and self-improvement. 

They learn valuable lessons from their past experiences and use them as stepping stones towards becoming the best version of themselves.

For the Person Forgiving:

Forgiveness empowers the forgiver to reclaim control over their narrative and define their own path forward. Instead of allowing past grievances to dictate their present and future, they choose to release themselves from the chains of resentment and bitterness. In doing so, they reclaim their power to shape their own destiny and create a future filled with hope and possibility. 

My narrative changed in a big way after forgiving him. I decided to apply to graduate school for Rehabilitation Psychology and was accepted at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. I went on to wear many hats afterwards both professionally and personally that included loyal friend, husband, vocational counselor, and eventually therapist and business owner.

Forgiveness is an act of strength, not weakness. It requires courage to let go of past hurts and embrace the healing power of forgiveness fully. By extending forgiveness, individuals demonstrate resilience and inner fortitude, proving that they refuse to be defined by their past pain. Instead, they choose to chart a course towards a brighter and more fulfilling future.

A Transformative Force

Forgiveness is a transformative force that has the power to heal hearts, mend relationships, and foster personal growth. By embracing forgiveness, both the forgiver and the forgiven can break free from the chains of the past and embrace a future filled with hope, compassion, and understanding. It's a virtue that requires courage, humility, and empathy, but the rewards it offers are immeasurable. 

As we journey through life, remember the profound impact of forgiveness and strive to embody its power in our interactions with others. 

As the last line of the poem goes: 
Just one affectionate word can show the beauty of the world.

About the Author:

Andy Johnson, MS, CRC, LPC, SAC-IT, BSP-Certified,  is a mental health counselor and owner of Rise Above Counseling, LLC in De Pere, Wisconsin. He worked for over 9 years in the public sector as a vocational rehabilitation counselor and policy analyst for Social Security and supported employment prior to opening his own business. His journey as a mental health practitioner started after a traumatic accident in 2007; however, with help from family, friends, and his own rehabilitation psychologist, Andy was able to earn two Bachelor's Degrees (Music, Psychology) and a Master's Degree (Rehabilitation Psychology). 

Andy is a caring and compassionate healer who's goal and passion for helping others Rise Above trauma and other issues of life is at the forefront of his practice. In addition to healing traumatic wounds, Andy also works with Veterans, First Responders, athletes, and performers to help them achieve high levels of life satisfaction and move from dysregulation to regulation