Forgiveness, whatever else it’s about, involves power issues. Many think forgiveness is a sign of weakness. My observation is – that’s far from true. I don’t think weak people forgive at all.
Those who see forgiveness as a sign of weakness typically have a great deal of ego and a small degree of spirit involved in the matter.
When we do this, forgiving is experienced as a kind of losing… clinging to the offense, a victory.
Which brings us to King Pyrrhus.
Pyrrhus was king of the Greek city-state Epirus. He reigned from 306-272 BC (with a five-year break thrown in). In the early years of the Roman Empire, he was one of the few people who was capable of giving Rome a hard time… and he did. For a while.
At the Battle of Asculum (279 BC), Pyrrhus won a sizeable victory against Rome.
However, the victory came at a great price.
Though Rome’s were higher, the losses to the king were great. So great, in fact, that today Pyrrhus is more known for a post-battle statement than for that victory over Rome.
Pyrrhus famously said: “Another such victory over the Romans and we are undone.”
In other words, another victory like this will kill us!
Now you know where we get the expression pyrrhic victory. It means, a victory that comes at too great a cost.
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The application for us comes in the form of a question…
Can you afford another victory like the kind unforgiveness brings?
Just what is the price we pay for being unforgiving? What does it cost us?
Psychospiritually, an unforgiving spirit exacts a high price. Very often, it begins to even affect us physically. When the soul gets sick enough, the pain often radiates through the body.
1. Unforgiveness will cost you peace…
and there may be nothing more important to our happiness and wellbeing than peace. But clinging to a wrong done to you, refusing to forgive, will snatch your peace away like a thief.
2. Refuse to forgive and you risk becoming bitter.
Bitterness is soul poison. Bitter root – bitter fruit.
3. Hold a grudge, refuse to forgive, and you will likely develop the trait of anger.
I have had a counseling/psychotherapy practice for 25 years and I can tell you that the angriest client I have ever had… by far… was someone who refused to forgive. She asked if I could help her with her anger and I said I felt certain I could if she was willing to forgive the offense in question. I never saw her again because she decided not to come back after that.
4. Depression is often part of the price tag for clinging to an offense.
Not surprising when you consider the relationship between it and the previous entry – anger. Very often, the source of depression is internalized anger. Let me illustrate.
I did my clinical internship in an inpatient psychiatric facility in the 1980s. One of the patients I worked with was a 30-year-old with a 10-year history of depression. When I met her, she was on her fourth inpatient admission. One day in session she made the following statement: “I know where my trouble began. My mother said something to me that made me mad when I was a teenager and I’ve never forgiven her for it. And I won’t.”
5. I’ll mention one more – lost relationships.
We don’t have to reconnect to forgive. Indeed, not every act of forgiveness should involve a re-connection on the same level as before the offense. But most will.
How many irrecoverable, lost-forever relationships have been needlessly sacrificed because of an unforgiving spirit in one or both parties?
It is wise to avoid an ego-driven misdirected power stance with someone over an issue of the past that you refuse to forgive.
This stance ends up leaving us like King Pyrrhus. This is the kind of win that leaves us, if we will be honest with ourselves, saying – Another victory like this and I will be undone.
It is a pyrrhic victory.