From the time we are young, we’re taught the importance of saying “please,” “thank you,” and “sorry.” But learning how to say “I forgive you” is a trickier beast, because forgiveness requires more than just saying the words out loud. It requires us to make a conscious decision to choose to move on, to embrace the possibilities of the future rather than focus on the negativity of the present.
The key here is that forgiveness isn’t really about a person’s actions or hurtful behavior, so much as it is about your own peace of mind and self-care. According to the Mayo Clinic, deciding to forgive someone is actually beneficial to your health, helping to lower blood pressure and the risk of heart attack while also reducing levels of anxiety, depression, and stress. Practicing forgiveness can also help you develop more empathy and compassion toward others, and ultimately strengthen your relationships. As writer and illustrator David Small once said, “To understand someone else as a human being, I think, is about as close to real forgiveness as one can get.”
Some of history’s greatest thinkers have cited forgiveness as a key component to reaching your full potential in life. Below are 12 quotes meant to encourage forgiveness in tough times, and change the way we view hurdles in our relationships.
To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that prisoner was you.
― Lewis B. Smedes, author and theologian
For me, forgiveness and compassion are always linked: How do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?
― bell hooks, author and activist
Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.
― Oscar Wilde
Forgiveness says you are given another chance to make a new beginning.
― Desmond Tutu
We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.
― Martin Luther King Jr.
The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.
― Mahatma Gandhi
Forgiving isn’t something you do for someone else. It’s something you do for yourself. It’s saying, ‘You’re not important enough to have a stranglehold on me.’ It’s saying, ‘You don’t get to trap me in the past. I am worthy of a future.’
― Jodi Picoult
To err is human; to forgive, divine.
― Alexander Pope
I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.
― Abraham Lincoln
It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.
― Maya Angelou
Take forgiveness slowly. Don’t blame yourself for being slow. Peace will come.
― Yoko Ono
Forgiveness is a strange thing. It can sometimes be easier to forgive our enemies than our friends. It can be hardest of all to forgive people we love.
― Fred Rogers