Forgiveness is one of the most important first steps to ending conflicts in our families, our communities and between nations. Most conflicts begin because one person or group feels they have been wronged by another person or group.
Forgiveness is not glossing over a problem or excusing it without consequences, or letting someone continue to treat you badly. It's always important to first get out of a dangerous situation, such as a violent or abusive relationship. Forgiveness does not have to include reconciliation, where both sides work to create a healthy and peaceful ongoing relationship. Forgiveness is a personal decision to not allow anger, hurt and resentment to control your life, and to forgive someone who has wronged you, even if they don't deserve it.
Learning to let things go and forgive isn't always easy, but when we truly forgive, it helps foster better health, better relationships, a deeper sense of purpose and self worth and a feeling of connection to others. The healing power of forgiveness reached international attention after the end of apartheid in South Africa when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission helped to bring the bitterly divided nation together after decades of segregation and violence.
The Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance promotes the first Sunday in August as International Forgiveness Day, hoping to spread awareness about the healing power of forgiveness to create "a safer, more joyful and peaceful world."
Advice columnist Ann Landers is responsible for popularizing the April 2 celebration of Reconciliation Day, as a day to try to try to patch up a broken or strained relationship. In South Africa, Reconciliation Day is celebrated on December 16.