Partner School Stories

Forgiveness: Not Forgiving is Not Living

By Joey Pagano

When you forgive somebody, you not only take some of the burden off of them, but you also remove the weight from your own shoulders.

However, forgiveness isn’t easy. That’s because it goes against our natural, defensive reactions. After we perceive that somebody acts against us, we often come up with conspiracy theories as to why that person did so — which cause us to hold grudges. This process, then, is likely to become the beginning of a battle that could last years and may even destroy a strong positive relationship.

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

This road, though unfortunate, has become a norm for some people. But I don’t see the purpose of throwing strong bonds down the drain and closing valuable chapters of our lives because of one or two instances. And in this belief, I’m aligned with the attitude of The Positivity Project (P2).

Forgiveness is one of the 24 character strengths and, in my opinion, a vital part of the Other People Matter Mindset. It’s a perfect example of how P2 goes beyond the simple “golden rule” of treating people how you would like to be treated, as it involves putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes by seeing a situation from perspectives other than your own.

From time to time, this concept is misunderstood and gets a negative feeling attached to it. Some people think forgiving means that you have to believe what the transgressor did was right or okay. Yet, these people are confusing an important part of forgiveness.

Making amends doesn’t mean that you accept a wrong action and pretend it never happened. Nor does it mean spending your life allowing people to harm you. Instead, people who forgive value the ability to move forward from somebody’s wrongdoing, with or without an apology.

It’s easy to hold a grudge and stop communicating with whoever has disappointed you or done you wrong. But it’s important that we are able to put the past behind us and adopt future-oriented mindsets.

In thinking about the future, we have to realize that people are constantly changing instead of assuming that people are going to make the same mistakes again and again. This is why grudges can be harmful. When you hold a grudge, you don’t allow yourself to believe that people can change.

This is something I learned at the beginning of my senior year. I spent the previous three years of high school avoiding a few classmates who, in middle school, picked on me and focused on my disability, but I ended up being in the same friend group as one of them senior year. We weren’t the best of friends, but we learned to put the past behind us and got along.

Since then, I’ve been a big believer in forgiving people and have valued the idea that “not forgiving is not living.” I don’t see the purpose of wasting the limited time we have holding grudges and thinking about moments we can’t get back. Plus, I have moments that don’t resemble who I truly am and have committed actions I’m not proud of. So, why would I pretend otherwise and punish others for the same type of thing?

Joey Pagano
Student, Syracuse University

Building the Other People Mindset and remembering and emphasizing its importance is what I aim for day after day. As I continue to pursue a career in journalism and attend the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, I aim to show people that buying into The Positivity Project doesn’t mean you have to be happy and positive all the time, but instead means we have to work together more and build positive relationships. You can also find Joey on Twitter @WheelchairQB_ and at his blog