Sofia is a brilliantly talented writer who is currently studying at the University of Leeds. As well as kindly writing for us, she also writes for her awesome blog 'Sun, Sexism and Suspcious Intentions'. The blog focuses on Sofia's interests with subjects spanning from poetry to Tinder, interviewing artists and bakers.

This month, Sofia talks about the freedom to forgive, and how it can enhance your life.

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Freedom is a moving, evolving and many-limbed creature. James Baldwin said ‘freedom is hard to bear’, and, in many senses, I can’t help but agree. But despite the trickiness of freedom, there is a reason we keep it so central to our conscience, a reason that for centuries freedom has been the principle human affliction. How free are we? Do we have political, sexual, existential freedom? Will we ever? I’m not sure we’ll ever arrive at a definitive answer.

What I do know is that forgiveness, both received and awarded, can create a delightful sense of freedom. Elbert Hubbard once claimed quite flamboyantly, ‘The ineffable joy of forgiving and being forgiven forms an ecstasy that might well arouse the envy of the gods.’ Despite its flowery wording, this I agree with wholeheartedly.

The torture you can put yourself through when in need of somebody’s forgiveness can be unbearable. As you replay moments, conversations and choices over and over, what you really need is their forgiveness. If you are lucky enough to receive it, the burden of guilt and regret begins to be lifted, you feel free.

What is most freeing about being forgiven is the power this can have on being able to forgive yourself, or, at least start to. As Hubbard refers to the ‘ecstasy’ you feel in connection with forgiveness, a delicious happiness is conjured up, one of self-transcendence where we can begin to let go, untangled by our thoughts.

To be forgiven reminds us that we can sin and still be absolved, that we can be redeemed. Though as I was recently reminded, often people ‘forgive but don’t forget’. So maybe ironically this forgiveness, and the freedom along with it, come with ties: we’re not quite let off and maybe we shouldn’t be. I don’t think it’s quite what Baldwin was referring to, but in this case the freedom we feel in forgiveness is indeed then ‘hard to bear’. If we are left roped into our guilt, hanging on but also slightly released, we can’t move on. We are both free and not free.

But can you be both forgiven and not forgiven? If our criteria is that we must forget in order to forgive it seems like a hopeless cycle. I think when we find ourselves in this limbo is when, perhaps cheekily, you have to take the rest for yourself even if it isn’t granted. Because what if you are never forgiven, can you never grow or move on? Is it only who we sin against that can forgive us? If so, their withholding of forgiveness can be painfully detrimental.

The religious amongst us have faith in a higher power to forgive others and themselves. Maybe the secular need this mentality, a sense that us mere humans don’t possess the only power or right to forgive. If we believe that forgiveness spans wider than our personal relationships, that anyone can be forgiven, there becomes a wider liberation to forgiveness. I recently decided to forgive myself for my past actions, that forgiveness was my right and up for grabs out there in the world despite my lack of others’ forgiveness. I decided I could be forgiven, I could always be free, a scary thought but one which is nonetheless liberating. We can never be damned or written off, like freedom itself we can move and evolve in our many-limbed creature-like way.