Whether it is a friend who betrays a confidence, a parent who let you down as a child, a mean-spirited person who insists in attempting to make life miserable, we must all face the question of whether and how to forgive. I had a wonderful interview the other day with a reporter and the question of forgiveness was brought and how I would handle my situation moving forward. After you are wronged and the initial wave of emotion has passed, you are presented with a new challenge: Do you forgive the person? By forgiving, you let go of your grievances and judgments and allow yourself to heal. While this may sound good in theory, in practice forgiveness can sometimes feel impossible.
I am learning how to forgive. In order to learn how to forgive, I must first learn what forgiveness is not. Most of us hols at least some misceptions about forgiveness. Here are some things that forgiving someone doesn't mean.
- Forgiveness doesn't mean that I am pardoning or excusing the other person's actions or negative behavior.
- Forgiveness doesn't mean that I need to tell the person that he or she is forgiven.
- Forgiveness doesn't mean that I shouldn't have any more feelings about the situation.
- Forgiveness doesn't mean there is nothing further to work out in the relationship or that everything is okay.
- Forgiveness doesn't mean I should forget the incident ever happened.
- Forgiveness doesn't mean I have to continue to include this person in my life.
- Forgiveness is not something that I do for the other person.
By forgiving, you are accepting the reality of what happened and finding a way to live in a state of resolution about it. This can be a gradual process and it doesn't have to necessarily have to include the person you are forgiving. Forgiveness is not something you for for the person who wronged you; it is something that you do for you!
So if forgiveness is something that I do for myself and if it can help me heal, why is it so hard? I believe that there are several reasons. I am filled with thoughts of retribution or revenge, I enjoy feeling superior, I am not quite sure how to resolve the situation, I am addicted to the adrenaline that anger provides, I self-identify as a victim, I am afraid that if I forgive I will have to re-connect with the other person. These reasons not to forgive can be resolved by becoming more familiar with yourself, with your thoughts and feelings, and with your boundaries and needs.
Now that I know that forgiveness is not and why it is so hard, I need to ask myself: Do I want to forgive? Forgiveness requires feeling willing to forgive. Sometimes I won't, because the hurt went too deep, or because the person was too abusive or expressed no regret. Do not attempt to forgive someone before you have identified, fully felt, expressed, and released your anger and pain. This can sometimes take days, months, or years. Once you decide you are willing to forgive, find a good place and time to be alone with your thoughts. Think about the incident that angered you. Accept that it happened. Accept how you felt about it and how it made you react. In order to forgive, you need to acknowledge the reality of what occurred and how you were affected. Acknowledge the growth you experienced as a result of what happened. What did it make you learn about yourself, or about your needs and boundaries. Not only did you survive the incident, perhaps you grew from it. Think about the other person. This is very difficult. He or she is flawed because all human beings are flawed. He or she acted from limited beliefs and skewed frames of reference. When you were hurt, the other person was trying to have a need met. What do you think this need way and why did the person go about it in such a hurtful way? Decide whether or not you want to tell the other person that you forgiven him or her. If you decide not to express forgiveness directly, then do it on your own. Say the words, "I forgive you", aloud and then add as much explanation as you feel is merited.
Forgiveness puts a final seal on what happened that hurt me. I will still remember what happened, but I will no longer be bound by it. Having worked through the feelings and learned what I need to do to strengthen my boundaries or get my needs met, I am better able to take care of myself in the future. Forgiving the other person is a wonderful way to honor myself. It affirms to the universe that I deserve to be happy and because ..
I ride the dark horse ..
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