Part of why we are often reluctant to forgive others may be because we have the wrong idea about what it really means to forgive. Here’s what it is NOT: forgetting, running away, caving in, condoning hurtful or harmful actions, letting the wrongdoer off the hook. In fact, rather than making forgiving synonymous with forgetting- think of it as a new way of remembering. Remembering with objectivity, compassion, and newfound inner peace.
The Greek root word for forgiveness is “to set free.” But it’s not about setting free the other person. It’s about setting yourself free- from hatred, bitterness, or ties to the past that keep you stuck. It’s about no longer being controlled by the anger, or letting it rule your thoughts and behavioral choices. Ironically, forgiving someone shouldn’t be about them- it should always be about YOU.
If you are at a place in your life where you are contemplating forgiving someone, consider these possible steps as you travel down that path. First, fully feel and validate your pain: acknowledge all of the ways in which the pain has manifested for you emotionally: anger, sadness, betrayal, shock, resentment, fear, abandonment, hurt. Then find ways to process your feelings with people you trust to get support, feedback, guidance, or a witness to your pain. Explore the reasons why you are so bothered by the offense. There may be very legitimate reasons, or it may be that the weight you are giving the offense is heavier than the offense itself. Some people actually don’t remember why they are angry- the feeling just takes on a life of its own. Focus on the fact that the power is not in what has happened to you- it’s what you do with what has happened to you. What do you want to do with your pain? What meaning can you attach to it? How can you use your pain to move forward? Be open to re-framing the meaning of what has happened and what you want to do with it. Maybe you need to de-personalize it. Maybe you can shift from anger to empathy for the person who hurt you as you recognize that their actions are really about their limitations and not about you. It is just as important, however, to give yourself permission to not forgive for as long as you feel that way. Ask yourself what the impact will be if you never forgive. What does not forgiving keep you from in other arenas of your life?
And finally, imagine how anything in your life would be different if you did forgive. Is it worth it? Does it improve something in your life? Your health? Your ability to trust and be close to others? Your sense of yourself? How and where your energy gets expended? Forgiveness can be one of the hardest things to master in our relationships with other people and within ourselves. It’s not easy to do, but finding the courage to work on it can truly set you free. Please share with us your experiences in helping clients move towards forgiveness in their lives.
4 thoughts on "The Process of Forgiveness"
Before we can live together in an eternal community, we must be assured that there is nothing within us or others that might escalate or evolve into problems in the future. After all it would not be paradise if we continue to bring up all of our old issues among one another.
When we leave the earth…we go through our life review. We are encouraged to seek our own justice and atonement by going to the parties we have hurt in our lives and asking them to tell us what they want from us in order to make amends. People out there, Solamenta will await the arrival of those on earth that they have committed transgressions against… if they are not already out there in order to make their amends; provided that is, if they are inclined to do so. For example… it’s a humiliating experience for a man to go to his best friend from the earth and confess to him that he had an affair with his wife, stole something from him, cheated him, talked behind his back etc. This is one of the reasons that many wives and husbands don’t continue their relationships out there.
Forgiveness is a concept, granted it is a sterile and morose concept but nevertheless, it has flourished in spite of the fact there is little if any strength behind the words “I forgive you”. These words mean in essence, let’s forget about it. Forgiveness is a concept that has outlived its time!
Instead, let’s consider a more logical approach to resolving our differences….
Hated enemies who find themselves fighting on the same side, become brothers on the battlefield because they are necessary for each other’s survival. When we understand from a logical perspective that you and I are necessary for each other’s eternal survival, we no longer need to say the words, “I forgive you,” but rather, “I understand how badly we need each other”!
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts on a complex subject. I think many people do believe that forgiving is the same thing as forgetting and I want to emphasize that those are very different ideas. When we forgive, it is for us, not the other person, and in doing so, we can free ourselves up emotionally, psychologically, spiritually and physically. To that end, the process of forgiveness can still be very useful and healing. Ultimately, I’d like to promote the idea that we come together to love, support and connect with one another, rather than through the need to fight on the same battlefield. Again thank you for taking the time to respond!
Can you share how to help clients with this situation in regards to forgiveness:
If I forgive then I feel I have to move on. Instantly healed and all is well. So, I hang onto my anger because my pain deserves this. The offense is so great that it feels as if you forgive you will dishonor the seriousness of what has been done to you. And, how do you set boundaries after the forgiveness?
That’s a very common response to the notion of “forgiving.”. I think it implies that forgiveness is being equated with “forgetting” which it isn’t at all. “moving on” can be re-framed as feeling lighter and less burdened by the debilitating effects of anger-having the offender take up less space in your head and heart. “‘Moving on” doesn’t mean pretending that what happened didn’t or wasn’t extremely important. I believe that pain deserves to be healed over time, not intensified by rage or staying stuck. I really like idea of “honoring” one’s experience and one’s pain and there can be a creative exploration of how to do that that doesn’t involve staying toxically connected to one’s perpetrator. The new boundaries should be determined by the offended party. They get to decide what they need to be safe such as-time limited interactions, meeting in neutral places, having certain subjects off-limits, always having a “buffer” present, etc. I hope that helps to answer your questions and thank you for taking the time to pose them!