Some words on forgiveness

What forgiveness is not:

  • It’s not the same as forgetting what happened
  • It’s not the same as agreeing with or liking what happened
  • It’s not the same as absolution
  • It’s not denial
  • It does not mean we will never again get angry about what happened
  • It’s not something we can decide to give once and for all

What forgiveness is:

  • To understand that we no longer need to hold on to the anger, hate or self-pity
  • To no longer have the need to punish the ones that hurt you
  • To no longer have your self-image be defined by the things that happened to you in the past
  • To remember what happened, and let it go

Forgiveness is a tricky subject, and one that often comes up in my office.

My first question when this topic comes up is usually: “Do you WANT to forgive?” And so many of my clients look at me with surprise and tell me: “You know, I’ve never been asked that before.”

One of the most powerful quotes I’ve heard was from Nelson Mandela, where he said “When I was walking out the door toward the gate that lead to my freedom, I knew that if I didn’t leave behind my bitterness and hatred, I’d still be in prison.”

Buddha had a similar message, saying: “Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

People often get the feeling that the world is expecting them to forgive. The message being that you can’t be whole unless you forgive the person that caused you harm. As a result of that, many of my clients often experience being pushed into a space that they’re not at all ready to be in.

While it is true that forgiveness is truly a sign of healing, it is very important to recognize that it is usually one of he last steps one takes in the healing process. Often, so much else needs to be processed, integrated, learnt and moved through, before a person can get to the place where forgiveness is even possible at all. And pushing a person towards forgiving something they’re not ready to forgive is like popping a premature pimple – you’ll make it worse.

Just like with other aspects of trauma, you need to take the steps in your own time, in your own way, and with the persons YOU choose besides you. YOU are the master of your own journey.
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