Forgiveness is not condoning, excusing, forgetting, pardoning or even reconciliation. Forgiveness is an intentional and voluntary process by which a victim/hurt person undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense. So by this definition, it is all about changing the feeling and thoughts around the actions that hurt us.
We all have that one person (or more than one) that we feel angry and/or resentful towards. Maybe it’s a friend, a family member, or a loved one. Sometimes that person could even be yourself.
To forgive is hard, whether it is forgiving yourself or others. And I think it's safe to say that all human beings need to learn a little bit more about the art of forgiving. Learning to forgive is good for both our mental and physical health, that’s why it is said that forgiving is more for the person forgiving than for the forgiven person.
Things to consider when thinking about forgiving:
1. Forgiveness is not forgetting. It is impossible to forget trauma, abuse, neglect, pain and hurt. And you shouldn't forget, otherwise, you might be allowing for this to happen again. Forgiveness is about being at peace with a sad or hurtful memory.
2. Make sense as to why the person hurt you. This is not to justify the person’s actions, but to understand whether the person made a mistake under bad circumstances or if the person is chronically behaving this way. Making this discernment can help in healing.
3. Ask your partner what you need to heal. You may need your partner to show you in some way that the mistake will not happen again.
4. Forgiveness is a process. Forgiveness isn’t an all-or-nothing kind of thing. It is a process! It may feel like you may never be able to fully forgive another person but you can work to get closer to do so. Time is needed to move forward.
5. It helps to see remorse in the person that made the mistake, however, also remember that the person that made the mistake might be battling with shame, which can mask behaviors that might show remorse. This could be manifested as not wanting to talk about what happened, or anger when wanting to discuss it.
Why is it important to forgive?
1. Forgiveness is good for your well-being. Research shows that holding onto anger is poisonous to health, particularly the cardiovascular system.
2. It will help all your relationships to learn to forgive as the resentment and bitterness may overflow into other relationships. Let’s face it, no one wants to be around someone who is chronically angry, bitter, or resentful.
3. Forgiveness frees us to live in the present. Reliving the wrong that was done to you keeps you living in the past and missing today’s virtue.
4. When you learn to truly forgive you have reached a higher level of self-growth and happiness. Which makes you a better and stronger person.
5. Forgiveness will bring you peace of mind.
Does this mean that everyone should be forgiven? You know, I think the answer is yes, but don’t get me wrong, forgiving someone does not mean that you always have to maintain a relationship with that person. However, ending a relationship does not always need to be the answer, either.
Making mistakes is part of life, and we are bound to be in a relationship that one point results in some level of hurt after a mistake. I will say this, that in the 10+ years I’ve worked with couples, the majority of the mistakes I’ve seen were not made intentionally. They have been good people that are either lost, confused, sad or having to learn something new in life.
Your Therapy Friend,
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