Where do you stand on the topic of forgiveness? Do you believe that the concept is overrated? That the idea that we need to forgive somebody, somebody who may have hurt us bad, in order to move on is not only unnecessary but completely absurd?
I was tested on this very topic just last week.
I have always espoused the idea of forgiveness. I eventually forgave my ex-husband for suddenly and abruptly walking away from our marriage and in doing so was able to bid farewell to some very unpleasant feelings and emotions that had been keeping me company – bitterness, hatred and regret to name three.
Yet if I’m honest, forgiving him was actually not that hard in the end. After a substantial period of adjustment I found that I actually preferred my new life. I liked not being married. In time I came to believe that he did me a favour by leaving me, traumatic and horrifying though it was at the time.
So what happens if we continue to feel hard done by? If we see no end to the painful, shitty feelings and emotions? Do we need to forgive then? Wouldn’t it be easier to continue holding on to the hatred and the pain than to choose to let it all go? Because letting go would mean giving in and excusing someone’s hurtful and abhorrent behaviour?
Hmmmm. This was the dilemma (for lack of a better word) that I was faced with last week when somebody I haven’t spoken to in a long time (not my ex) very suddenly and very randomly came knocking.
I was once very close to this person; we now have very little contact. Suffice to say there was a lot of hurt and pain attached to the situation, and no closure when it came to an end. To this day, I don’t believe closure with this person is possible. So in time, I found my own closure and for the most part was able to move on.
I guess I assumed that I’d forgiven this person – I know that true closure is not possible without it. Suffice to say then I was shocked at the depth of my feelings (chiefly hurt and anger) upon receiving contact. If I’d truly forgiven, would I be having these shitty feelings? Should I not be able to leave the past in the past, forgive all that had gone down and consider seeing the person again?
I did know that I didn’t want to leave myself open to more hurt and pain. And although I am far from a pessimist, I am able to look at both the history and dynamics of our relationship and know that actually, there was every chance that this is what I would be dealing with again. And again. And maybe even again.
And it was then that I was reminded of a few fundamental truths about forgiveness, and what it really means to forgive.
Forgiving someone does NOT mean you let the person who hurt you back into your life. It does NOT mean you leave yourself open to more hurt, misery or abuse. It does NOT mean excusing inexcusable behaviour with no further thought. And it does NOT rid you of any of your power.
Forgiveness means deciding not to waste any more precious mental energy on the person. It means letting go of hate. It means no longer being EXHAUSTED by hate. It means being in a place where you are no longer bothered by him or her, one way or the other. It means closing the door in peace.
I believe that many of us are scared to truly forgive because we fear it will undermine, or make light of, everything we’ve been through. Some of us have suffered terribly, and some of us continue to suffer. The idea that the person who has been the cause of our suffering is simply ‘let off’ is absurd, because we believe that bad behaviour should be punished.
Yet by holding on to resentment, hate, hurt and pain we are punishing ourselves. By forgiving we are not ‘letting off’ or ‘freeing’ anybody but ourselves. We are freeing ourselves of being stuck mentally in a toxic and painful environment or situation – long after we have physically left the environment or situation.
When we forgive, we see value in the lesson the person brought us (there is ALWAYS a lesson and we should ALWAYS strive to find it) and we let go. We let go of the person and the situation, and we use what we have learned to prevent a recurrence of what has occurred – either with the same person or with future persons.
When we truly understand forgiveness we know that it ultimately has nothing to do with the other person, and everything to do with us. We can never truly hope to change another person. We may get an apology, we may not. True freedom is knowing that it doesn’t matter either way. True power is deciding to close the door on pain, and move forward in peace.
Have you ever struggled to forgive after being hurt? Are you struggling with it now? Please, share your story in the comments.
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