Are you interested in forgiveness? Do you want to understand more about what forgiveness is and is not and how to forgive yourself and others? Forgiveness is a topic a lot of us are interested in, although if you are like me, it’s easy to have confusion and misunderstanding around what it means to forgive and how to do it.
We have all heard it is a good idea to practice forgiveness and that is not possible to live a happy life and hold grudges and resentments at the same time. It’s tricky though, because many of us have so much resistance to forgiving because of our misunderstandings.
Marianne Williamson tells us “The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world.” and in the image above "Forgiveness is not always easy. At times it feels more painful that the wound that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness."
An intellectual understanding first
Forgiveness is an emotional, heart thing, however we need first to get the head involved to figure out intellectually why it is best for us to forgive. The head needs to help convince us that it is important for our well-being to forgive. With this understanding we can begin to open our hearts to forgive. So lets start with what forgiveness is and isn’t
What forgiveness is and isn’t
We all justify our reluctance or inability to forgive with false rationalisations, based on misunderstands of what forgiveness is and, who it is for.
For years I held many grudges against my parents (and others too). I choose to relive my perceived hurt and list of their shortcomings. This has caused me much unhappiness, and allowed resentment to build up, disturbing my peace of mind.
I am extremely grateful to have been taught about forgiveness and how to forgive others and myself. This remains an ongoing practice for me. I realized my work on forgiveness was paying off when I could approach Christmas this year, without so much of the well worn soundtrack of ‘what about me, resentment and hurt’ and instead have a more compassionate and forgiving one related to my own and others so called mistakes and shortcomings. We are all doing the best we can with what we know at the time and are all the victims of habit without wisdom. This ongoing practice of forgiveness began with an understanding of what forgiveness is and is not. So lets start there.
1. Forgiveness is not forgetting
Forgiveness is not about pretending or denying we are not feeling hurt or abandoned, or that others have not done hurtful or unkind things. These things have happened and they have left an indelible mark on our conscience.
However, with wise understanding we can realize we do have a choice with how we respond to the hurt we feel. This allows us to heal.
2. Forgiveness is not condoning hurtful action
Forgiveness is not saying that it is OK for someone to hurt others. Just as it is not OK for us to hurt others, it is also not OK for them to hurt us. We all need to do our best to not hurt others and also, not allow others to hurt us.
Forgiveness is not about condoning hurtful action, but rather acknowledging and accepting it, in order to be able to forgive and stop the pattern of blame and hurt going on and on. Acceptance is not apathy - it is important to do our best to prevent harm.
3. Forgiveness is not about denying the hurt
Many of us are not forgiving because we are repressing the thing that hurt us; the thing we are not forgiving. Freud talked about this repression being like clay that we try and squeeze down and repress into a container – as we continue to repress it oozes out the sides in inappropriate ways.
As previously said, we need to acknowledge that someone has hurt us, in order for us to be able to forgive.
It is important to allow our feelings and to work with them compassionately, allowing for a kind expression of them.
4. Forgiveness is not about whether the other person deserves forgiving or not.
Everyone deserves forgiveness. We have all done things to others that hurt them. I have mucked up plenty of times and want others to forgive me.
I find it helpful to remember to forgive myself too. As outlined in the ‘From road Rage to Happy Motoring’ blog, the 4 forces is a very helpful conscious clearing exercise allowing for forgiveness.
It is the same when others hurt us they deserve our forgiveness too. They are doing the best they know at the time. My well-worn Malcolm X quote is again applicable here both for others and ourselves too. “Don’t be in such a hurry to condemn a person because he doesn’t do what you do, or think as you think. There was once a time when you didn’t know what you know today”.
False Logic around forgiveness
By not forgiving we are perpetuating the hurt, injustice or blame in our heads, disturbing our peace of mind. We are continuing the hurt by reliving the experience over and over. We think that somehow we can hurt them and get them back by not forgiving them, but instead we are hurting ourselves
5. Forgiveness does not require the other person to apologize first
We often illogically believe that, others have to apologise for the hurt they have caused us, before we can forgive them.
We often have a fantasy around such an apology – however it is very unlikely that this fantasy apology will come about. Often others do not even know or remember what they have said or done that has hurt us.
Have fun doing your best to be a contemplate some misunderstandings you may have around forgiveness in order to pave the way to give yourself and others a forgiveness break.
Wishing you all a happy, peaceful, safe and healthy Festive Season and New Year.
Love Maree xx