Forgiveness is hard. Especially when the transgression is a significant one, that causes real damage to your life, your feeling of well-being, your security or self-esteem.
In life, you have to pick your battles and let some of the small stuff go, but in this 2-part article series, I am talking about the big stuff.
The freeing spiritual work of forgiveness can be done with the right motivation, once you realize its value. If done at the right time and the right way, it can be a great catalyst, so when you process thru it, you are now more open to people, experiences and happiness, rather than being more isolated and withdrawn.
We need to understand that forgiveness is not a fluffy, nebulous pie-in-the-sky concept, but rather a useful utilitarian tool for us to open up our lives and shake off other people’s bad energy, that has deeply invaded our space.
And it’s a great step towards personal empowerment in your life’s journey.
Forgiveness is not exclusively the realm of the angels, by any stretch, but its difficult and takes work, because when people hurt us, be it a beloved partner who cheats, a friend who betrays a confidence, a boss who is unfair, etc. our first emotion is extreme anger.
Even at that moment of impact, we are suffering two losses: the negative emotions we are experiencing, plus a deep grief and sense of loss, as we realize that the relationship is forever changed. The person may stay in our life and work things through (or not) but the bond of trust as we know it is not going to be the same.
I have 7 different observations I want to share regarding the Power of Forgiveness. Look for the first three below and check back tomorrow for the remaining four.
The Process of Forgiveness: Parts 1-3
As we are feeling this anger and betrayal, the knee-jerk reaction is to level the playing field, get revenge, pay them back, saying “I’ll show them.” Anything to stop the deep cutting hurt we feel and the shock that hits us where we live.
People often say, “why do I have to be all warm and fuzzy, when this person wronged ME? I am the victim here.” But, in the end, its not about the other person, its about YOU releasing yourself from the prison of resentment and bitterness.
You will see the value in this when you realize that after the incident, this person has gone on their merry way and now its YOU who are suffering and holding onto the past, with them renting space in your head.
Revenge doesn’t work because it perpetuates the negativity. And if you have ever gotten even with someone, you’ll find that its usually an empty victory. When you realize you really don’t feel any better afterward, you may ask yourself why you did it and why you feel even worse now.
Our society promotes revenge. In the movies, the bad person is dealt with harshly by the victim (usually involving firearms) the cheating spouse is paid back (usually by more cheating, now on the part of the injured party) and in general, in the entertainment media landscape, forgiving is erroneously seen in as a sign of weakness.
Revenge or the threat of it, might work when you are dealing with a nuclear arms race, but in a love relationship? Not so much.
Over time, not forgiving leads to resentment, a deep and hard-set hatred of the person in question. In addition, refusing to forgive, keeping and nurturing resentment, can initially make us feel more powerful, more in control, but this is an illusion.
When we hang onto past anger, we think we are being tough and in control. But what is really going on is our refusal to acknowledge our pain, vulnerability and inability to change this difficult past event. We must face the fact that we can’t re-write history. We have to deal with the past reality in such a way that the negative event doesn’t take us down even further.
Hanging onto these old resentments can lead to being dragged down psychologically, creating obstacles to our moving towards new goals and new relationships. It affects our mental and physical health, makes us bitter and even ages us prematurely (That last one is motivation enough for me to forgive, LOL!)
3) LOOKING FOR JUSTICE AND AN APOLOGY:
In the United States, we have an over-arching concept that justice always prevails. To me, life is much easier, when we realize that, at times, fairness and justice, doesn’t always happen, especially in inter-personal relationships. And closure, may not be available, either.
Of course, the rare offender, when confronted, might give an apology, a vindication, an acknowledgement of how much pain they caused, but I find that this is an unusual occurrence.
Most of the time, this troubled offender is not going to be able to access the strength of character needed to apologize or be honest with you. Perhaps they are just not able to disclose the reasons for their actions or they fear what you will do in retaliation. We have to be at peace with this. Acceptance is key here.
I talk to people many times who are hoping for an after-the-fact admission of guilt, a show of regret, something from the offender, to acknowledge the pain they have caused my client, but we need to understand that, in most cases, the discussion, if not able to be done with the significant other, can also be done through journaling, sharing, etc. with friends or a counselor instead. But it can be almost as effective or more.
There was so much to say on this subject, I had to split it into more than one article. Please CLICK HERE FOR PART TWO where I conclude my look at the Power of Forgiveness with Sections 4 -7 including Journaling, Sharing, Empathy and more!