Forgiveness is the ability to let go of the past in order to move forward. Letting go of old wounds is the antidote to hurtful experiences and can dramatically improve your mood in the present. You may imagine that forgiveness is arrived at through a logical, rational sorting-out process. But forgiveness does not involve assessing degrees of guilt and innocence, the relative evil of the perpetrator’s intent, as if you were a Supreme Court of One.
Forgiveness means a letting go of anger, not for another’s benefit, but for your own. These people who have hurt you will never know about it. It’s none of their business who you forgive. It’s for your benefit. This matter is between you and you.
Forgiveness is not arrived at or achieved intellectually. Hurt is a personal experience and it can be solved by reinterpretation. That means it is done by replacing one subjective feeling with another emotion.
When you are hurt, you are, in a sense, at war. You can replace these battle scars in your bloodstream with the feeling that you are at peace. You may find yourself dragged down by anger against those who could have treated you better. These resentments and hostilities about the past can be an obstacle to your enjoyment of the present. You can speed up your healing process by forgiving.
The act of forgiveness gives you options that were never open to you before. It allows you to live your life on a much more realistic basis. If you don’t forgive, the hurt will stay down there inside you forever. Is that what you want? I don’t think so.
You have the power of choice now. Having choices is liberating in itself. You have the choice to let go of these feelings in order to move forward with your life.
Forgiveness is not “condoning.” It is not “permitting,” “allowing” or anything else. Forgiveness is a conscious, deliberate choice. A decision that you make to stop holding on to your hurt. You can choose whether to hang on to it or to let it go anytime you wish.
Many clients will say, “If I forgive, then how do I prevent it from happening again?” Where is it written that if you don’t forgive, it will make you tough and invulnerable? You cannot prevent hurtful things from happening to you in an imperfect world by refusing to forgive. That is not ‘strength of character’, that’s sulking and pouting. It’s time you replaced that unhappy role with a mature identity of your own.
As a worthwhile human being, you can cope with hurtful things in the future as they come, just like anyone else. You already have been coping. You have not turned into a pile of dust and been blown away by the breeze. You have survived.
Your judgment is good enough that you have been able to persevere and overcome the negative events in your life. You are resilient. You don’t need to prevent disaster from happening because your judgment is good enough that you have been able to cope with whatever happens as it occurs.
To foster forgiveness you can:
• Use your adult judgment to identify antagonism for what it is, childish attention seeking.
• Resist the temptation to straighten them out.
• Disengage yourself emotionally from their antagonism by catching yourself about to take their words/behavior personally. Their antagonism is not a reflection on your worth as a person. Resist the temptation to defend yourself. They not interested your point of view. They are focused on relieving their hurt at your expense. You are not guilty. You require no defending. Save your breath.
• Disengage from your own defensiveness, explaining or criticizing. That only gives the antagonistic comment more significance than it deserves.
• Let go of your intention to control the situation. Focus on controlling your reactions to the provocation.
• Muster up the courage to take the risk of doing something new. You can choose to say, “I don’t know what you are trying to accomplish.” or “What are you trying to achieve?” You are not attacking. You are telling the truth.
• See how you feel afterwards. If you feel good, savor it. You’ve earned it.