Forgiveness: Is It Your Responsibility?

When I talk about forgiveness with my clients, they typically say, “That’s exactly what I can never do!”

Some people become confused about forgiveness because it sounds like you’re letting go of responsibility and allowing others to discard the rules of society. But forgiveness can complement personal responsibility. Forgiveness allows you to let go of the past, while you continue to maintain your best effort and clear thinking about personal responsibility in the present.

Parents are responsible for the well being of their children. If they don’t, it’s called neglect. However adults are responsible for themselves. Yet, many people treat other adults like children and seek to control others behavior and decisions. Often, they try and fail. So why do they do it?

The truth is that adults are imperfect and make mistakes. The fear of making mistakes results in insecurity. Yet, many adults strive for perfection anyways and set themselves up for feelings of failure. This contradiction causes stress in the form of physiological and emotional discomfort. However, we are surrounded by people at work and home who suffer from this painful experience.

The reality is, we do not know how to solve others problems, we have our hands full with our own. Some make up solutions that ought to work but do not because we do not really know what is best. Still, we pass laws with the good intention to make things better only to find that we have made them worse.

Our self-imposed task of changing them for their own good turns out to be a fictitious one. We are not required to succeed at this self-imposed task, and we are not a failure if we do not. We are worthwhile independent human beings in our own right win, lose or draw. We can take the power to rob us of our self-respect away from them. It is a power we shouldn’t have given them anyways.

Here are some choices you can make to foster forgiveness:
1. Identify what hurt and pain (what someone just said or did) as antagonism because that’s what it is. It was not said or done for you, its serves their own agenda.
2. Put your hurt and pain in its proper perspective – they made an immature, childish statement or action. It does not deserve the attention and energy you are giving it.
3. Are you going to let your hurt determine your response or will you choose to use your adult judgment? Are you going to let your anger control you or are you going to manage it?
4. Identify that this is an opportunity to allow others to be responsible for themselves.
5. Using your adult judgment, you can consciously choose to manage your hurt and anger appropriately. You can take this immature, foolish remark like a grown-up instead of returning to your childhood.
6. Understand that your purpose in holding onto this hurt and pain is not to be productive, but
a) to relieve the pain of your feelings by putting them down and to build yourself up
b) to control the situation
c) to prevent the humiliating exposure of your own imperfections
d) to achieve fairness by seeking revenge and hurting them.

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Shared by: Aaron Karmin, LCPC, Contributing Blogger

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