Why is forgiveness such a big deal? Why does it feel like we are sacrificing a part of ourselves?
Forgiveness is not easy.
We always hear its healthy to forgive, and the wise thing to do. But, it often feels like you have to trade in your self-respect and values in order to forgive someone. So, how is that supposed to be healthy, exactly?
The common problem that turns people away from forgiveness is the false belief that it is self-betrayal, so it logically makes sense to choose to hold a grudge instead of letting your guard down. However, the idea that forgiving others is a form of self-betrayal is wrong; that is not forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a process a person undergoes for him/herself, and not for the person who did the wrong. Meaning, forgiving someone is something you should do for yourself, not as a favor to the person who did you wrong. In this process, one overcomes the difficult emotions and his/her perspective about an offensive situation.
Forgiveness is a decision and a process of consciously choosing to let go of the hurt someone may have caused you within yourself, rather than allow resentment and hatred to fill your heart.
It is a process you take within yourself, not with the other person and not for the other person. In fact, the other person does not have to know or be involved in this process; it is simply the act of letting go of that hurt from within yourself, sometimes as simple as saying to yourself ‘screw it, I’m not going to allow that person to control my emotions anymore.’
Otherwise, the grudge you keep becomes very heavy to carry day in and day out until it turns your heart bitter—and who wants to live with that emotional toll?
When you are able to forgive, you detach yourself from the person that hurt you because you are no longer sitting around waiting for that person to validate your feelings and apologize to you—because let’s face it, that person will most likely not do that on his/her own. So, forgiveness is actually a gateway to inner freedom.
However, forgiveness can be a difficult process because we often have the wrong idea about it.
There are many common misconceptions that prevent us from forgiving others, such as:
If I forgive that person, then…
1- … I am communicating that what happened is okay
2- … s/he is right and I am wrong
3- … that means I still trust that person
4- … our relationship will go back to being normal
5- … that means I will forget what happened
6- … that means I do not have boundaries
The real answer to these misconceptions is: Absolutely not.
What happened was not okay and you are not wrong. When you forgive someone, you regain your power because you communicate the following:
“I am hurt by what happened from you, and I am not okay with that. I deserve to be treated better, that is why I choose to let go of the emotional pain that is weighing me down from reliving the situation and waiting for you to apologize. So, I will forgive you but I will not allow you to treat me the same way again and things between us will be different from now on.”
Relationships are messy, especially when someone was hurt and their trust was shattered. Your relationship with this person may never be the same again and it would be unrealistic to assume so, especially if trust was broken.
It is also impossible to forget what happened and no one is asked to do so.
However, relationships that are valued by both parties can be worked on and trust can be rebuilt over time in the case that both are willing to acknowledge what happened, learn from it, change hurtful patterns and consistently work on maintaining the relationship.
So, it is actually beneficial to keep the memory of what happened so that you are able to work on your relationship, build boundaries and watch out for yourself so there would not be a next time.
That saying of “hurt me once, shame on you; hurt me twice, shame on me”applies here. Take what happened as a learning experience about yourself and work with your therapist to build healthy boundaries with the person that hurt you. That is why it is critical not to forget—however, do not let the memory haunt you either.
Forgiveness is truly powerful; it is a gateway to setting your heart free from the heaviness of the past, it allows you to truly live in the present moment rather than the pain of yesterday. Consciously doing the work to do let go of the hurt brings you closure that helps you move forward in life with quality and satisfaction.
It is important to forgive others (even if just within yourself) because your heart is too much of a sacred place to be filled with an accumulation of ill feelings.
More importantly, no one deserves to keep suffering due to the actions of others. That is why the healthy approach is to forgive by choosing to reclaim power over your emotional wellbeing through validating yourself and letting that hurt go.
However, do not forget what that person has done to you and work on maintaining boundaries to prevent yourself from getting hurt by that person again.
It is important to note that forgiveness is not an easy process, even when you do it within yourself and for yourself. Letting go is not as easy as an on/off switch, although we often speak of it as so.
To truly forgive for the right reasons and in a healthy way, a deeply introspective journey with a Therapist is recommended because there are many emotions that need to be acknowledged and deeply processed in a safe space and healthy manner.
Again, when you forgive someone, you do it for YOURSELF, not for the other person, and by doing so you reclaim your emotional dignity and power.
So, give forgiveness another try because there is much to gain from it.