Image taken by Hey Saturday
Forgiveness isn’t an easy thing. Whether it’s someone you loved deeply who committed the ultimate betrayal or maybe even someone you dated who gave you the completely wrong impression about how they felt about you or blindsided you. Maybe it’s a friend or family member you are struggling to forgive. Those ones can cut particularly deep because it's much more complicated than simply disassociating with them.
The thing about forgiveness, is that we can believe if we forgive the person for what they did to us, it lets them off the hook. It means we’re standing our ground, stating a point and refusing to give them the satisfaction of knowing that the s*** they put us through was ok or has been forgotten. Because then they’re free to take advantage once more and we come of looking like the fool yet again.
But at what expense? Forgiveness is something that I have had to work hard at over time and I think so many of you probably struggle with it too.
When I refused to forgive the following things happened -:
- I felt constantly eaten up by their ‘crime' or bad behaviour
- I felt bitter
- I spent way too much time wondering how they could just get on with their lives like nothing happened
- I looked at others through a microscope, subconsciously pre-empting that the same thing might happen
- I couldn’t move on
None of these made me feel good, look good (believe me, that tension shows in your face and how you hold yourself!) or gave me any sense of freedom in my life. I felt trapped in pursuit of refusing to forgive and it kept me stuck in the past.
Here is what I have learnt about forgiveness:
It keeps us stuck in pain
'Refusing to forgive someone is like drinking poison, and waiting for the other person to die.’
I’m sure you’ve heard that one but yeah, it’s so true.
Sometimes we refuse to forgive because if we do, what happens then?
It means we have to move on.
We can cling onto the bitterness of forgiveness because it makes us the victim in everything and we don’t have to face up to the real work of getting over whatever we’re going through. As long as there’s someone to blame, we have the right to keep feeling the way we’re feeling. We can keep talking about what he/she did over and over. And over. Is it worth it though? Really? This is why forgiving can actually be incredibly scary but when we do, I can guarantee we're able to release so much of that toxic energy keeping us emotionally captive. Then the real healing can begin.
It’s more about our inability to forgive ourselves than what we realise
Another one that can be a weird idea to get our heads around, but when we’re so eaten up by what someone else has done ‘to’ us, that’s often a reflection of refusing to put ourselves first and take care of who we really need to - us. Instead, we're putting all of our heart, soul and energy into them.
Refusing to forgive is like a desire to want to keep hurting the other person over and over as payback. Ultimately though we’re only hurting ourselves. Maybe there’s a piece inside of you that isn’t allowing forgiveness because you blame yourself for not seeing their behaviour coming or being a pushover or whatever reason. But letting that go will give you the space you need. It will give you the emotional freedom you probably don’t know you’re craving. It’s letting yourself off the hook because you were doing the best you could when whatever happened happened. Now you can forgive yourself, forgive them and learn from this experience, even as tough as that seems.
It’s a good idea to write it out
To forgive someone, you don’t need to make a dramatic declaration to them in person. You just decide it for yourself. A really comforting way to solidify it though is writing a letter to them or yourself expressing your forgiveness. Let it all out and don’t hold back. It makes the decision more official and gets all of those thoughts whirling around your head like the Tasmanian devil on heat out onto somewhere. It can be incredibly therapeutic and an amazing release.
Approach this with love
Ok, you know I love a l-ii-ttt-le bit of woo woo but this is SO important. Forgiving someone is only authentic when you do it with love and compassion towards them and yourself. If you say you’re going to forgive but are still going nuts with an internal toxic cocktail of anger and bitterness in your head, stomach and heart, it won’t work. That isn't forgiveness. Look, we all have our stuff. That person is probably going through their own issues that could have contributed to why they did what they did. But that isn’t any of your business now regardless of what they did to you. That is their responsibility and it doesn’t mean they’ve 'gotten away' with anything. So just choose to let it go, let the attachment to their betrayal go and wish them well. If they are a permanent fixture on your life (like a family member) you don’t have to cut off all contact. You just don’t allow their energy or behaviour to impact you in the same way anymore. You have that control.
If you go in with this compassionate energy, you will feel more at peace AND it will allow in better energy into your life. You have to make room though.
Forgiving isn’t forgetting
It’s simply moving on from the past to make space in the future. We can learn from it, learn how to process pain, learn and understand how we can ever only be in control of ourselves and our own actions and learn to let go of people, people’s actions and situations that aren’t healthy for us.
I hope this helps any of you struggling to forgive someone. Also, just remember that it probably won’t happen like magic. If those old feelings come back again, that’s cool. Instead of indulging in them as the victim just do another 'letting go' ritual. Just come back to why you forgave in the first place and trust yourself (or me!) to know how much better that will eventually make you feel.
I can assure you, learning to forgive is a game changer even if it does take time.