Do I Have To Forgive You?

Judgement

To forgive or not forgive! The topic of forgiveness is not a new one.  There are many books written on the subject with numerous variations about what forgiveness is and how to forgive.  I am often saddened by this topic because so many of my clients have been hurt by the beliefs about forgiveness that others have projected onto them.

What is your view of forgiveness?  Is it the often heard “forgive and forget”?  This doctrine about forgiveness seems to be a common one many struggle with.  This message about forgiveness is usually something that was learned via one’s religion or the religion of their family.  Even people who aren’t particularly religious seem to face this simplified view when they are fraught with the idea of forgiveness.  This message of “forgive and forget” seems to permeate through culture and time.

So, am I saying we shouldn’t forgive? Am I supporting you staying angry and full of resentment?  NO!  That is not the point.  However, my guess is that each of you who have been hurt in some way need your own process of forgiveness without being judged by others.  Often I think the one judging is simple uncomfortable with your painful emotions and therefore attempts to avoid these emotions by pushing forgiveness on you when you aren’t ready.

Does forgiveness mean forgive and forget? Well, I will let each of you make your own assessment of that.  However, how do you forget horrific things that have happen to you?  Does forgiveness mean that you tell your offender that what they did is ok?  Do you have to acknowledge to the other that you forgive them for forgiveness to have occurred?  These are all great questions.

I assume most of you have listened to the many terrible things that have happen to others via the media. I have heard people whose child has been murdered say they forgive the murderer and I have heard others share intense venomous rage.  I try not to judge either.

In my view the forgetting is not necessary to forgive. In fact, we don’t forget.  We don’t forget that our partner had an affair with our best friend.  We don’t forget that our uncle sexually molested us for three years when we were young.  We don’t forget the drunk driver that killed our sister.  How would one ever forget these horrific events?

Forgiveness is part of the grieving process, and the grieving process is different for each of us. The most important part of working through offenses that have occurred is for you to learn how to slowly move to a place where you are not full of rage and anger all your days.  That you learn how to move forward in life and become more productive.  How can you turn this hurtful event into something that energizes you for change?  Many people who have been through unimaginable tragedies have created new laws to protect others from the same injury.  Others have formed support groups, written books and more.

Respecting others during difficult times is priceless. It is the greatest gift you can give them and the greatest gift you can receive during these times.  Consider supporting others around you who have suffered hurtful events.  Do not project your beliefs upon them.  Deal with your own uncomfortable feelings. Acceptance is invaluable. Give this to others and demand it from others during times of suffering and loss.