To Forgive or Not Forgive?

The topic of forgiveness is one that stirs up a lot of energy within me. This is true because I have witnessed so many people who have been injured by the projections put on them by others about how they are supposed to forgive. I understand that many of you may have been raised in various faith systems that may teach some stringent beliefs about forgiveness. While it certainly is your right to adhere to any of those views, nonetheless, I strongly encourage you not to push them on others.

I view forgiveness as a “process”; a grief process. The meaning of forgiveness is a debatable one. I by no means believe forgiveness means to forgive and forget, as if the injury never occurred. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean that you agree that a certain behavior was acceptable and therefore you are forgiving the person.

When I work with clients and we talk about forgiveness we work on the area of forgiveness in a manner that will help the person feel less oppressed by the feelings he or she is experiencing due to the hurt the person has experienced. Sometimes that person does choose to forgive. (Whatever the word forgives may mean to them.) For some they forgive, however, it does not mean that they have a continued relationship with the person who offended them. Nor, in many cases would it be appropriate to have a relationship with the person that hurt them.

There are some that choose not to forgive; and who am I to judge. This person is able to choose not to forgive without letting it control their lives. This person does not feel full of range all the time. They have done their grief work so the lack of forgiveness is not oppressive to them. The negative claim on their spirit has been released.

Forgiveness can be a very sensitive subject and a topic that deserves respect from all. If you are struggling with forgiving someone, I encourage you to be patient with yourself. Rushing to forgiveness as a way of avoiding the grief work that is necessary to arrive at forgiveness often lacks longevity. I implore you to learn and understand that forgiveness has its own unique grief process. I hope your will be more gentle with yourself while you work through the process of considering forgiveness.

Does Forgiveness Mean Forgetting?

The topic of forgiveness is not a new one.  There are many books written on the topic with numerous varieties 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 of others about forgiveness.  What is your view of forgiveness?  Is it the often heard “forgive and forget”?  This seems to be a common pressure clients struggle with.  This message about forgiveness was something that was learned via their religion or the religion of their family.  Even clients who aren’t particularly religious seem to face this belief when they are struggling with forgiveness.  This message of “forgive and forget” seems to permeate through culture and time.  I have heard many sad stories of ministers telling my client’s that they need to forgive and quoting various scripture to support this.

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 be real?  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 things.

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 aren’t 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?  What ways can you free yourself?  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 those times.  Consider supporting others around you who have suffered hurtful events.  Acceptance is priceless.  Hopefully, each of us can learn to walk through the difficult times that often occur in life so that we can be more free and enjoy some pleasure again.

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