The Hard Won Sanity of Forgiveness Part 2
I’ve gone on a long journey with forgiveness in my life. We started out as unwilling roommates and eventually have worked our way into a healthy professional relationship. As I learn, I like to teach, and since it has been four years since my last blog, The Hard Won Sanity of Forgiveness , I thought I would share some lessons from the last few years.
Investigate belief systems about forgiveness- Do you believe forgiving someone is letting them off the hook? Do you believe that strong people don’t forgive? Do you believe that if you forgive you are invalidating wrongdoing? Do you believe it’s bad to be angry or hurt so rush to false forgiveness? Make a list of your forgiveness beliefs and it will tell you a lot. It will give a good framework for continuing your journey and insights into your challenges with forgiveness.
Forgiveness isn’t fair- Forgiveness is not justice. If we wait to forgive because we think the situation we are forgiving should receive justice first, then we will never forgive. Justice is often but not always on the journey to forgiveness. As we all know, sometimes justice never comes. Sometimes it just remains unfair. Sometimes they just get away with it. Sometimes it’s just unfair that we have to put down the resentment and anger for the health of our lives, but sometimes that’s just the way it is. Sometimes we have to prioritize our own life and happiness over fairness, however unfair that may seem.
Forgiveness doesn’t invalidate wrongdoing- One of the greatest hindrances to true forgiveness is thinking we are absolving wrongdoing. But the very nature of forgiveness acknowledges that there was some transgression to forgive. Otherwise why would we be forgiving? Forgiveness actually does the opposite of what we think it will do; forgiveness fully validates what happened. Forgiveness is the clear light of sanity. It shows us what was truly real.
Forgiveness can only happen after genuine grieving- Grief is transitional space between the ending of one reality and the acceptance of another. Sometimes grief lasts seconds and sometimes grief lasts a lifetime. Forgiveness is the bookend on acceptance at the end of the grieving journey. It fully acknowledges and invokes the dawn of a new reality.
Forgiveness is about acceptance- Acceptance, not love, is the real nature of forgiveness. It is putting the past where it belongs. It is acknowledging everything that happened did happen. You didn’t make it up, you didn’t deserve it, you didn’t want it, but nevertheless it did happen. That was real and now it is over. Forgiveness calls our attention and energy into the now and consolidates all of our energy in the present moment. It is one of the reasons that genuine forgiveness feels so wonderful and energizing. You are fully here; the past is fully there.
Forgiveness must be genuine- If you have to work for forgiveness, do it. If you have to wait years for it to come, do it. But never fake it. One of the cruelest things you can do to yourself and others is say you have forgiven when you haven’t. When you falsely forgive you shut the door on genuine forgiveness. The wound goes deeper underground and becomes much more powerful and destructive. Resentment is like acid, and every time you shove it deeper underground it is like concentrating that acid and making it more corrosive. It will wreck havoc on your life, your mind, and even your body. You do not have to forgive on someone else’s schedule or in the way they think they should be forgiven. You do have to forgive genuinely, and it’s worth doing the work and taking the time for that.