Let’s say you have been WRONGED.
By your close friend, coworker, child, parent, spouse, or WHOEVER this person may be.
You had trusted them.
You counted on them.
They let you down.
They hurt you.
Now the pain flows through your body..
You didn’t deserve this. It wasn’t your fault.
Anger, resentment, bitterness floods your mind, body, and emotions.
Now I ask…
CAN YOU FORGIVE?
Forgiveness…it is something that many of us struggle with.
It is a topic many have strong opinions on.
I believe there to be many false beliefs about what forgiveness IS and IS NOT.
One common misconception is people equate forgiveness with reconciliation.
Another fallacy is people think they need an apology in order to forgive.
Other people feel they cannot forgive because they cannot forget the wrongdoing.
Some of us do not want to forgive because we do not want to let the offender off the hook.
Forgiveness is often misunderstood.
We hold the mistaken assumption that forgiving someone requires that we make up with whoever it is that hurt us. This is not forgiveness.
That is reconciliation.
You can forgive someone and not reconcile with them.
Too often we carry into our adult life the simplistic understanding of forgiveness from childhood. When we are children, we think if we forgave someone we automatically were “friends” with them again. Forgiveness meant no more “bad feelings” and the person was welcome back into our life exactly the way it was before.
Forgiveness is not that simple. It is not that black and white.
We can forgive someone and not want them back in our life. Or forgive them and not want them back in our life in the same capacity.
Forgiving is NOT weakness. It takes incredible strength to let go of an injustice and allow yourself to move on.
When you forgive, it does not mean forgetting or pretending something didn’t happen.
Forgiveness is not condoning or excusing bad behavior.
Most importantly, forgiveness is NOT reconciling.
We can forgive an offender without reestablishing the relationship.
There are people in my life I have forgiven but who are NOT a part of my life. There are people I have forgiven who ARE a part of my life but not necessarily in the same magnitude as before. Forgiveness and subsequent reconciliation are quite circumstantial. The future of the relationship depends on many moving parts. All the same, forgiveness is ALWAYS for us–it is letting go of the anger, hurt, and negative emotions that follows from being wronged or betrayed.
Resentment hurts you more than those you resent. Why would you want to give someone who wronged you that type of power over you?
Holding onto resentment is a very isolating space to put yourself in. While you are focusing on the past, everyone else in the situation is moving on with their lives.
Holding onto anger and bitterness can cause problems of their own accord–for you, not the offender.
Being able to forgive is a crucial part of healing.
When you forgive, you process and work through the hurt so you do not need to carry around the pain.
Holding onto pain, anger, and hurt only causes you heartache. It does not cause pain for the person who hurt you.
Reconciliation is an interpersonal process—-you have a dialogue with the offender about what happened, discuss your perspectives, explore the feelings of hurt, listen for remorse, and start the process or reestablishing trust.
Reconciliation is a collaborative process. It involves the offending party admitting they did something wrong or harmful to you, showing remorse for what was done, taking ownership of the behavior, and seeking forgiveness. You cannot reconcile with someone who cannot participate in this process.
REMEMBER: Reconciliation is not possible if YOU are NOT willing to forgive AND the other person does NOT show remorse nor want to right their wrong.
As you can see forgiveness and reconciliation are related but different processes.
Forgiveness does not require the offender to do ANYTHING.
REMEMEBER: You cannot forgive someone until you process the pain caused to you. You cannot forgive until you ACCEPT and are at peace with what happened.
Forgiveness is a freeing feeling.
I forgive because I want to be forgiven. I forgive because I do not want to carry the weight of someone else’s wrongs throughout my life. Anger and resentment are too heavy of a burden to bear.
We can forgive people who we don’t see anymore. We can forgive someone who feels zero remorse and will never apologize. We can even forgive someone who is dead.
Forgiveness does not require apologies. Or the other person to be involved.
Reconciliation requires the offender to participate. Forgiveness does not.
It is easier to forgive when someone apologizes and takes responsibility for their actions. However, many people are incapable of apologizing (whether due to reasons such as pride or a pervasive personality disorder or fear of being vulnerable). What we need to realize is we do not need the offender to apologize or take responsiblity to forgive.
Now in reconciling this is a different case. It will be hard, if not impossible, to rebuild a relationship with someone who does not take responsibility for their actions and cannot apologize for doing wrong. You may not be able to reconcile with someone if this is the case. This is also out of your control.
But you can forgive them.
Forgiveness is in your control. It requires nothing from the person who hurt you.
Forgiveness doesn’t equal reconciliation.
For our own mental well-being, we should forgive those who transgress against us. It doesn’t necessarily mean we should welcome them back into our life.
Forgiveness is NOT letting the offender off the hook. Forgiving is unhooking us from the offender and their offenses.
Reconciliation is when you take a damaged relationship and begin the process of healing it. If done right, the relationship can be stronger than ever.
One person can forgive yet it takes two people to reconcile.
REMEMBER: Forgiveness is on me. Reconciliation is on us.
Too often we hold off on granting forgiveness until the other person apologize. Or changes. Or recognizes what they did wrong.
But people only change if they want to. You cannot force people to have empathy or feel compassion. Or respect you. Or admit they were wrong or apologize. Only they have the power to change their perspective. Often, this is not going to happen.
I have realized sometimes people are just evil and mean-spirited. And there is nothing I can do about it.
Forgiveness is an inward process for my own well-being. Reconciliation is an outward process which requires all parties to want to reconcile.
Forgiveness also helps us grow in compassion. If we are at peace with ourselves, we do not feel the need to spew venom at others or hurt other people.
Recognizing the pain and unhappiness in the people who hurt us helps us to grant forgiveness.
A strategy I give clients to ease the pain of the past is to reflect on what must have been going on from the offender’s perspective to wrong you. Happy, well-balanced people do not intentionally hurt others.
Trying to be empathetic and recognize the deep rage, fear, and unhappiness that drives others to hurt people can loosen the grip of negative emotions holding you back.
Granting forgiveness will take the weight of pain and hurt off your shoulders. It is psychologically preferable to holding a grudge because bitterness works as a mental poison to you.
You do not need to stay chained to them. Forgiveness frees you and allows you to move on.
If someone is causing you unhappiness seriously ask yourself: Does this person respect me? Do they feel empathy and compassion (for me or ANYONE for that matter)? Is this person capable of REALISTICALLY seeing themselves? Of realistically seeing others? Sadly, the answer may be no.
When we forgive, we unburden ourselves from the hold of resentment, grudges, and seeking revenge. We do this for ourselves NOT for the other person.
We do not have to like the wrongdoer or ever see them again.
Forgiveness is to free the person who hurt us from our mind, heart, and soul.
We do not allow them to take up space anymore in our life–physically or mentally.
You have been mistreated and you DESERVE peace of mind.
Forgiveness is vital to moving on. It is ALWAYS your choice…yours alone.
Have you been hurt by someone you love? Have you forgiven them?
To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):
Theodorou therapy llc
590 Franklin Ave., Suite 2, Nutley, NJ 07110