The Struggle of Forgiveness-Part One of Three
Part 1:Forgiving Others // Part 2:Forgiving Ourself // Part 3:Forgiving Life (God)
In working with people to become empowered and make healthy choices, I have found that the biggest blocks to success are unforgiveness (of others, self and/or Life/God) and belief in unworthiness. In today’s article, we’ll take a fresh look at “forgiving others” that can empower us to enjoy life more fully and “lighten our load!” The follow-up articles on “forgiving ourselves” and forgiving Life (God),” will be available on the Will You Guru Facebook page on the following two Sundays.
Most of us believe that we’ve been “wronged” by someone at some point —some of us more violently and comprehensively than others. As we look at our lives, it is apparent that what we do with the pain of being “wronged” and hurt, deeply affects our ability to succeed, be present, breathe, feel good and enjoy our lives.
I do not wish to be disrespectful to anyone reading this article who may have had horrific and/or continual pain from interactions with unhealthy, less-than-joyful people. Although I cannot fully understand all your pain from your perspective, I do know hardship—both personally and through my clients.
My purpose in writing this, is that we might allow ourselves to consider not giving those hurtful people and experiences so much credit, so much of our time, so many of our thoughts, so many of our feelings. I propose that there are better, more wonderful things we can do with our energy. And, a more wonderful life that we can experience.
What would life be like if we weren’t hurt and angry?
Although we cannot “erase” our past or experiences that we found hurtful, we can choose to learn and grow. If we keep the hurtful situation current, by thinking and feeling about it, it is defining who we are now. I am not saying that we shouldn’t think or feel about hurtful things at all. Some thinking and feeling is required to process a situation fully so we don’t repeat it! However, there comes a point when it becomes detrimental, unproductive and damaging to our own wellbeing. Each of us can determine at what point the thinking and feeling about it “goes south.”
How much is too much? To find out, we might consider taking inventory of our “hurt and angry time.” We can ask ourselves, “How much time and energy do I spend thinking and feeling about who wronged me?” and “What could I be doing instead?” Maybe enjoying nature? Sharing time with friends? Building a workshop? Painting a picture? Cooking a meal? Planning a trip or going on one? Anyway … you get my drift.
My shocking perspective on forgiving others
Though many people find my perspective on forgiving others hard to swallow at first, my clients and I find that it has freed us from a myriad of limitations, allowed us to let go and live more joyfully. I’d like to share it with you today, in case you too may find it helpful.
I do not believe in forgiveness. It is not necessary, in that I do not need to forgive someone for being who they are. If someone else is angry, cruel, a thief or a general jackass, why should I judge that he or she should be different? Or judge that if he or she was different, that the situation would be better? If I believe that someone else needs to be forgiven for their behavior, that means that I have judged them—which I know is a mistake and not my place.
Instead of forgiveness, I choose to believe in acceptance of that person and their behavior, as it is: which is sometimes “not sorry,” selfish, angry and cruel. By acceptance, I do NOT mean that their behavior is OK and should continue. What I mean, is that I accept that they are who they are and they did what they did. Period. After I have accepted the person and their behavior, I no longer wish to change him or her, or the relationship, or the past. Instead, I wish to change myself (the only thing I can change) so that I can become kinder to myself and relieve myself from their insensitivity and jackass-ness.
What?—you might ask? No need to forgive? How can that be? Maybe my story will help clarify.
About ten years ago, a member of my blood family chose to take narcotics, drink alcohol and attempt to rape me. He denied that it happened and that he was high.
My perspective on this was not that I need to forgive him. Rather, I needed to accept him. He was and is who he is and behaved as he did. Why waste my time judging him or trying to change him or hoping that he would admit or apologize? Doing any of those things would just be a way to show the world my pain—pointing at it, and saying “Look! I’m hurt! I’m abused! My life is hard!” By doing that I would be allowing myself to continually be a victim to him and the experience. It would be alive within me, every day.
I’m not saying that I didn’t feel hurt and disappointment. Of course I did! Mostly because the chances of ever having a healthy relationship with him was, most probably, non-existent. I grieved this loss for about a year.
However, I chose to accept him and his behavior. Not that it was OK or that I should pretend it didn’t happen or allow it to happen again. Instead, I chose to accept him, and was left with the empowered ability to quit blaming him for how I felt and start making my changes. I chose to have a final conversation with him by phone, and said, “If you choose to get clean and want to have a good relationship, you know where I am. Otherwise, it’s best for me to not be involved with you.”
“What does that mean?” he asked.
“That means that I don’t want to have anything to do with you while you are an addict. No communication. It’s not good for me.”
Sure, doing this was hard! It was hard to accept that he would choose to be an addict over having a healthy relationship with me and himself. And hard to know that he would not have me as a confidant during times when he contemplated suicide, because he did–often. Hard for me to accept that he might choose to die instead of get clean.
However, for me, acceptance of him and his choices, AND responsibility to myself and my health, safety and joy, was a good choice. I have no anger—because I accept him for who he is. I have no pain, because I accept responsibility for creating joyful life for myself—which includes being responsible for choosing respectful, joyful people in my “inner circle.”
BONUS: Acceptance = No anger
When we are in complete acceptance of a person and/or situation, it is not possible to be angry. Anger and acceptance cannot coexist. The great news is, each of us can choose to accept and change the way that WE handle our lives.
The other side of the coin
If you have been the “wrong-doer” and seek “forgiveness” or “acceptance” from someone else, you may wish to consider the following.
What are your intentions? Many of the addicts I work with have “wronged” their family and friends. When they painfully share with me that they have asked for forgiveness for their “wrongdoings,” but have not received it, I ask them, “Why do you want them to forgive you?” Most of the time, they want things to “go back to the way they were” before the “wrongdoing.” They also want the person or situation to heal in every direction instantly after being forgiven. For example, they may have stolen from a woman, asked her forgiveness, and expected that after she forgave them, that her parents and friends, who were also involved, would also be salved and healed and the relationship that they had with them would be “returned to normal.”
When we seek forgiveness, it is important to remember that the person from whom we seek it has the right to react in any way that he or she chooses. And, if that person does choose to accept us, and “forgive” us for the “wrongdoing,” that does NOT mean that we are exonerated or excused from a possibly long road of showing the “victim” and their families that we are not the same person we were AND that we will NEVER behave that way again. When we, as “wrongdoers,” accept our responsibility for what we have done, it’s best we also accept the responsibility to repair all the “fallout” from our mistake—with faith that healing will happen in due time and for as long as it takes.
What say ye?
Please share your thoughts and feelings about forgiveness and acceptance, so we may learn and grow together!
Always with love,