Part One of a Three Part Series
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, titled “Forgiving Ourself” and “Forgiving Life (God),” will be available in the following weeks.
To watch this week’s article with additional, bonus content on the Will You Grow Show, please click here and subscribe to the show here.
Have we been wronged?
Many of us may have been “wronged” by someone at some point—some of us more violently and comprehensively than others. As we look at our life, it is apparent that what we do with the pain of feeling “wronged” and hurt will deeply affect our ability to succeed, be present, breathe, feel good, and enjoy our lives.
No offense intended
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.
The purpose of this article
My purpose in writing this article 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, and so many of our feelings. That we find our way to freedom. 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 the situation fully so we learn, transform, and don’t repeat it. However, there comes a point when the thinking and feeling about the past becomes detrimental, unproductive, and damaging to our wellbeing. Each of us can determine at what point the thinking and feeling “go south.”
Are we ruminating or fuming?
How much is too much thinking and feeling about painful subjects? To find out, we might consider if we’ve learned all we can from the experience. Are we consciously choosing to think about it, or is it just thoughtless habit? We might also take 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 to me, 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 can 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, so I could free myself. He was and is who he is and behaved as he did. Why waste my time judging him, 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!” And, it would keep me powerless to heal and feel better until HE changed. By doing that, I would be allowing myself to continually be a victim to him and the experience. By holding on to that experience, it would be alive within me, every day.
Now, I’m not saying that I didn’t feel wounded, betrayed, and abandoned. Of course I did! Mostly because the chances of ever having a healthy relationship with him and the rest of the family was, most probably, non-existent. I deeply grieved this loss for about a year.
I chose acceptance over forgiveness.
In my situation, 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 getting 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 makes anger vanish
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 self and our life. What will you choose?
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.”
The winding road to the “wrong-doer’s” recovery
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 “wrong-doers,” accept our responsibility for what we have done, it’s best we also accept the responsibility to repair all of the “fallout” from our mistake—for as long as it takes, and with faith that healing will happen, in due time.
What say ye?
Please share your thoughts and feelings about forgiveness and acceptance by commenting below, so we may learn and grow together!
Always with Love,
Q & A
Q. I hate even the idea of forgiving. Yet I know I should do it.
A. I’m not sure there’s a question here, but I hear your feelings. Listen, it’s OK to not be ready. It’s OK to just read and learn about these things. That can be part of your doing. Your preparation to become ready. My question for you is, “Are you willing to be open to the idea of forgiveness?” If so, even this is a step! Just keep going. You don’t want that toxic soup of hate chemicals to stay in your body for long, it just punishes you and can become an illness or disease.
Q. If I forgive my boyfriend, does that mean I have to take him back?
A. No. Those are two, very different choices: a) forgiveness and b) rebuilding a relationship. Forgiveness is not a do over.
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