Forgiveness as a process . . . .
THE HUMAN DILEMMA
The human race seems to be extremely skilled at causing harm to others - whether it be a family feud, relationship battle, kids in the playground, bullying in the workplace, conflict with a neighbour or warring with another country. A quick re-visit of world history, family history (the old skeletons in family closets that we could never speak of), church history to name a few - the reality is we have been a people in one conflict or another, in the battlefields fighting or our backs turned in cold war standoffs. (Not fighting physically but ignoring and not communicating with the other country).
ABSURD? INSANE OR AN ACT OF SELF COMPASSION?
To be forgiving when you have been on the receiving end of an attack from another / others or when we are suffering the consequences of a totally unjust act does seem absurd. We also can often cause harm to ourselves in the causing pain scenario.
Even suggesting forgiving people who have deeply hurt us, our family or friends with harmful words spoken, physical, emotional or mental violence received, arguing over beliefs-politics finances or cruel abuses dished out causes within us outrage, hurt shock and long-term suffering. The act of applying forgiveness to a gaping, open wound doesn't just seem absurd but impossible.
If you have been the victim of childhood trauma or abuse . . . or
If you have been the parents of a child abused or mistreated . . . or
If you have been physically attacked and injured by another . . .
If you have been cheated on by your partner or treated unfairly by your employer and lost your job... it is hard to consider the factoring in of forgiveness when the sweetness of revenge, resentment or bitterness fuels or consumes our waking moments, conversations and every thought.
My own issues of unforgiveness regarding paedophilia within the churches globally, the amount of blatant ongoing sexual abuse within some of the most respected organisations has left me reeling, angry and outraged... so I am not theorising here, as forgiveness is a hard pill to swallow when everything within me is imploding regarding these injustices. I am aware of the red hot fire within that has settled somewhat over time, but is smouldering like a fire concealed under ashes. I know it is there!
This larger global issue does not include all the little personal outrages that I could allow to consume me either. But I am a tried and true advocate of the forgiveness process as I have applied it in my life. For me, it really does work towards becoming fully human and fully alive.
This smouldering outrage has caused me to view perhaps a vital piece of unravelling of what forgiveness looks like. For me, a vital part of this process is a 'timing' that needs to be factored into the process. Because another suite of issues arise if we forgive too quickly.
In order to understand what forgiveness is, lets examine what forgiveness is not.
WHAT FORGIVENESS IS NOT
Forgiveness does NOT mean that:
- We will feel like doing it
- It will be easy
- We must forgive quickly
- We forget the hurt/betrayal/ abuse/damage ….
- We have to trust them again
- We have to be friendly with them again
- They have to become part of our lives (it may not be safe or wise to do so)
- We make light of the hurt – as if it didn’t hurt us
Forgiveness is defined as “a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you or loved ones regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.”
Forgiving others is essential for spiritual, emotional and mental growth. Our experience of someone who has hurt us once, is now nothing more than a thought or feeling that we carry around. These thoughts of resentment, anger, and hatred represent slow, debilitating energies that dis-empower us, if we continue to let these thoughts occupy our headspace. If we can release them, we can know more peace.
Forgiving someone does not make us weaker persons. At the same time, it does not mean we have to have that person in our lives. It merely allows us to release the anger, resentment and hurt - as we release a pressure valve that has reached overload.
Forgiveness is like breaking out of the chains holding us back in the past and sets us free from the heaviness and weight of them. When we are unforgiving and carry animosity, we feed the innermost core of the conflict that keeps our pain alive. If we suffocate our hearts and our underlying being with anger - our dreams actually slowly but certainly die and so will our interior grow hard and cold. The most authentic and courageous way to allow our innermost being (soul) to freely breathe, is to forgive. Forgiveness is actually a kindness to self in the long run.
A tremendous example of extreme forgiveness can be seen on this link:
It is a brave, courageous almost paradoxical thing to do - to embark on this forgiveness process. As time progresses, and we make a decisions to be willing (even if we don't feel like it), our inner-being can fill with a care, understanding or kindness emotion rather than the rage of anger and we can actually move on with our lives unencumbered by hatred, resentment or bitterness. That, my friends is forgiveness! It is like having an extreme make-over for the soul (and far less costly than plastic surgery)!
By eventually taking all our anger and hatred away, that blocks our way to full life enjoyment & freedom and replacing it with love (kindness, care or consideration) is the most healing act a human can ever do. The people of this world do not need more revenge, but in essence, what we all need is love. As it has been said: "To err is human, to forgive, divine".
We may need the help of the divine to assist us on our forgiveness journey and telling our story to a trusted 'other' or a spiritual care counsellor can be very beneficial.
Most importantly, we need to remember that we can forgive the people or person who has hurt us deeply, but that doesn’t mean they need to stay in our lives.
We also need to follow through on our own need to forgive ourselves for ....... with extended self -compassion or kindness to self. But that is for another blog....
Disclaimer: These are my own thoughts and opinions in this article.