Forgiveness is the crown jewel of keeping your life (and your relationships) in balance! Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself. It is not something you do “for” someone else.
There is nothing so bad that cannot be forgiven. Nothing! I know that may be a pill that is hard to swallow, and it’s true! Non-forgiveness keeps you in the struggle. Forgiveness is difficult, forgetting can be downright impossible for some people. It’s never easy, but the benefits of forgiving can be powerful. Being willing to forgive can bring a sense of peace and well-being. It lifts anxiety and delivers you from depression. It can enhance your self-esteem and give you hope.
You have heard that you must forgive and forget. You’re kidding, right? The ugly truth… forgive and forget is a myth!
“Nothing fixes a thing so intently in the memory as the wish to forget it.” ~ Cat Patrick
When you decide to commit to forgiveness, people usually say, not yet, but when they finally do, they must then hold on to forgiveness. You may never forget AND you can choose to forgive. You can forgive and tomorrow you may feel the pain all over again. As life goes on and you choose to remember and feel the pain, then is the time to once again remember that you have already forgiven. Mentally forgive again if necessary, then move forward.
Charlotte vanOyen Witvliet, PhD, associate professor of psychology at Hope College, says, “Forgiveness does not involve a literal forgetting. Forgiveness involves remembering graciously. The forgiver remembers the true though painful parts, but without the embellishment of angry adjectives and adverbs that stir up contempt. Harboring unforgiveness comes at an emotional and a physiological cost. Cultivating forgiveness may cut these costs.”
“As someone once said, ‘What you resist, persists.’ So what’s the answer? It’s not resist, it’s release! We confront the memory or habit and we gently release it in the wind to blow away. We just let go, and replace it with the thoughts we want. Then when it shows up in our thoughts, we simply release it again. And again. Without the emotional energy on it, we don’t get plugged in and we allow it to disintegrate.” ~ Wes Hopper, author, speaker
The smart thing to do is to look for the lesson the situation presented. Learn from it. Do your best to never let yourself be in a position of allowing it to happen again. Develop a “student not victim” mentality. What were you being tested for? Patience? Compassion? Resilience? Forgiveness? Open-mindedness? What strengths must you develop further? Now consciously go out there and develop them!
By the way… you do not have to forgive. Recognizing that you don’t have to forgive might bring temporary relief. Forgiveness is only and always a choice.
To help you achieve resolution, Jeanne Safer, PhD, a psychotherapist and the author of Forgiving and Not Forgiving, offers a three-step process. The first step involves re-engagement — a decision to think through what happened. The second step, recognition, means looking at every feeling you may have about the injury. “You ask yourself, ‘why do I want revenge?’” Safer said. “Revenge is based on powerlessness and it’s doomed to failure.”
The final step involves reinterpretation of the injury, including an attempt to understand the person who caused it. “This is where forgivers and nonforgivers divide,” Safer said. “Sometimes you’re not able to reconnect with the person, but if you go through this process, at least you won’t be a victim. What’s important is working it through and achieving resolution, whether it leads to forgiveness or not. Forgiveness involves wishing the other well. You’re already there if you don’t wish them ill,” Safer says.
Carrie Fisher quote: “Resentment is the poison you swallow hoping the other person will die.” Work to let go of any resentment you may hold. It takes no strength to let go… only courage.
BONUS Article: Forgiveness… What’s it for?
Copyright © 2012 – Larry James. This idea is adapted from Larry’s books, “How to Really Love the One You’re With: Affirmative Guidelines for a Healthy Love Relationship,” “LoveNotes for Lovers: Words That Make Music for Two Hearts Dancing” and “Red Hot LoveNotes for Lovers.” Larry James is a professional speaker, author, relationship coach and an award winning nondenominational Wedding Officiant. He performs the most “Romantic” wedding ceremony you will find anywhere. Something NEW about relationships is posted every 4th day on this Relationships BLOG.
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