FORGIVENESS ISN’T ALWAYS EASY

Do you struggle with anger? Do you struggle with bitterness? Do you often have thoughts of revenge? Does forgiveness seem impossible? Then you probably have an issue with unforgiveness.

You have 2 choices in life around handling “offenses”

  1. You can hold on to anger, bitterness, and thoughts of revenge

Or

  1. You can embrace forgiveness and move forward.

Unforgiveness is definitely something that can keep you chained to the past and prevent you from living in freedom.

cartoon girl in chains resulting from not forgiving

 What is forgiveness?

Forgiveness is generally described as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment toward a person or persons who have harmed you, regardless if they deserve or want it.

Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different.It’s accepting the past for what it was and using this moment in time to help yourself move forward. Erinlovelyartista.tumblr

Why forgive?

First off, forgiving another person is something that most benefits you. There are powerful reasons to forgive.

Holding on to

  • Anger
  • Rage
  • Resentment
  • Deep hurt

does greater harm to you than the original offense. It links you to the person who wronged you.

Forgiveness:

  • Promotes our growth and happiness.
  • Frees us to live in the moment.
  • Allows a person to move past anger and vengeance.
  • Allows you to regain your power.
  • Brings back good physical and mental health.
  • Allows for healthier relationships.
  • Brings a life with less stress, anxiety and hostility.
  • Improves one’s self-esteem.
  • Can lower blood pressure.
  • Can improve a person’s heart health.
  • Enables a person to embrace peace, joy, hope and gratitude

I have a blog on Gratefulness.

cartoon drawing of girl thinking forgiving yourself helps you get unstuck

Consequences of unforgiveness

Grudge – A persistent feeling of ill will or resentment resulting from a past injury. To resent, feel aggrieved, bitter about, be annoyed about, be angry about, be displeased about, be resentful of, and take exception to.

When we hold on to anger and bitterness we are harmed far more than the offender with those emotions.

Holding a grudge results in;

  • Reliving the offense and keeps you living in the past.
  • Holding on to anger only brings you down.
  • You hand over your power to the offender when you hold on to anger and resentment.
  • The bitterness and anger you feel will seep into all your other relationships.
  • You will become depressed and anxious.
  • You will be closing yourself off to valuable and enriching connections with others.
  • You will eventually lose meaning and purpose in your live.
  • You will be at odds with your spiritual beliefs.

Holding a grudge doesn’t make you strong; it makes you bitter.

Forgiving doesn’t make you weak; it sets you free. Dave Willis

What forgiveness in not

FORGIVENESS IS NOT A DENIAL OF THE OFFENSE.

Forgiveness is not denial. You are not “sweeping the offense under the rug”.

Denial prevents authentic forgiveness.

You must admit what has happened or what is happening is wrong.

You must face that it hurts so that you have something specific to forgive.

It is not the time for a general “forgive them for all the things they have done.”

This general statement will never dislodge that anger attached to the specifics that have happened in your life.

cartoon girl sweeping offenses under the rug, this is not forgiveness

FORGIVENESS IS NOT A MAGIC WAND THAT MAKES THE PAIN GO AWAY

Forgiveness is not a magic formula that will make all the pain disappear. On the flip side because you still feel emotional hurt does not mean you have not forgiven.

Though forgiveness will not immediately erase all the pain you feel from the offense, the process of forgiveness does enable you to stop taking the sharp spear of the offense and thrusting them in to your own heart.

cartoon girl holding magic wand, this is not forgiveness

FORGIVENESS DOES NOT MEAN THAT YOU FORGET THE OFFENSE.

It is not “forgive and forget”. To forgive means you do remember the offense. Many people think to forgive we must forget the offense. That would mean that we would have to remove emotionally significant events from of our memories.

First of all, we cannot do that in a healthy way.

Secondly, remembering emotionally significant events even when very painful can have benefits to our lives.

Good memories help shape who we are and our view of life. Similarly, negative events can add to our growth and develop our convictions about life.

Trying to forget an offense would likely dull your senses and establish blind spots in your life. Until we come face to face with the cost of the offense and what the price we had to pay for, we will not be able to give true forgiveness.

FORGIVENESS DOES NOT LET THE OFFENDER OFF THE HOOK

When you forgive someone you are not excusing the offense or minimizing it.

Some people worry if they forgive the offender it will be like they are getting away with the offense.

You haven’t let them “off the hook” rather it “unhooks” you from the situation.

You disconnect yourself from the offense and you are the one set free.

Forgiveness does not release the offender from the responsibility of their actions.

Forgiveness is to set a captive free, then to discover you were the captive.

Neil Anderson.

This commitment is difficult because of the emotional preference to maintain an edge over the wrong does.

cartoon girl slipping off big hook because she forgave

FORGIVENESS IS NOT EASY AND IT IS OFTEN A PROCESS

Forgiveness is an act of the will, a deliberate choice that is usually not accompanied by feelings of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is not easy or pain-free. For many of us, it will be agonizing business to forgive. In the midst of your deepest pain, you forgive. You look your pain straight in the eyes and say, “I hurt so badly, you nearly killed me, but I choose to forgive you.”

That is a courageous and loving decision but we will still have a battle with our emotions. Our emotions do not easily yield to our mind’s logic and they will return uninvited.

So even after the decision has been made to set aside our pain and forgive a person you will need to recognize the need to recommit to the original decision each time bitter feelings arise.

Forgiveness is a process because often it requires letting go of the past link by link.

For example, a husband is addicted to pornography.

  • There is the initial forgiveness of the act.
  • Then you realize that the addiction has taken its toll on your self-esteem another link in the forgiveness.
  • You become aware of the devastation on your children because their father is an addict, another link in the chain.

cartoon girl holding some links with some broken off on the floor, illustrating forgiveness

FORGIVENESS IS NOT THE SAME AS RECONCILIATION

Forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same things. You may forgive the offender and never be reconciled with them.

Regardless if reconciliation is possible, forgiveness must be applied to every situation in our lives for us to form and maintain our freedom from bondage to anger, bitterness, self-pity and resentment.

Forgiveness is for our benefit. It takes our eyes off the past and forces us to look at the future.

The difference between forgiveness and reconciliation;

  • Forgiveness takes place in the heart of the offended.
  • Forgiveness is not a result of the offender’s show of repentance and remorse.
  • Forgiveness is the first step in reconciliation.
  • Reconciliation takes place between two people.
  • You can forgive without reconciliation but it is impossible to be reconciled without forgiveness.
  • Repentance on the part of the offender is the second part of reconciliation.

Repentance is more than “I am sorry” it is sincere grief and remorse over one’s actions and a determination to change the offending behavior.

Today I decided to forgive you. Not because you apologized, or because you acknowledged the pain that you caused me but because my soul deserves peace. Najwa Zebian

 FORGIVENESS DOES NOT MEAN YOU GIVE THE OFFENDER PERMISSION TO HARM YOU AGAIN

If the offense is of a physically or mentally abusive nature you must take appropriate measures to protect yourself.

Do not allow a cycle of abuse to start or continue. If you are in danger, get help. If the abuse is verbal, learn skills to cope with those messages of abuse.

Forgiveness allows you to confront neutrally. Your eyes are off yourself and on the other person.

Confrontation says you are of value, not a victim to be used and abused.

FORGIVENESS IS NOT RATIONALIZATION

You aren’t choosing forgiveness when you think thoughts like

  • He/she didn’t mean it.
  • They had a bad day.
  • They had a rough life too.
  • There wasn’t anything they could do.
  • They didn’t know what was happening

Rationalization lets us hide from the truth by making excuses for those who have hurt us either passively or actively. You can only forgive as deeply as you have acknowledged the offense.

HOW DO YOU PRACTICE FORGIVENESS?

We need to see our ability to forgive our offender is not contingent upon their behavior. It is a choice.

To be able to forgive we must let go of;

  1. Our rights – to be treated with respect and love
  2. Our expectations of others’ behavior.
  3. Our desire to punish or hurt the offender.

Pam and Bill Farrell in their book, Love, Honor, and Forgive, give six statements of forgiveness..

  1. I forgive _____________ for ____________.

(because we are hurt by individual acts we need to be specific in naming the offense)

  1. I admit ____________ was wrong.

Being aware of the wrongness of another’s behavior will enable you to see that the troubles are not your fault.

  1. I do not expect (name of person) to make up for what he has done.

Don’t expect an apology.

  1. I will not use (name the offense) to define who (name the offender) is.

When we define a person by the offense we make the problem bigger than life. We do not want to live with “he ruined my life” which gives the offender the ability to determine the state of our lives.

  1. I will not manipulate (name of the offender) with this offense.

To manipulate is an attempt at emotional blackmail. It is an attempt to protect yourself from the influence they have on you. Every act of manipulation confirms they still have control of your life. This approach to life shows that you are still afraid that you might be hurt again so you are trying to get to them before they can get to you. This leads to an endless cycle of self-protection and you will never enjoy living in freedom.

  1. I will not allow (name the offense) to stop my personal growth.

Do not let the offenses of people dictate the course of your life. Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking if we don’t get our life together we are punishing the other person.

WHAT IF THE PERSON DOESN’T CHANGE

Getting the other person to change their behavior is not the point of forgiveness. Forgiveness is more about how it can change your life.

Forgiving is a decision regarding a debt. When I forgive, I decide that I am not going to attempt to collect a debt that you owe me. I am not going to punish you in an attempt to make me feel better.

So forgiveness is something you do for yourself. There are numerous benefits, physical and emotional to the one forgiving. There are many misunderstandings about forgiveness.

  • Unforgiveness keeps you in bondage to the offender.
  • It is not a denial of the offense.
  • It is not a magic wand the makes the pain go away immediately.
  • It does not mean you forget the offense.
  • It is not easy and is often a process.
  • It is not reconciliation.
  • It is not permission to harm you again.
  • It is not rationalizing away the offense.

I hope this helps. If you need personal help click this link to schedule a 45 minute Free Sample Coaching Call. 

This is one of a 6 part series on Getting Unstuck in life. Here are the other accompanying blogs.

HOW TO GET UNSTUCK IN LIFE WITH 5 EASY STEPS

HOW TO DREAM AGAIN IN 10 EASY STEPS

SETTING HEALTHY BOUNDARIES IN 10 STEPS

SELF-TALK A POWERFUL TOOL FOR GOOD OR BAD

THE BENEFITS OF EXPRESSING GRATEFULNESS

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