Updated: Apr 19
Growing in the process of healing.
To forgive is to give up that which has hurt you. The feelings of anger, pain or the need for revenge. It can be felt like a deep relief. Tensions are set free and you can move on with your life. You no longer need revenge or retribution. You are no longer haunted by the pain.
You can't force forgiveness. You can't TRY to forgive. You can't just conjure up forgiveness out of thin air.
The biggest misconception in relation to forgiveness is that you can simply choose to forgive. Many of us approach forgiveness as if it is a red button that you can push. Easy. If you have not pressed it yet, you must either be intellectually challenged or you enjoy stubbornly refusing to "get over it".
Other people want you to forgive because of two reasons. First, it is natural to want people to feel good about themselves. Secondly, it makes people around us uncomfortable if we carry negative feelings around them, especially if these feelings are caused by another person. And most of all, if these feelings are about ourselves. In other words, they want us to change how we feel because they cannot deal with their own negative emotions. Telling someone that they need to forgive is emotional abusive. It is to tell someone to stop feeling how they feel. It is to shame someone for their emotions. If you are telling someone to forgive a specific person, you are invalidating their feelings. You are saying to someone that has been hurt to just accept it.
You want to forgive because of two reasons. The first one is the natural need to feel good. If you feel that you cannot get over something, feeling angry and vengeful, you are not feeling well. Secondly, forgiveness is considered ethical and not forgiving someone is considered bad. To be able to feel like you are a good person you feel the need to forgive. But this is not true if it is ourselves we need to forgive. Subconsciously, we think we are bad if we forgive ourselves. That we should never forgive ourselves, for having hurt ourselves or others, because if we do, we fear we might cause harm again.
The primary reason why you cannot force forgiveness, is because a lack of forgiveness is caused by painful emotions. You cannot just choose to not feel a certain way. Feelings do not work like that. Your feelings do not lie. They are reflection of a perception of the person/ incident. So to feel different you have to completely shift your perspective. And unfortunately, changing perspectives is not either something you can just choose to do. For example: a drunk driver hits you and you become paralyzed. It takes a lot to see your injury as a blessing instead of a curse.
When we have been hurt we often repress and deny the part of us that feels those "raw" emotions and find a coping strategy to look "behind everything". We cannot heal if we are not willing to admit who and where we are. To surpass this is like breaking a bone, but not admitting it. You put a bandaid on and try to pretend everything is as it was before.
It takes a very keen observation to discern if someone has truly forgiven or if they have created a false persona, repressing parts of themselves. When we turn away from the pain we are abandoning ourselves. We contradict what we try to avoid. True forgiveness happens when every part of us can move on and feel good by doing it, not just some parts of us.
But how can we get to a point of forgiveness?
1. When you are in a place of pain, get the idea of forgiveness out of your head. Think about how you can heal instead. Forgiveness means that a deep healing needs to take place. During the process of healing, forgiveness occurs naturally. Forgiveness happens as a result of taking previous steps of healing.
When something is left as an open wound, it displays a pattern we do not like. Because of this we can drastically make the healing process easier by changing an unwanted pattern to a wanted one. This usually the opposite one. To heal is to experience the opposite. Shifting perspectives.
If we have a broken bone, we change the pattern to mending/fixing it. If we feel humiliated we change it to a feeling of value. If we are assaulted, healing means getting treated with love. If we feel powerless, healing is to feel powerful. If we feel stuck, healing is to move.
Now that you know that healing begins by changing a pattern, think of a situation where you felt unable to forgive. Look at the pain you experienced. What would the opposite pattern be? Make this your goal, not forgiveness. Sometimes the changing of patterns can happen easily and in no time whatsoever. Other times it is a process involving changes of several beliefs and it takes time.
If your adult relationships are unhealthy as a result of difficult relationships with your parents in your past, it is a sign that you have not yet forgiven them. However, when you are in a healthy relationship, you have changed your original pattern into the opposite one. Therefore, you have forgiven your parents. You don't need anything from your them anymore.
2. You have to stop resisting the place you are in, stop expecting to feel better immediately and to forgive. Instead, admit where you are right now. Accept that reality is what it is. It is not about about liking the place you are in. Accept how you feel. Instead of running from those difficult feelings, be completely present with them. Listen to what your feelings are telling you. With every feeling that arises you need to:
#1. Be aware of the feeling.
#2. View the feeling as valid and important.
#3. Listen to the feeling with empathy and try to understand why you feel the way you do. Feel safe to be vulnerable with yourself without judging.
#4. Admit and validate your feelings. This can mean finding words to name the feeling. You do not need to validate that the thoughts you have about your feelings are correct, but your feelings are still valid. For example, if the thought behind the feeling is: "I feel worthless", you should not accept the thought as being true. Instead you could say:"I understand how this could make me feel worthless. Anyone can feel like this."
#5. Allow yourself to feel and fully experience your feelings as they are before trying to improve how you feel. That is unconditional love. Experience your feelings without trying to "fix" them.
#6. It is first after your feelings have been validated and completely felt, that you can strategize to improve your emotions. Find new ways to look at a situation and improve how you feel.
When you accept a reality in relation to something that has hurt you, you often feel a sense of grief. Grief is a process you need to let yourself feel completely. Do not run from it. There is often a sense of loss in being hurt.
The reason why you feel so vengeful and angry is because it is an improvement from the loss of power you feel when someone hurts you. If you devote your life trying to resist what happened to you, when you can not accept the reality as it is, you live your life drifting towards what once was, instead of putting energy into creating something better.
3. Forgiveness occurs after finding a perspective that completely changes the most wounded aspect of your situation. This perspective can be found everywhere. For example, let us say say you got hurt by your mother. If someone says: "Her childhood was worse than yours. She did the best she could." This perspective will not help. Instead it could make you feel worse because it invalidates your feelings. What you have to do is find a perspective without invalidating your feelings, finding a new way to look at the situation to make you feel relief. However, the perspective that works will be different for everyone.
To force forgiveness out of someone is like saying to a paralyzed person to just stand up and run. Impossible.
4. Compassion and empathy. This step should not be done prematurely. To try and get someone to feel compassion for someone who have hurt them is offensive. It is liking asking a person to open their heart to someone who has broken it. Compassion should not be pressured onto someone to make them the "better person", instead they need to want to forgive. Compassion is a form of bonding because it happens when you feel a connection to someone else. When you feel compassion, you feel grief, knowledge and worry about someone else's suffering. Think of a time where you watch watched a movie or a show where a character experienced something that made them suffer. You immediately felt a connection to the character. You related to them and understood what they needed. This is compassion. Compassion and empathy naturally occurs when we relate to someone else. Think of this moment and how you feel when you feel compassion for someone else.
5. Gratitude and appreciation. Just like the step of compassion, this step should never be rushed. If you try to influence someone to feel gratitude and appreciation for how they were hurt, it is offensive. It is like kissing the hand that hits them. This step often happens naturally on the healing journey. When someone is ready to open up to the perspective of "how has this situation helped me?". Try to find something positive that has come come from the painful experience.
6. Meet the step to forgiveness called "refusal to forgive". Bitterness is a large part of forgiveness. You cannot be completely aware of your bitterness without being aware of the subconscious positive intention behind it. To forgive or let go is to having to let go of the unfulfilled need to be treated justly. It feels almost like betrayal of the self. Therefore, to honor your pain as well as your needs to be treated fairly, you will not forgive. Bitterness can be a wall used to protect yourself, helping your needs of being met.
You can keep bitterness both as a boundary and a personal reminder , saying "I will never let anyone do this to me ever again". Even the self, "the ego", feels good playing the role of the victim (the good and just one) without someone else in the role of the perpetrator (the bad and unjust one). Often times in relationships, especially in close ones, the other person will be put in a position to "make it up to you". This position holds less power and guarantees a fair treatment in the future. You can wrongly hold this against someone to get something from them or make yourself feel safe.
Everyone want to get better and heal. You do not have to force them to heal quicker People do not feel good when they hold onto anger, bitterness or feelings of vengeance. Therefore, people tend to naturally gravitate towards forgiveness.
Ask yourself: "What do I need to let go of this situation? What do I need to forgive?" When you forgive someone, it is like releasing a prisoner, only to realize it was you that was held captive all along. Happiness and inner peace is in the change of perspectives. If you remove yourself far enough from the perspective of pain, you will come to recognize that we are all victims. But you cannot force this process. You cannot force forgiveness.
To forgive is not to forget. You cannot lie to yourself that you have reached a place you are not in. You cannot forgive yourself just because you know you would feel better. Forgiveness means to heal the pain in your life. You cannot forgive something until you have accepted it. Everyone has the capacity to forgive. Everyone has the capacity of love.
The content is based on the video below. Check it out!