- My Books
- Contact Me
- List of Posts
- Your Favourites
This morning I stumbled across “What’s the Point of Forgiveness” on BBC1 (catch it on iPlayer if you’re in the UK) which forms part of the Easter schedule and explores the history of it including from a religious perspective and what it takes to put into practice. What I watched was really interesting particularly when it covered the period after Apartheid in South Africa where measures were taken to help huge numbers of people work through forgiveness and a moving interview with the widow of the co-pilot of the first plane to hit the Twin Towers.
Of course it got me thinking about the many readers of this site who express the struggles they have with forgiveness or the gradual process of moving forward and beyond the anger, hurt, and pain of what’s happened.
I believe that true forgiveness isn’t really that ‘easy’ to do.
Anybody can say ‘sorry’ but not actually mean it as an expression of regret and sympathy with what you’ve experienced as a result of their actions, and equally saying the words ‘I forgive you’ doesn’t automatically mean that you’ve forgiven if mentally and in the actions that follow, you haven’t.
I also believe that as humans, we’re pretty assumptive people which when we seek to be happier and authentic, we learn that we have to temper this and receive and process feedback to adjust those assumptions where appropriate.
One of the biggest areas of assumptions surrounds being sorry and forgiveness – what many of us don’t realise is that when we allow someone to, for example, press The Reset Button on us, or to come back into our lives, or to start over again, they assume you’ve forgiven them and/or even that you’re sorry.
This is maybe one of the strongest reasons for why when we seek to return to a previously painful relationship, unless you have forgiven and resolved the issues, it’s best not to go back because to restart a relationship that’s been broken does require forgiveness. If you get back together with much of the unresolved hurt and pain taking centre stage with a view to work on forgiving them in the relationship, you’ll likely find yourself being caught short.
But the question still remains of what does forgiveness mean and what does it involve?
It’s not as clear cut and simple as some would like to believe. I speak from personal experience when I say that forgiveness takes ongoing effort and commitment that gradually dissipates as the anger, resentment, hurt, and any other negative emotions about the person and events lose their hold and impact on you. Because that it was what forgiveness ultimately boils down to – letting it go.
Often we have to work with ourselves because we may not have the other person around for closure or even if they are, they may not want to be accountable or ‘debrief’.
While I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen, for most people it takes more than saying ‘I forgive you’ to actually experience genuine forgiveness. It’s a start but we have to think and act in line with that forgiveness.
When people talk about working hard to forgive or working through anger, where it can become confusing is when it feels like the act of forgiveness has to be an active, dominant process in your life – like you have to devote your energies to understanding every ounce of your anger and hurt. Not only are you consumed by reliving your hurt and working on forgiving, but it means that the past overtakes your life.
Almost six years ago, while lying down in my kinesiologists office, she told me that I was full of hurt and resentment that was debilitating me. Just touching on the subject had me wanting to scream and tell her to shut up and I desperately wanted to avoid digging into my pain. I cried hard that day (and in the weeks and months afterwards) but I must admit that acknowledging and feeling my pain, while hurtful, was freeing.
As someone who wasn’t used to feeling all of her feelings and giving validity to them, to feel the good, the bad, and indifferent was mind-blowing – a habit of avoiding feelings (emotional unavailability) makes it very difficult to work through anger.
I didn’t think ‘I forgive you’ but I did consciously acknowledge that while it was OK to be angry and hurt with my father, my mother, this ex and that ex and that my feelings were valid, me not doing what I need to do for myself could only be blamed on those things for so long. I was wary of devoting much more energy to them as I felt it would distract from greater, more constructive purposes.
There’s also that ever present question of So how long will it take for me to reach forgiveness? which is much like So how long will it take for me to get over them? As I didn’t feel I was in any danger of getting any major closure with my parents, putting my eggs in that basket could have me still on their backs today. I figured that if I found myself struggling to move forward that I’d see a therapist or do a load of reading and so far that hasn’t happened.
Instead in those six years I’ve become distracted in and by my own life, where I endeavour to treat me with love, care, trust, and respect. While moving forward, I’ve reserved some space in it for understanding myself and processing what’s happened. Maybe part of the reason why I didn’t go into therapy is because I wrote out my feelings during that period (unsent letters very useful) plus writing Baggage Reclaim has inadvertently been part of that forgiveness process, particularly of myself, and especially because I’ve learned that I’m not alone in my experiences.
You can still move forward one step at a time – you don’t have to wait for a forgiveness ‘feeling’ to puck you in the head.
In fact it’s easier to work through and let go of anger if you don’t have to contend with feeling like you’ve stagnated and derailed your current life and even your future by being consumed with living in the past.
Like getting over a breakup, forgiveness, or as close to it as you’re going to get, just kinda creeps up on you.
One day you realise that you’re not as angry anymore. You haven’t forgotten but it’s not dominating your life because you’re dominating your life by occupying it literally and figuratively and devoting more positive energies to yourself, your life, and others.
Where has my anger and hurt gone? It’s gradually dissipated as my own life has improved, which admittedly wouldn’t have changed in the way that it has if I’d continued to hold onto the security blanket of my pain.
Anger is needed as part of the natural process of working your way through painful experiences. But it’s the working through bit that’s important because if you don’t, it just becomes holding on to anger. I’ve found that clarity has increased over time. If I’d broken my back trying to work out every itty bit of my feelings back then, I don’t think I’d have the clarity right now.
Forgiveness requires a level of patience, just like grieving does. You try to speed it up, you just get increasingly pissed off and stuck.
What I have learned is that you don’t have to tell anyone that you ‘forgive’ them but what’s more important is to forgive yourself because often we’re secretly most angry with ourselves, even if that anger is misplaced. We’re angry for not being able to control something, for not having the last word, for making mistakes, for not treating ourselves as we should, and for not being able to change the past. Sometimes we’re angry for still being angry.
Often when we forgive ourselves and stop trying to control the uncontrollable, the anger lessens towards others although of course we don’t forget. Personally, if I can forgive myself and work hard at getting on with my own life, that’s all I’m worried about because the truth is, most of the people we burn energy up trying to work out forgiveness for aren’t busting down our doors for it. Even if they are, most of the time, they just want you to be done with it so they can feel less discomfort. Ultimately they can wait – but you can’t.
Natalie Lue is the founder and writer of Baggage Reclaim and author of the books Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl, The Dreamer and the Fantasy Relationship and more. Learn more about her here and you can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter – @baggagereclaim .
Add to favorites
- You Don’t Have To Gain Agreement Or Acknowledgment In Order To Let Go & Move On
- Getting Stuck On ‘Connection’ & Why I’m Working On Letting Go (Again)
- Don’t mistake awareness of the past with holding a grudge or a necessity to press the Reset Button
- The Life Lessons: How relationships teach us more about ourselves
- Can You Forgive You?
Get Notified When There’s A New Post
My Latest Video: Moving Past Disinterest
My Book On Facebook
- Digs on Our imaginations can do a very good job of scaring us and creating Dynasty levels of drama in our heads
- Lorraine on Do you have an Overactive Guilt Thyroid? Why it’s time to lose the misplaced sense of obligation over birthday greetings to exes, text replies etc
- Bethd on Do you have an Overactive Guilt Thyroid? Why it’s time to lose the misplaced sense of obligation over birthday greetings to exes, text replies etc
- Genki on Do you have an Overactive Guilt Thyroid? Why it’s time to lose the misplaced sense of obligation over birthday greetings to exes, text replies etc
- Little Star on Our imaginations can do a very good job of scaring us and creating Dynasty levels of drama in our heads
- Rosie on Do you have an Overactive Guilt Thyroid? Why it’s time to lose the misplaced sense of obligation over birthday greetings to exes, text replies etc
- micheyl on Our imaginations can do a very good job of scaring us and creating Dynasty levels of drama in our heads
- ShepN7 on Our imaginations can do a very good job of scaring us and creating Dynasty levels of drama in our heads
- LadyL on Our imaginations can do a very good job of scaring us and creating Dynasty levels of drama in our heads
- Tinkerbell on Don’t try to get romantic partners to step in as parental replacements – it will only lead to pain
Listen To Posts On Soundcloud
Most Popular Posts
- Letting Go of a Relationship…That Doesn’t Exist
- 30 Signs That Someone Isn’t Interested Or Is Half-Heartedly Interested In You: How To Avoid Being a Passing Time Candidate
- Breaking Up and Moving On By Cutting Contact. Part 2
- Attraction: 4 key things that make you attractive…or unattractive…
- He’s with someone else – Why her and not me?
- Advice: Why won’t he contact me?
- Women Who Talk (& Think) Too Much – Wasting time explaining & discussing with men that don’t want to listen
- 10 Core Breakup Boundaries That Every Person Should Live By
- Breaking Up and Moving On By Cutting Contact. Part 1
- Understanding Code Red and Amber behaviour in Relationships
- 12 Core Boundaries To Live By in Life, Dating, & Relationships
- Am I Involved With an Assclown?: How To Spot Someone Who Means You & the Relationship No Good
- I’m Not Good Enough – The world through a low self-esteem lens
- Does my ex Mr Unavailable or assclown miss me?
- Is He Going to Leave His Wife/Girlfriend For Me? Part Two
Join Baggage Reclaim on Twitter & Facebook
I'm also on Google+.
I’m On PinterestMore Pins »
- Our imaginations can do a very good job of scaring us and creating Dynasty levels of drama in our heads
- Do you have an Overactive Guilt Thyroid? Why it’s time to lose the misplaced sense of obligation over birthday greetings to exes, text replies etc
- Don’t try to get romantic partners to step in as parental replacements – it will only lead to pain
- If you don’t know or haven’t met each other yet but they’re asking to meet you late at night, it’s not for cocoa and a chat
- The Replacement Mentality: But WHY did they go back to their toxic ex when they could have had me?
Copyright NoticeCopyright Natalie Lue 2005-2013 All rights reserved. Written permission is required from the author to include posts in their entirety on your site. If you use a quote or portion of a post(s), ensure that my work is credited. Copying my posts and changing some of the words is still plagarism. Claiming my ideas or opinions as yours, is also major breach of copyright.
Most Favorited Posts
- Florence Nightingale: Why needing to fix/heal/help in the name of love is unhealthy (P1) (28452)
- Revisited: Are you on standby? Why you're not Mister / Miss Last Minute Option (1014)
- Do not engage: why we don't have to keep riding the same train to destination unhappiness (816)
- Revisited: Understanding what your trust points were in your shady relationship (415)
- It's Not A Waste - An excerpt from The No Contact Rule (2nd edition) (343)