When it comes to forgiveness, we tend to overcomplicate it. We sometimes act as if we’re a higher power that can bestow forgiveness on people while refusing to forgive ourselves. Our conflicted relationship with forgiveness results in us feeling angry, wounded, and stuck in a disappointment cycle.
Forgiveness is about letting go which only comes about with perspective. This isn’t something we can have if we’re still blaming ourselves for why something went down. We won’t forgive if we put up walls as a way to defend us against ever being ‘back there’ again.
It’s like, This person and that person hurt me/let me down/pissed me off/won’t become who I want/won’t amend their behaviour so that I can be in less pain without having to take assertive boundaried action. OK, so I’m going to hold on to my anger or shame me so that the situation can never happen again. No one is gonna make a mug out of me again.
We take, for example, a breakup and the clumsy, crass, and yes, possibly outrageous things that were said or done, and a wall goes up to filter out the possibility of hurt. This blocks us from feeling and being vulnerable again, making us emotionally unavailable.
Walls are a block to intimacy.
Consciously or not, our actions defend us against the possibility of being screwed over. We do this by reminding us of the past and pushing on our fears. Of course, this means that we can’t move on (because we’re catering to the past). And so the pattern continues. Supergluing us to the past with guilt, anger, blame, shame, mistakes, and ‘failures’ compounds the pain.
Our feelings are valid. It’s what we do with them inwardly and outwardly that poses the problem.
Using feelings to determine we’re inferior and then guiding our next actions with that judgementexacerbates the issue. Feelings that could have dissipated with compassion and boundaries much sooner, last for weeks, months or even years.
- Forgiveness does not mean that you are condoning someone else’s actions.
- It doesn’t mean that you have to trust them again or to the same degree as you did before. That doesn’t mean that you haven’t forgiven–it means that you have moved on and adjusted accordingly. Forgiveness never means ‘press the reset button‘.
- Forgiving somebody doesn’t oblige them to change.
- Forgiveness definitely doesn’t mean that you have to let them back into your life or engage with them in the same way. This is especially so if they’ve taken advantage of or even abused you.
To be clear: not letting someone back in your life to the extent they were before isn’t “bearing a grudge”.
It’s acknowledging what’s happened on both sides. There’s an adjustment so that you’re no longer open to it from them (or from anyone else for that matter). It doesn’t mean that you are owning their behaviour in any way, but it does mean that instead of blaming or relying on something outside of your control to change your feelings or circumstances, you are taking responsibility for how you want to feel and be going forward. You’re also letting them [as a result of what you’re doing] own their behaviour whether they choose to or not [because you’re not owning it and so as a result they’re not being sheltered from it either].
Here’s a very quick way of showing whether a situation is really about forgiveness:
If somebody does you wrong or you have a disagreement (or whatever it is), and you both get on a level about it, each of you forgives the other and moves on, then you both let go. And you know you have because things change in a positive way.
If, however, they do you wrong or you have a disagreement, etc., but you hold on to it and you are in fact sticking around to:
- try to prove a something.
- try to get your worth ‘back’.
- tap into a hidden agenda (righting the wrongs of the past, trying to make them change).
and on top of this, your feelings and opinions about what went down are concealed, you’re not both on a level about the experience (taking responsibility). One or both of you remain the same, or you’ve even become less of who you are (to compensate for the issue and their lack of change). That’s a hell no to the situation being about forgiveness!
And as a bonus, if you move on from this person but you go to the next person/situation and are like, “My boundaries this… and my boundaries that” (no one who has healthy boundaries ever needs to say this) or you tell them what you’re afraid of because of what the other person did or you pretty much act as you did with the other person before the incident(s) or after it, then no, you haven’t forgiven.
We forgive ourselves and others when we strive to be more boundaried.
Boundaries are forgiveness.
When you choose to have healthier boundaries for you then you are showing that you have the perspective to let go of the feelings and thoughts around the anger and hurt of the situation.
Even if your ‘part’ is the bit where you beat you up afterwards for what they did, or you were overgiving to try to prove something about you or to ‘make’ them be/do something, acknowledge it. Then choose a more boundaried course of action that loves, cares for, respects and trusts you in the process.
Don’t want to be open to your boundaries being busted in the same way? Have better boundaries. Don’t build a wall of fear to block out everything; it invites more of what you don’t want.
If you’re giving away your power to feel better about you and a situation, then you’re not being boundaried. Nothing is going to change. It’s like going, “The only contributor to my pain is the other person’s behaviour and/or what they won’t do for me to make how I feel right”. Also, what’s the point in breaking your neck to forgive others when you haven’t made things right with you? All it leads to is resentment and feeling as if you have unpaid debts.
You acknowledging where you not taking care of you made you more open to what someone else was doing, does not mean that you caused their actions.
Acknowledging your unmet needs means that you’re acknowledging that even if you had the most loving of intentions for them, that there might be something in what you were doing that meant that it was not a course of action that was rooted in love, care, trust and respect for you. Golden examples: people pleasing, overgiving, and allowing people to bust your boundaries as a show of your love and loyalty.
Acknowledging what you can learn from a situation and what you could heal and evolve from as a result means that you don’t need to think and act as if you’re under threat all the time because you now have the better boundaries to take care of you.
If being in a situation that hurt you deeply awakened you to the need to have boundaries about something, grab the lesson and run with it. Extrapolate this experience with this person into a life lesson that can help you be a happier you. Healthier boundaries mean that you can’t be in the same space that the old issue existed in with this person (or anyone else).
Improving your boundaries even just a little means that you are not open to whatever the past issue was in the same way. You’re moving on with love and compassion.
PS If you want to learn more about how to have healthier boundaries, check out my 30-day project, Embrace Healthy Boundaries.
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