Do you want to forgive but can’t?
First, the good news! The fact that a part of you even wants to forgive tells me you have already started the process of “forgiveness”. You just have to go a little farther. There’s so much we don’t understand about forgiveness, and too many myths we do believe. Let’s look at a few:
Forgiveness is not a feeling
In the human person, there is usually a war between (1) what we think and believe and (2) how we feel. In the therapeutic Internal Family System (IFS), this same reality would be identified as our hurt, fearful, and protective parts arguing with the calm, confident Core Self which is most connected to God.
Has part of you ever wished someone would get cancer and die? That way they can be out of your life and it would not really be your fault! I thought that once about someone and it was wrong. In my Core Self, I choose not to be that kind of person. It repulses my Core Self to think that I would even THINK about it. But on some days when I am tired and weak and other parts of me are indulging in self-pity, those more emotional parts may take over. I might FEEL like wishing someone would die, but the minute I do, the higher part of me regrets it. It’s our wounded, emotional and protective parts that need to be tamed. (See blog on that HERE)
It’s rooted in the will
You must choose to forgive despite the emotions. Maybe you do it imperfectly, but it’s a start. You don’t have to feel like forgiving, you just DO IT because you know it is right—and you trust that doing right is good. Your Core Self trusts God, and despite other parts of you that doubt, that is the part of yourself in the driver’s seat.
Forgiveness is not always about forgetting
Some offenses need to be remembered because they keep us or another safe from further harm. A drugged-out relative who steals from your purse can be forgiven, but he does not need to be invited back into your home. A spouse who keeps beating you can be forgiven, but you’d better remember to keep yourself safe. “Remembering” doesn’t mean constantly obsessing over it or nursing your wounds.
It’s not the same as trusting
Forgiveness and trust are two different things. People who hurt you have violated (and probably lost) your trust. Because we live in a fallen world, our trust is not something we should give to everyone. If it’s been betrayed, grant them forgiveness but wait for them to earn your trust again. That may never happen and that will be cause for sorrow. Don’t worry; in many cases, you may still be able to reorder or retain something good in the relationship even with a diminished level of trust.
Getting there takes time
Depending on the degree of attachment you had in the relationship, or the severity of the issue, it may take a long time to forgive. You must acknowledge the reality of the injustice, not whitewash it. You then must decide why you want to forgive and freely make that choice.
Forgiveness frees you
Staying bound up in unforgiveness holds you hostage. It’s usually prideful; my rights were violated, how dare she do that to me, I deserve better! It also lacks trust in God’s perfect justice and leads to self-pitying bitterness. Bitterness will turn you into a nasty, resentful person who is unable to give and receive love as God intended. In Hebrews, St. Paul tells us that “Bitterness troubles you and defiles many.” (Heb 12:15) Untie yourself! Remember what you have to and forget the rest. Keep your eyes on the bigger picture (eternity). Keep your eyes on Christ. Trust your Core Self, who is most connected to God, to lead your inner fearful, hurting, doubting parts into a place of peace.
It’s not a one-time event
Jesus said we would be doing it over and over, maybe even with just one person! Sigh…better get used to it! Do you find yourself having to forgive the same person over and over for the same thing? That may be a sign that professional help is needed to find a healthier way of being in that relationship.
Much has been written about forgiveness and I hope you share this with a friend, spouse, or your children (no matter their age). Contact me for coaching in this area and don’t forget to Put your Religion into your Relationships!