Mental Health Moment | Forgiveness
Apr 22, 2022
Mental Health Moment | Forgiveness
Have you ever been hurt or offended by someone, and they seemed absolutely oblivious or indifferent to your pain? Whenever someone hurts us we tend to focus on that, sometimes even obsess over it, and we frequently want an apology from the person. Often, though, we tend to hold onto hurts for which we will never receive an apology. How, then, is it possible to move forward and “get over it” without that closure and repair?
If you are hanging on to something that someone else did to you, waiting for the situation to be made right again or waiting for an apology, you may find yourself frustrated, bitter, angry and resentful when you don’t get what you’re waiting for. When we don’t get that apology or even acknowledgement that someone has hurt us, it can have a long-lasting effect on our own well-being.
We’re taught as children that actions have consequences. If you punch another kid on the playground, you’ll get in trouble and be handed a negative consequence or a punishment of some kind. So it seems very unfair at times when someone does something offensive to us and there appears to be no consequence. An apology is often the only consequence we feel will help make things right, but it is very often the one thing we don’t receive.
Forgiveness is most often for the benefit of the person who has been hurt and not for the offender. If someone hurts you the only thing you can control is how you handle it and how you let it affect you. By forgiving another person you are taking back control of the situation, and your emotions, and you’re saying, “I’m letting this go.” Forgiveness doesn’t mean giving permission to do the offensive or hurtful thing again, and it doesn’t even mean that what they did to you is okay. By forgiving someone you don’t have to say, “it’s okay.” You simply have to say (even if only quietly to yourself), “I forgive you.” It means, “I’m letting this go, I’m going to stop letting it affect me right now, and I am moving forward with my life without this being a part of my thoughts anymore.”
Forgiveness removes blame from your daily story and by not placing blame or pointing fingers you also remove resentment, which can last a lifetime. Who does that anger, blame, and resentment affect most? Do you think the person you’re angry at, or who hurt you, is sitting around every day feeling upset because you’re hurt? They may not be giving it any thought at all, but you still are, which means they are hurting you even more than they intended… and if someone is purposely hurting you, that means you’re letting them do it. Forgiveness isn’t for the person who hurt you, it’s for you and your own sense of peace. Forgiveness seems like a hard thing to do, but it’s getting to a place of indifference and dismissal of someone else’s actions toward you, so that you are not letting yourself continue to feel hurt at the hand of this other person.
Let me clarify, though, that forgiveness does not mean you still have to continue having a relationship with the person who wronged you. Forgiveness means you let go of the “consequence” you think the person should experience and you accept what happened in a way that’s best for you. If they are someone who will likely hurt you again you can remove them from your life, if possible, as part of the forgiveness process. You don’t have to continue exposing yourself to someone’s hurtful behavior just because you’ve forgiven them. Forgiveness does not mean allowing yourself to continue to be mistreated, offended, or hurt.
You do have the right to keep people out of your life whose intention is to harm you in any way. Doing this without anger or a need to punish or seek revenge happens through forgiveness. Keeping anger and revenge out of your mind, heart and life will benefit you, and that’s where you need to focus. Maybe it will, as a side benefit, help the other person also, by “letting them off the hook,” but real forgiveness means letting go of that and only worrying about what’s best for you; finding peace, and not holding on to anger & resentment. Who might you benefit from forgiving, and what do you think your life might look like when you are no longer focusing on that resentment or hurt every day?