Whether you identify as a partner in a relationship, a member of a family, or coworker at your job, chances are someone you trusted has emotionally hurt you. When we get hurt we often feel victimized and become carried away in thoughts of retribution or self-pity. It is actually common for us to feel more powerful in our victimhood and become stuck in anger and resentment. It can be easier to remain in this state when we believe forgiveness means forgetting because forgetting could set us up for repeated grief. How much do you know about real forgiveness?
Take this TRUE/FALSE quiz!
1) Forgiveness means forgetting
FALSE: Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. It does mean redirecting ourselves from helplessness to a place of inner peace where we can simply say, “I’m OK”. This means looking to the future rather than becoming stuck in the past.
2) Forgiveness is a one-time thing
FALSE: Forgiveness is a process that often needs repeating. Even if the individual you are working to forgive is no longer in your life you may have memories of what they did. As these memories pop into your head you will again be faced with the choice of victimhood and anger or forgiveness and self-empowerment.
3) Forgiveness means everything returns to the way things were
(This is that question the professor throws in to confuse you.) The answer is, SOMETIMES. Many of us have had the opportunity to forgive and recognize those instances when the relationship is able to return and sometimes improve. When someone is really struggling to forgive it is often when things can’t go back to the way they were. I think of those injuries sustained in Boston recently, loss of life due to murder, and many other situations in which it is just not possible to go back to the way things were. No matter the scenario, forgiveness is possible, but that does not mean the relationship and life will return to the way it was before.
Forgiveness is the experience of being at peace right now, no matter what happened five minutes or five years ago. The whole task of forgiveness comes down to redirecting energy from a preoccupation with helpless resentment to finding a better way to live your life.
I would love to help you or a loved one move out of resentment and find peace. Please schedule an initial appointment here.
(This article was adapted from The Power of Forgiveness: Cutting the bonds of resentfulness by Ryan Howes. Psychotherapy Networker: Point of View. 2013 January/February)
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