Forgiveness: “What if I don’t want to forgive?”
Prompted by recent discussions with clients I felt compelled to write about this subject as it is, tricky, touchy and personal to just about everyone.
The question “ What if I don’t want to forgive” comes from a common misconception,that, forgiveness lets the other person “off the hook”, they “get away” with whatever their crime/action was. Also, that things should automatically go back to how they were. This is all based on the old myth “Forgive and Forget” and whilst you should forgive (for your own sake) you should not forget! There are lessons to learn and they need to be remembered.
The truth is that forgiveness and forgetting are two very different things.
Our understanding of our mind and consciousness has shifted considerably in the last 10 years and whilst there is personal freedom in forgiveness, there are also lessons in the act that hurt us and we definitely want to learn those lessons and NOT forget them.
Te fact is that Forgiveness is about you. It is nothing to do with the other person, although they may ask you to forgive them and want to be forgiven. If they were in the wrong then this is not about them.
Forgiveness brings freedom for you! Freedom to acknowledge, learn but then to put behind you whatever the incident in question is.
This is so that it does not define you, you do not dwell on it and constantly reflect on it. It does not go round and round in your mind and affect your life, even if there are consequences of the action that you have to live with.
There is power and freedom to be had in acknowledging what has happened and even greater power in looking at the lessons learned.
What have you found out about the person in question?
What have you learnt about yourself?
How will you apply this new knowledge and understanding moving forwards?
It is a myth that if you forgive someone, you should forget it ever happened.
Forgetting what happened is not always possible, undoubtedly, if you have been wronged, emotionally or physically there will be consequences, wounds and scars, both emotional and physical. You may need to adjust how you think, how you live and certain aspects of your daily life. When something has a great impact on your life and the consequences are literally a part of your daily routine then obviously you cannot just forget or ignore why you are in this situation.
However, what you should try to do for your own emotional, mental and physical well being is to forgive. Forgetting is a totally different matter, forgiveness is essential for your own journey and sense of peace and freedom.
Forgiveness is firstly a decision, a decision that you make for yourself then a process and an act of your will. Usually it does not happen in an instant, a heartbeat, a split second. Whatever your intention, it is a process and not a quick one either. But, something that in the long run, is better for you
Forgiveness does not have to mean reconciliation or, no consequences. If someone hurts or wrongs you then there are likely to be consequences around how you feel about that person, that is only natural as they have now shown a different side of themselves. Maybe you now know something you did not before? Maybe you cannot rely on them or trust them, they have badly let you down.
Those sorts of revelations are not without consequences.
You are both now different people, there have been realisations and lessons and whatever relationship you now have with that person will be different to the one you had before. You cannot go back to what you had, you can only go forward and the relationship that ensues might even be stronger but, it will be different. You cannot restore exactly what you had in the past. We are not computers that can undo actions and wipe things from our memory
It is a very foolish perpetrator who thinks that actions do not have consequences and that forgiveness means we go back to how we were.
Forgiveness and Reconciliation: Again, these are different and separate.
Just because you choose to forgive, you are not OBLIGATED to reconcile.
Reconciliation is more likely if someone demonstrates that they are truly sorry and they make positive changes based on that. An old saying that does apply here is that “Actions speak louder than words” Words are easy to say, it is the actions behind them that show us true meaning and intent.
Reconciliation may not always be your intention and neither should it be, especially in cases of either physical or emotional abuse as this would be dangerous for your physical or emotional health or even both ongoing.
If someone has badly let you down, proved to be untrust worthy or, that they do not have your best interests at heart or that they have narcissistic tendancies then reconciliation may not be your intention. Forgiveness is about moving on, in whatever way that means for you. You can withdraw from any situation physically or emotionally but forgiveness will allow you to do it with a greater sense of freedom and personal well being.
No matter how sorry the other person appears to be you may find that so much has happened/changed that reconciliation from your point of view is not possible. If you do try reconciliation then remember, it also is a process and not just an immediate reconnection. There are shifts and changes to be worked out/around and negotiated.
The truth is, that even when you totally understand that it is in your best interests to do so, it is hard to process pain and then to let it go.
Be kind to yourself, give yourself time and most of all believe that forgiveness is about you and for you, even if it is directed at someone else.