Forgive Thy Neighhbor, Heal Thyself
Recognizing that we all carry wounds in our hearts can help open the door to forgiveness. - Robert Enright
I’ve heard it said that forgiveness is not a choice we make once, but a choice we must make repeatedly along our journey. It is a very personal journey, and no matter where you find yourself today it can be important to remember that it is a process; it takes time. The act of forgiving someone for a transgression is often fraught with anxiety, indecision, and immense uncertainty.
The process of forgiveness involves a lot of complex thought and introspection. However, it can be a process that will invigorate your body and enrich your mind. We all have someone who has hurt us in our past, in some cases that person may even be ourselves. But it’s important to remember that no matter who hurt you, with some rumination and time, you can feel the relief of forgiveness.
It's pertinent to point out that forgiveness isn’t synonymous with reconciliation, nor does forgiveness always precede (or require) an apology.
While researching this post I read multiple texts, lists, and articles; what follows are my interpretations as they relate to my own experiences. I’ve found anecdotally that each person deals and struggles with this process in a variety of ways. More often than not, the process is person and problem-specific, and follows a non-linear path that isn’t always easy to understand.
Moreover, sometimes we just aren't ready to forgive or forget. The misogyny, racism, and exclusionary rhetoric that has been perpetuated throughout history isn’t something that can be disseminated in a single argument.
When I was young, I was molested by an authority figure. To this day this person doesn’t understand the lifelong implications their actions had on me, and they certainly never saw the situation from my point of view. However, this situation is a fact. It’s something that happened to me, and eventually, I did come to an understanding and forgiving frame of mind.
Most people would be surprised that this person is still in my life peripherally, and that I have to deal with him on occasion. Despite the past, I find it easy to be cordial with him because I have managed to compartmentalize my earlier trauma and move on. Of course, childhood traumas and pain can and often do continue to affect us well into adulthood; that’s just another fact.
You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should've behaved better.- Anne Lamott
Despite what’s happened to me and my varied trauma over the years I’ve turned out to be a basically honest, intrinsically decent, and mostly-well-adjusted human being. Even taking that as fact, I am a human, and we as a race are not infallible.
In my life I’ve found that writing, reading, or talking it out with someone has always helped me the best. Usually some sort of combination until I gain the clarity that I am seeking. Again, forgiveness isn’t for the transgressor nor is it a contractually binding agreement of reconciliation. If they hurt you deeply, throw them out! (Or don’t, as in my case I couldn’t.)
But remember that forgiveness is about finding clarity, peace, and practicing stress management. For the wordsmith such as I, it’s words and the art of them. For the painter, it’s the canvas that calls. And for the intelectual, it’s the greater degree of understanding.
In some cases you may find it easier to forgive others’ and may not even blame them as much as you should. For those in this category, we place the blame squarely on ourselves . In fact we routinely forgive others for the wrongs they trespass upon us, but we do not afford ourselves the same opportunities. Instead, we choose to rake ourselves across the coals for perceived poor judgment and ill-timed truces. I’ve certainly done plenty of that too.
I blamed myself for how others treated me, I’ve made excuses for people who didn’t deserve it, and I stuck around for people I probably should’ve walked away from.
In my life forgiveness has been a hard-won battle, but every day I seek clarity to turn those moments into lessons; so that one loss doesn’t mean the loss of the war.
Stay tuned next week for a deeper dive on empathy, self forgiveness, and their intrinsic link with one another.
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