Forgiveness: A VERY Misunderstood Process
Have any of you ever struggled to forgive someone? I know I have! When a person has done us wrong, it seems to violate every aspect of our nature to forgive and forget. Usually, when someone crosses us, our first instinct may be to attack them back in the same fashion, especially if we believe the offense was intentional. We have all heard concepts such as, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you…”, or “be a bigger person and don’t stoop to their level.” This all sounds great and goes well on embroidered plaques, but the practical application of forgiving someone usually isn’t as simple as these statements convey.
Let’s face it, we all have family members, friends, or co-workers who make us want to lose our cool from time to time. For example, when you discover that someone has told a lie about you, the first thing you may want to do is to defend yourself. Sometimes it works but most of the time it becomes an exhausting situation that never really clears your name. What about when people become envious of your success? They may try to take the credit for your hard work and attempt to tarnish your character in an effort to take your place. Trust me when I tell you that I’ve gone through these things and worse.
Situations like these are typically the ones that hit us the hardest and trouble us the longest especially if it seems like the person got away with what they’ve done. Forgiveness is a subject that really requires an understanding heart and a development of self-love that puts your well-being above anything that someone has done to you. After all, forgiveness is about YOU and not the other person or situation.
The Mirror of Memory – The Prison Of Unforgiveness Grounded?
Take a moment and reflect on a situation that was hurtful or disappointing to you. Notice how your body feels after you begin to remember the details of the event. Emotions such as anger, frustration, fear, or disappointment may be kindling inside of you right now. The reason this is occurring is that our brain doesn’t know the difference between an imagined experience or an experience that is occurring in real time.
When you remembered the situation, biochemically, you rebuilt the situation and all of the associated emotions as if it occurred in the present moment. Think of how many times in a given day where you may have had similar thoughts that triggered the same emotional response. You literally re-experienced the past hurt and trauma. When you don’t forgive, you become trapped in a prison of your memories. This prison follows you wherever you go, and will affect your mood, your energy, and your current disposition. You may be having an amazing day, then you see a person who offended you or something triggered a memory of the offense and it turns your day upside down. Making the choice to forgive will set you free and allow the scars from the thing that hurt you to begin to heal.
People Make It Difficult
Deciding to forgive can be an extremely difficult and humbling thing to do. People don’t make it easy. Sometimes they refuse to hear you or have no desire to communicate. Other times they may not even care to acknowledge the wrong that they did and sometimes those people will die without ever making amends. Many times the offender gets better sleep, does better in life, and seems to not skip a beat. When we observe them from a state of unforgiveness, it only keeps us prisoner to what happened, not them. Think of how holding on to those feelings and emotions can keep you bound and held prisoner. You deserve to live a better life than one of being a captive to hurt, pain, strife, and confusion.
Effective Steps To Forgiveness
I’m going to be honest, making the decision to forgive isn’t going to feel good initially. Our ego has the hardest time allowing us to walk a spiritually-minded way path. It desires for us to constantly subjugate ourselves to our lower nature and strives to keep us from growing and evolving. Choosing to forgive will make you better and allow for you to set yourself free from the prison and poison of others. Below are a few steps that have helped me to embrace forgiveness as a way of life.
- Free – the person who committed the offense against you and free yourself from the situation by mentally acknowledging the issue but then decide to let it go so that you may heal.
- Overlook – Make a decision to notice the thoughts that come to mind when you reflect on the situation. When the bad memories resurface, don’t focus on the negative emotions that get triggered. Instead, choose to focus on the decision you’ve made to let it go.
- Release – Choose to release the offense.
- Gift grace – Even though it’s not deserved, give the gift of grace to the person or situation that caused you harm. Grace is a decision to extend goodwill. It’s about honoring your choice to heal rather than thinking you’ve allowed the offender to get away with hurting you.
- Ignore – Choose to not focus on what was done.
- Vindicate – Clear them of the blame.
- Empathize – If you and the person decide to talk about the situation, listen to them and decide to understand and share their feelings. Oftentimes miscommunication, misunderstanding, and poor decision-making are what creates an offensive situation. Being empathetic may allow healing to occur as well as mend a relationship before it gets broken.
Learn The Lesson and Protect Yourself
There is a misunderstanding regarding forgiveness that I want to address. It’s the notion that if you’ve forgiven someone, that they should be allowed to continue to occupy space in your life as if nothing has happened. In my opinion, you get to make that decision and not the offender. Typically, nothing in nature intentionally puts itself in harm’s way. Instinctively we avoid harmful things at all costs in an effort to preserve our quality of life. When someone hurts you, they may apologize and ask for forgiveness, however, we don’t know if the person is being genuine.
There have been many times in my life where I forgave someone, allowed them back into my life and they repeatedly hurt me. They may have had the best intentions, but they still chose to do something that they knew would cause me pain. Usually, people who operate this way have a habit of taking advantage of good people and their motives are selfish and self-serving. Given that we can’t truly know what’s in a person’s heart, I believe we must protect ourselves as well as others from those who continue to choose toxic behavior rather than genuinely changing their character.
Boundaries act as a protective shield that keeps us from harm. Healthy boundaries are a means by which we can protect ourselves from harmful people and situations while maintaining our ability to walk in forgiveness. Apologies and corrected action are definitely ways in which the process of forgiveness can be made easier, however, you may still need to consider if the person who committed the offense should be allowed back into your life or on the same level as they were before the situation that created the offense.
Always remember forgiveness doesn’t give a person a license to continue bad behavior. Those who genuinely love and respect you will always make it a priority to consider you, your boundaries, and make a conscientious effort to make a change in their lives that will make it easy to consider if they are worthy of your company. Love yourself and let go!
About The Author
Melvin D Nix is a spiritual teacher, author, and motivational speaker. He currently hosts a weekly broadcast called “Putting On The Pneu You” (pronounced New You) where he teaches how to apply universal spiritual concepts and principles in an easy to understand format so anyone can apply them and see tangible results in their daily lives. PneuYou.com