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The True Nature of Forgiveness

Forgiveness has long been one of the most misunderstood and undervalued parts of the healing process. There are a couple of glaring misconceptions out there about forgiveness we need to clear up.

Forgiveness is not

  • an action which must be performed face to face,
  • a decision to absolve and release someone from their moral responsibilities,
  • a means of erasing the actions or forgetting them, or
  • a sign of weakness.

Forgiveness is

  • a way to release the anger associated with someone else’s actions,
  • an opportunity to lighten your own emotional load and begin to heal, and
  • a way to step outside the action or event and gain perspective and empathy for all parties, including yourself.

Learning to Forgive

So, what does this all mean?

When we allow ourselves to forgive someone for their actions, we’re essentially releasing the burden of anger we’ve been carrying around. We let go of the passion which has kept us connected to the people, places, and events—in some cases preventing us from moving forward with our lives.

Anger is an extremely passionate emotion requiring a great deal of energy. When we focus our attention and energy on a thought, feeling, or event, we may attract more of it to us. In essence, holding onto anger over even a single event will often fester over time and block out opportunities to find joy and peace.

Releasing What Holds Us Back

Holding our anger reopens unhealed wounds, making anything and everything a trigger. When we hold on too tightly, we hide behind blackout curtains, blocking out the light that is compassion, community, and joy.

When we choose to forgive, we push those curtains aside. We welcome in the glorious light of day, which fills all our dark corners, illuminating them so the painful memories soften and lose their power over us.

Forgiving for Our Own Well-Being

We can’t always walk up to someone and tell them we forgive them. In fact, we may not even want to. Forgiveness isn’t about the other person. It isn’t about making them feel less responsible for what they did. It’s about making space in ourselves and allowing the open wounds to scar over.

Those scars are a reminder of what we’ve been through and what we survived. They make us stronger and more resilient. Until we learn to forgive, we’re stiff and brittle. We guard our hearts severely because we break more easily. We feel safe inside our walls, but we also hide from love, laughter, joy, and true friendship.

But forgiveness cannot be forced. First, we have to be aware we’re angry with someone, and understand how our anger originated. Once we’ve identified the person and the event, we have to be ready to look at our anger somewhat objectively and recognize the person’s reasons for doing what they did.

Only then can we begin to release our anger and realize they acted out of their own pain rather than from a place where they intended to inflict pain on us. This is where we begin to forgive.

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