It was a bit challenging for me to write about this topic. Why…Because I grew up in a Christian home where I learned the importance of forgiveness. God has forgiven me of my sins and his son died for my sins, therefore I should forgive others who have hurt me. I have heard others talk about their need to forgive, as a Christian, and it hurt my heart to hear the pain in their voices from still feeling the pain of what someone else caused (maybe more than once).
As I’ve mentioned earlier in my blog, I grew up being severely emotionally abused. This abuse continued into my adulthood. It impacted me so bad that I have had professionals tell me that it was a life and death decision for me to decide to continue the relationship or end it. I forgave this person over and over throughout the years and worked extremely hard trying to “fix” what was broken.
In 2004, I had enough and ended the relationship. It was from this, that I learned forgiveness is not an immediate gesture we give someone out of guilt because some individuals think we should because it is what God did for us. God is a supreme being. He knows us all from the moment we are conceived and what we have been through. We, humans, do not have this type of knowledge of everyone. God is perfect. We are not. We cannot be expected to be perfect or to forgive someone of their wrongs repeatedly to the point that it could do detrimental harm to us.
It has been over the years, since 2004, that I have done my own work through what happened to me. My path to forgiveness of what happened has been a journey…a process that I have had to go through. I had to permit myself to fully feel the anger, hurt, frustration, and yes, even hate that I held in my heart. I had to mourn the loss of the relationship, the parental relationship I so longed to have, and heal from some of the damage that was done. I had to learn who I was as a person, become stronger and more assertive, set better boundaries in my life, and learn to say no more.
In 2014, I gradually reconnected with my parents. It has been a good thing. There is more respect for my boundaries and for me, as an adult. I am still guarded and keep my distance but I am also feeling close to them again and appreciating their presence in my life. I feel that this is my way of working toward forgiveness toward them. I have taken my time to become a stronger and better person and I have worked on the strong emotions I once had toward them. I am strong enough to protect myself and they are more respectful of my boundaries.
It is much harder if you cannot, or won’t communicate with the person who did you wrong. Again, I still think it is a process to forgive. It is not as simple as praying and immediately forgiving someone. My ex-husband, for example, was unfaithful to me. In the end, he was unfaithful with a supposed friend of mine. Both betrayed my trust and hurt me. Neither, I am almost positive, feel any regret for what they did. It is up to me to work through those emotions and that is what I have been doing over the past few years. First, I grieved the losses and was angered by all that happened. I have rebuilt my life and, in the process, found love again. The hurt is still there, but it no longer has power over me.
Despite the difficulty of this task, I still wanted to share some articles I found on forgiveness. It was easier for me to share my feelings about it and then share the information. It was difficult to find much on forgiveness and how I feel about it.
One Licensed Marriage and Family therapist, Beverly Engel, says that there are times when it is better to hold on to the anger, especially when it could protect us from being abused again (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-compassion-chronicles/200803/forgive-or-not-forgive-is-the-question). The anger is a protection. She says that anger “can be a powerful motivator, especially for those who have been victimized.” Anger is a strong emotion which can enable one to rise above what happened and fight their way back from abuse and trauma.
An article by David Bedricks also discusses how encouraging someone to immediately forgive can cause shame and dismiss the pain one is suffering (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/is-psychology-making-us-sick/201409/6-reasons-not-forgive-not-yet). He says there is a natural process to healing and immediate forgiveness can postpone or even remove this process. It is important that individuals move at their own pace toward forgiveness. His article is “6 Reasons Not To Forgive, Not Yet.”
I hope these articles and my examples are helpful. I had a difficult time with the concept of forgiveness. It opened me up to a lot of what the two last authors discuss. I am glad that I finally was able to take the time to process my emotions and work through my anger and hurt; to mourn my losses. Forgiveness is definitely a process and it is up to the individual to decide that path and when to forgive. If they are Christian, pray for the wisdom and guidance on that path toward forgiveness. Pray for healing and self-love.