After many conversations with others about forgiveness, I have found that confusion about this concept is nearly universal. The common misconception seems to be that forgiveness is about forgetting another’s wrongdoing, letting them know they are forgiven, and then moving forward in the relationship. The truth is that forgiveness has nothing to do with anyone but yourself.
Forgiveness is your personal and deliberate decision to release anger and resentment towards someone or something. It is allowing yourself the gift of feeling released from weighty emotions that are not serving you a purpose other than a false sense of power in a relationship. When we hold onto a grudge it is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to feel its potent effects. We are hurting nobody else but ourselves with these toxins. And so, forgiveness is the antidote to heal.
This process begins as a logical one in which you review the facts and your own thoughts to reach a conclusion that you are choosing to move forward in your life without the burden of your animosity. The emotional part of forgiveness will take time to feel more natural. Repeating to yourself your logic will help speed up this process. Some ways to do this can be journaling, finding a song that helps represent it and listen on repeat, speaking with your therapist or a support, saying “I forgive… because…” over and over while standing in front of a mirror, or simply meditating.
Forgiveness does not mean to forget or that you have to rekindle a relationship, especially if it has been an abusive one. There is no need to let someone know that you forgive them. It is a gift for yourself, not for them. You are still allowed to hold someone accountable even after you forgive them. You can forgive but learn from the situation in order to better protect yourself in the future. Continue using self respect, and potentially look into what you can do to enhance your boundaries.
Forgiving yourself means that you choose to learn from yourself and move forward in your life without allowing weight of guilt and shame hold you hostage. Guilt’s primary goal is to alert you to something you can learn from, once you learn and hold yourself accountable you get to move on. There is a need to allow yourself to be vulnerable, open and honest with yourself in order to move through this process.
Joy Walsh is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at The Lighthouse Emotional Wellness Center. The Lighthouse, located in Schaumburg, IL, was the first emotional wellness center to be established in the Midwest over 15 years ago, serving as a guiding light towards healthy relationships. Our counseling services are provided for couples, families and individuals, to assist them in creating happy, healthy and empowered lives. For more information, check us out at www.LighthouseEmotionalWellness.com, or call us at 847-253-9769.