Tackling the Problems about Forgiveness
by Mary Hayes Grieco
Forgiveness is not:
- Forgetting.You don’t have to “forgive and forget.” Honestly, does that ever really happen? It’s much better to forgive and remember, instead. It’s wise to remember what really happened, and how people really behaved in a particular situation. Some people are not to be trusted in certain ways, and you already learned that from your unhappy experience with them. You must remember who people are, not who you’d like them to be. As Maya Angelou put it, “When people show you who they are, believe them, the first time.”
- Excusing. The people who have hurt you have possibly done something that is very wrong, and wrong is wrong—that’s all there is to it. When you forgive someone, you don’t excuse the person’s wrong actions; you merely detach yourself from your involvement in that person’s actions and drop your burden of pain about the situation.
- Saying it’s ok if it’s not. Some things will never be OK according to you, because they offend your value system or because a person has broken a clear agreement he or she made with you. That is not OK, but you can hold your opinion about that loosely by releasing your emotional hostility from that opinion.
- Being a doormat, open to further abuse. With real forgiveness, you learn to set healthy boundaries and to say No! to things that are not right for you, and stick with that. If you can say that No! in a spirit of neutral goodwill instead of hate, you will be able to move into better and healthier relationships in the future. You will be empowered by the act of forgiveness, and your bounda - ries will become stronger.
- Reconciling. You don’t have to hang out with someone, stay married to him or her, talk things out, make amends and apologies, or wait for amends and apologies if that isn’t appropriate for your situation. It’s nice when that can happen, but often it doesn’t. Sometimes the person you need to make peace with is completely inaccessible or has died. You can still make peace with people who are not around. Forgiveness is a private action that you do for yourself.
- Giving up. Sometimes people are afraid that it is weak to forgive, that they are giving up a battle they must continue to fight. But when we forgive, we are not giving up our value systems, our points of view about an injustice, or our right to dislike some one. We are giving up a rigid attachment to thinking that things could have or should have gone differently. We are giving up the pain from our disappointed expectations. We are giving up the hope for a better past, therefore giving ourselves the gift of a richer present.
- Justice.Sometimes we can experience a measure of restorative justice in a situation—a lawsuit settlement, an apology, or a vindication of ourselves in an unfair situation. But we have to let go of our addiction to worldly justice and trust in a higher court of justice. Whether we believe in the Golden Rule, the Law of Karma, or Judgment Day, our spiritual intuition tells us that all people are subject to the laws of the Universe, and good and wrong actions will eventually be rewarded or corrected by that just, impersonal Law. Ultimately, nobody gets away with anything! If we can let go of our demands to get justice the way we see it here and now, we will be at peace sooner.
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