I teach an Introduction to Group Counseling course, and spent the last in-class day of the semester doing a ” q and a” style class, and it turned into a powerful discussion on the topic of “forgiveness” and the role it plays in therapy.
It is important to note that forgiveness is an emotional change that occurs within the person who has been wronged. This process and the resulting change is an inside job, and does not require the person or persons who harmed you.
What forgiveness is:
-The decision to overcome pain that was inflicted by another person.
-Letting go of anger, resentment, shame, and other emotions associated with an injustice, even though they are reasonable feelings.
-Treating the offender with compassion, even though they are not entitled to it.
What forgiveness isn’t:
-Reconciliation (repairing or returning to a relationship).
-Forgetting the injustice.
-Condoning or excusing the offender’s behavior. Granting legal mercy to the offender.
-“Letting go”, but wishing for revenge.
As the Anne Lamott quote says, ” the beginning of forgiveness is often exhaustion.”
Aren’t you TIRED?
Tired of the pain, the pressure, the space that holds in your head and in your heart?
Do you feel it in the heaviness of your legs, the stiffness in the shoulders?
Do you feel your adrenaline pump or your heart race when you have to share a space with the person who caused you pain or harm?
Any and all of this is taxing and tiring on the physical and emotional body.
It’s incredibly freeing to know that you can forgive a person while in no way believing that their actions were acceptable or justified.
So next time you have the option to rage and sustain a visceral disdain or hatred for the person(s) that caused you harm, remember the option of forgiveness. Because the alternative is to sit and cook in the white hot rage, disconnected from what the pain may be able to teach you.
Forgiveness is not going to be an automatic, after all, judgment and annoyance is our collective human default.
We love it. It’s killing us, but we love it anyways.
But with attention to the event (and how it impacts your ability to function), intention to choose healing over heartache, and to give oneself time feel through the forgiveness process, anyone can use this method to overcome difficult stories, show compassion to people in their past or present, and can also free themselves from the scripts they have written for themselves.
Write your own story. Choose to forgive, and usher in your calmer, reflective and peaceful self.
You got this.