The Challenge of Forgiveness

The Challenge of Forgiveness


Part 1 (Too big for one week)

Here we go, this is a tough topic. It's one I'm passionate to speak and write about though.  I think we so often get in wrong in ways that can cause long-term damage, limit our resiliency and leave us feeling bad about ourselves.

Let's tackle the questions that so often come up in this discussion.

Q: Is forgetting necessary to prove you have forgiven?

A: NO! However, I think that once the kind of forgiveness I am proposing happens, often the memory fades more easily, at least on more minor issues.

In some relationships the offense is one of many significant ones and remembering the violation can help us set healthier boundaries in that relationship.  This leads to the next question.

Q: Are you forgiving or minimizing?

A: When I downplay how painful something was to me there is a cascading negative effect. I open myself up to it happening again - partly due to me not giving adequate feedback to the other person and partly due to the fact that I will be less likely to set appropriate boundaries. Thirdly, when I minimize the offense it becomes more difficult for me to actually get to thorough forgiveness.

"Oh, it's ok", "It's not that big a deal", "Don't worry about it" are but a few examples of very common ways that we minimize.

Another common way is to justify the other person's behavior in order to minimize the pain. "Well, she's under a lot of stress right now so it's understandable." "It hurt but he really doesn't know any better."  "I wasn't clear on what I needed so it makes sense."

Q: How can I avoid minimizing then?

A: I'm so glad you asked! I believe that the only route to thorough, life-giving (for both parties) forgiveness is through a thorough processing of the situation.  I'm not referencing a thorough discussion with the other person here. Sometimes that is not feasible and sometimes it's not wise.

These are 3 steps that I recommend:

  1. Take inventory of the situation. How did it impact me? What do I wish had happened instead? What am I feeling as a result of this situation? If I stop making excuses for their behavior, what would I be saying? Writing an uncensored letter that you DON'T send is a great way to get in touch with how you are really feeling and what is all tied together. Do this in a way that is safe and you know the letter will not be read by someone you don't want seeing it.
  2. Think about what you want moving forward. This is both what you want from the other person but also what you want from yourself in the future.
  3. Closure is easiest when we can discuss openly (and calmly) with the other person and they hear us out really well and then apologize.  Forgiveness based on a repentant stand in the other person is so much easier. Not always possible. If this is an abuse situation or an inappropriate conversation to have for some other reason then closure is different. For small stuff I can choose to forgive knowing that I am often in need of forgiveness too, that this person, like me, makes mistakes. I believe this third step is different for bigger offenses, including abusive relationships, etc. I will write on this next week.

What unresolved situations have you been carrying around with you?

What would it feel like to be able to put them to rest?

Part 2 Next Week ...

Q: How do I know if I'm just not taking responsibility for my part?

Q: How can I stay calm when my buttons get pushed?

Q: I feel guilty about not forgiving, what do I do with that?

Q: How do I get closure or get to forgiveness on big offenses? (Even abuse.)





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