Learn to forgive and move forwardPublished 6:57pm Saturday, September 8, 2012
QUESTION: I have experienced some ugly circumstances in life. I really want to move forward, but I’m still hurt and angry. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to “forgive and forget.” How realistic is forgiveness anyway?
ANSWER: There is a difference between genuine and false forgiveness. Several people have found this description of forgiveness practical; perhaps you will find it useful, too:
What forgiveness is:
•To forgive means “to give up.” We give up holding on to a negative emotion. We let go and ultimately move on.
•We allow a given trauma/offense/mistake to be over, so that it no longer has harmful effects on us.
•We give up any hold (power) that the offender may have on us (through our continued anger, resentment or feelings of revenge).
•We process through the emotions that are keeping us connected to the particular person or event.
•We allow ourselves to feel the emotions.
•We set clear boundaries between ourselves and what someone else did. We are not someone else’s behavior.
•We accept ourselves and others as fallible human beings.
•We let go of past offenses to allow ourselves to be present for the moment, rather than reacting to the past.
•Forgiveness makes us far more empowered because the other person has less effect on us.
•Forgiveness is a process.
What forgiveness is not:
•To forgive someone else does not mean we have to appreciate or like that individual.
•To forgive does not condone the behavior of the person.
•To forgive does not mean that we forget. (However, with time, something we have forgiven often becomes less important to us.)
•We don’t have to be with anyone we do not enjoy or that frightens us. Forgiveness does not assume that we will spend time with that person.
•We are not giving a person permission to repeat the offense/behavior when we forgive him or her.
•To forgive does not say that the person is not to be punished or reprimanded for a harmful or illegal act.
•We do not have to “forgive all” in order to forgive. We give up whatever we decide we have held on to for too long.
When we are struggling with emotional pain from the past, it is often helpful to talk with a counselor, pastor or priest. If you would like to talk with a parenting specialist about where to turn for help with your family’s challenges, call the Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Linea de Apoyo at 1-877-434-9528. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599. Check out www.familiesandcommunities.org.