The “FORGIVENESS” Lesson

“Don’t forgive because it’s the right thing to do, forgive because it’s what you want to do”. Aly Johnson

“I can forgive, but I cannot forget, is only another way of saying, I will not forgive. Forgiveness ought to be like a cancelled note – torn in two, and burned up, so that it never can be shown against one.” Henry ward Beecher

“He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself; for every man has need to be forgiven.” Thomas fuller

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespassed against us”. The Lord’s Prayer

How often do we repeat quotes like these in our daily lives and actually understand the depth of forgiveness? Do we really know how to forgive? And why is it that we do not practice this act more often?

It is inevitable that we will be faced with a situation where someone let us down, someone hurt us, and the levels of hurt may vary of course. And it is also inevitable when it is our turn to let someone down and hurt them.  Some people intentionally hurt others, and some do it unconsciously and without premeditation.  Either way, our feelings get hurt, we are scarred.  Some scars go deeper than others, some are easier to be forgiven than others, and some are so bad that it almost seems unforgivable.

We all have the need to be forgiven, to let go of the bad feelings we have when we feel guilty about hurting someone.  And usually it is someone we care about dearly that we hurt the most.  If it was just a stranger, it won’t matter as much – that is just the reality – but when it is someone we love, someone we do not wish any harm to, the feelings are different then.  And all you wish is to take back what you said or did and pretend it never did happen.  You hope that you will be forgiven and everything goes back to normal.

That was the perspective from the angle of you being the one that caused the pain to someone.  On the other hand, when you are the one that got hurt, it is a whole new ball game.

We tend to have a very difficult time letting go of feelings of hurt, anger and resentment towards the person that inflicted those kind of feelings on us.  And it is even harder when the person is one of the closest people in your life.  It is because you were vulnerable to them, you were so open and they made the horrible mistake of saying or doing the wrong thing that tipped you over the edge. Even though you love them dearly, you are so disappointed in them and you are so baffled by their actions, that you close yourself off from them and try to deal with your pain in whatever way feels comfortable to you at the time.  Even if it means going to extreme measures and cutting them out of your life.

In some situations and in some relationships, I believe it is actually healthier to cut off the person that hurt you from your life totally. After allowing the bad feelings to dissipate, allow your better judgement in and weigh things out.  It is always better to think with a clear head, not while you are hurt. It is not the best thing to make detrimental decisions when you are hurt or angry. You will usually regret those decisions later and some are not retractable. When you have a logical view on things, you can see things clearer. And you need to make a decision about the fate of this relationship with the person that caused you pain. Ask yourself all the questions you can to determine whether or not to give this person another chance through your already broken heart. Tough decisions have to be made. You gotta ask yourself: how much does this person mean to me? do I think this person meant to hurt me or it was just a mistake? is it possible for this person to do this to me again? am I putting my heart at risk again? does this person deserve to be forgiven? will I be able to actually forgive and mean it? will I be able to live with myself if I do not forgive this person?

All kinds of questions run through your mind.  You start to second guess yourself and wonder if you ever even knew this person. You wonder if you were fooled all this time. You replay every beautiful moment you shared, you start to get emotional again, you start to miss this person that hurt you and then you try to find excuses and reasons as to why they hurt you the way they did. You try to rationalize and analyze every detail that it starts to drive you crazy.  At some point you may even start to blame yourself and begin to find reasons that you caused the hurt on yourself. All of these things are possible while you are trying to deal with your feelings.  In order to reach the stage of true forgiveness, you will go through a logical stage and an emotional stage.  They both go hand in hand.  You will not have one without the other. Just be careful to keep them balanced and not let one be more dominant than the other.  Then it is even more difficult.

I have had my share of these experiences I can write a book about them.  The number of times I got hurt and dissappointed by the people closest to me.  The amount of pain I had to deal with over my lifetime.  I cannot express into words the damage caused by some of those hurtful experiences.  Although I have been on the receiving end of it mostly, I still remember one of the most regretable things I ever did to someone I truly cared about.  The memory of it haunts me and I am still trying to deal with it after so many years.  The lesson I learned is that not only is it important to forgive those who wronged you, but it is even more important for you to forgive yourself for the wrongs you have done.  It will not get you anywhere to keep punishing yourself for something that passed.  Even though I say these words, there is a nudge in my heart as I recall my wrongdoing.  I have forgiven myself and I have forgiven others.  I was faced with several tough decisions as to whether I should continue to have this person in my life or just let them go for good.  I have done both. I have let some people go, I have forgiven some right away, I have forgiven some over a long period of time and regained the relaionship back and some, I am still undecided about.  I do not think that this situation ever ends.  There will be people who remain dear to your heart. And then there will be people who are new to your heart and you have to go through the whole process of whether to give them another chance and whether they deserve your love to begin with.  It is a cycle, that is for sure.

It is important to see that the person who hurt you regrets what happened and is trying to get your forgiveness.  However, in the end, everyone must look out for themselves.  Not all people we get in relationship with, they are meant to be there forever.  Some are here to stay for a long time, and some for a shorter period of time.  Some end without knowing why, and some end with a disaster.  Some you may be unsure of and not know what to do with it.  Our relationships have several varieties and are there in our lives to fulfill certain purposes, even the ones that hurt us.

If and when we decide to forgive the person, make sure you are ready to do it. Don’t just say it but in your heart you are holding a grudge.  Don’t pretend to forgive because you do not want to hurt them by not forgiving them. You are hurting them by lying to them and not being straight forward about your feelings. You may be willing to forgive but the hurt is so much that you might need some time to heal the wound first. You need to communicate that.  If you want to salvage the relationship, if the person means that much to you. You gotta be willing to open yourself again at some point, when you are ready, or else you are fooling yourself and the person involved.

Then there are those situations you find yourself in where you really care about this person and you have experienced hurt from them more than once and every time you think you should forgive and you do and you get let down again and again.  There comes a time when you will have just about enough hurt from one person.  And you are faced with what seems to be a shattering decision, you are damned if you do and damned if you do not.  You will be hurt if you stay and if you go.  My advice to you, pick the least one and accept living with some hurt for a really long time.  Usually choosing to go is the healthiest for yourself in the long run.

As I talk about relationships and people who hurt you, by that I refer to any kind of relationship.  It can be your friendships, your romantic encounters and even your family sometimes.

At the end of it all, you have to look after your own heart – no one will do it for you – not even whom you think would – by no one – I mean NO ONE.  You are on your own.  Make the decision that only YOU can live with.  Try to not allow others to influence your decision in forgiving someone whether by sneaky tactics or by guilt-tripping you.  Do not fall for empty promises. Remember this: ‘action speaks louder than words’. Find a way to forgive always and let go of the past.  Some say forgive and forget so you can really move on with your life. Some say forgive but don’t forget so you will always be on guard.  I say forgive the person, don’t forget the lesson learned, let it go, I mean really let it go, be careful, and just be honest with yourself. If you are not ready to forgive yet, then don’t rush it. If you can’t find a way to let it go and you will continue to punish this person and make them feel bad about what happened, then you are better off not being in their life because it is not healthy for either of you.

“I forgive you”, one of the most powerful statements that we can ever say to someone.  When you say it, mean it, and live by it. Until my next lesson learned, take care of yourselves.

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