The Meaning of Forgiveness

In therapy sessions, topics around forgiveness come up quite often.  People often come in either saying, "I forgive them, but I hope they get whats coming to them," or, "I forgive them, but I'm not letting go of what they did to me."  At times, forgiveness appears to be a catch phrase everyone says to appear as if they are somewhat victorious in what has happened to them.  I often ask clients, "What does forgiveness mean to you?" Most are unable to really answer the question and pass over it like they did not hear what I have said.  For a while I myself often struggled with what forgiveness really meant to me personally, and how to obtain it.

Forgiveness for me is letting go of the pain that the person or event that occurred has caused me, and wishing for the person that was wrong to one day be in a better place so that they do not continue to hurt themselves and others.  It is not about having to like the person that did something wrong, but it is about being able to not give that incident power over who you are and your future in a negative way. Forgiveness is about recognizing that the person that did something wrong was human, someone's child, and if you are of faith, that person is a child of God.  Whether they see the image of who they are or are sorry for their ills is really none of your concern because forgiveness is not about them it is about you being able to move on with real peace of mind.

No one can correct the past.  What was done was done.  You can only move forward, and try to strive for a better today.  You cannot force someone into being a better person by having them go through the same thing you went through or by punishing them.  It doesn't work because we all have different reactions and perceptions to things in life.  We do not all feel pain the same.  All you can do is take whatever learning lessons that came from your hurt, and apply them to your life today.

Understand that true forgiveness often takes time.  It takes time to heal when someone did you wrong and you are hurting.  Allow time to feel pain, grieve, and heal.  Journal, vent to close confidants, seek therapy, exercise, eat well, practice self-care and love.  Bad things happen to people, good and bad.  It is up to you to determine if your past will allow you to become a better person or not.