Written by therapist Houston Hough

I must admit, forgiveness sounds so great, right? It sounds like the right thing to do; it’s loving, hopeful, restorative, maybe even peaceful for some. However, it also sounds so vague, hard, and even frustrating at times because the process to forgive can be brutal. I mean, in the end, how do I know if I have been forgiven or even forgiven someone else? Plus, we so often hear the phrase, “Forgive and forget,” yet, you’re thinking, “Um…no. I am not forgetting what so-and-so (you fill in the blank) did to me. That hurt and I will never forget. So how can I forgive if I am never going to forget?”

What is forgiveness:

This is a phenomenal question. The American Psychological Association says that forgiveness is essentially choosing to set aside feelings of anger and resentment that we have toward the person that hurt us. Or, it can also be choosing to put aside those feelings of anger and resentment toward yourself. Yes, forgiving yourself is necessary. More than that, it’s critical. 

A visual of grace

I want to highlight two visuals. First, a story and second, the picture at the top. 

First, years ago, I lived with a roommate whom we will call Nate (not their real name) for 2.5 years. I thought Nate was my best friend, but to be completely transparent, I fell in love with him. I denied my feelings for months, but they eventually exposed themselves and that caused the friendship to fall apart. To make a long story short, I was deeply hurt by Nate as I was blamed for the falling out. But more than that, I felt devastated, ashamed, embarrassed, and frankly angry at my own heart telling myself, “I should have been more careful. I shouldn’t have put myself out there.” So on and so forth. Yet, this became the biggest upside-down blessing as it sparked my own forgiveness journey. I sought the wisdom and counsel of friends, worked with a couple of therapists, and after 5 years, I was able to release the anger toward Nate and toward myself. I will never forget the day I felt that release and I am forever grateful for that. 

Second, this picture seen at the top depicts forgiveness. Flying, to me, is freedom, freedom from the entrapments of life, and forgiveness gives birth to that freedom. Forgiveness allows me to accept what happened, come out with battle scars, and release myself and the other person from the hurt. I would so much rather feel light, like I am flying, than succumb to the weight of anger, bitterness, and resentment. I don’t want my wing feathers clipped if I can help it. 

So then, how can we forgive? 

Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. Choosing to forgive is not just a one-time choice, it is a daily one. In fact, it is one of those choices that you pin up to your mirror to remind yourself to do. 

Forgiveness is also a process. It takes time. It can happen overnight, but for those deep cuts, it’s going to take time. So, please, please, please be patient with yourself. There will be days where anger is all you feel, other days, sadness, and at times, wanting to yell, or even punch, the person who hurt you. That’s normal. 100% normal. As time passes and you continually choose to address the wound (i.e., not letting yourself get infected), you will realize the resentment slowly evaporates, perhaps entirely, perhaps not. For me, that process took 5 years of intense conversations, soul-searching, and therapy. For others, it could be shorter; for others, longer. Yet, your process is yours and it will take as long as it needs. In the end, the process will be entirely worth it.

Forgiveness is hard!

Understand that forgiveness is hard. The resentment, bitterness, and anger feels good—at least at first. But as time passes, they weigh on your heart heavily. In fact, these feelings can weigh me down so much that I get migraines from them! Trust me, I would so much rather work through them than be grounded on my bed for a day, sometimes two or more.

It’s important to be patient and trust the forgiveness process. It takes time; you can’t rush it. Give yourself grace when you feel the anger arise even if it’s 3, 5, or 10 years after the initial wound. 

Don’t forget to extend forgiveness to yourself. I cannot stress this any more than I have. Release the feelings of self-hatred and remember that you’re human. We all mess up and fall short of expectations and standards—especially our own. I know. Easier said than done. But the process is worth it. I want you to soar and I hope you do too.

In wrapping this up, I leave you with a humorously true quote from Oscar Wilde:

“Always forgive your enemies—nothing annoys them so much.”

If you are wrestling with forgiving someone else or yourself, any therapist on our staff would be grateful to aid you along this journey. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us here at Optimum Joy today!

 

 

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