Forgiveness- An Important Part of the Healing Process
By: Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW, LCAC
Forgiveness is an extremely scary process for many. Oftentimes people don’t know how to do it, nor do they realize the powerful healing that can come as a result of it. Here are some things to remember when entering into forgiveness.
- Forgiveness is a process. It is about you letting go of the wound someone has inflicted on you. This might not be something you do only one time about a specific wound. You may need to do it multiple times and every time you feel the pain of the wound. The process may include you getting out your pain and anger in a healthy way, such as writing this person a letter saying everything you wish you could say to them and don’t send it. Letting go of the pain gives you freedom and the ability to genuinely wish the person who hurt you well.
- It is for you not them. Remember that you do not forgive someone so they can feel better. You forgive someone so you can feel better. When you forgive, you are making a choice to start feeling better; thus, not forgiving is choosing to not feel better. I heard someone say once that, “Not forgiving is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die.”
- The alternative to forgiveness is resentment. Resentment can be very ugly. It is toxic when you carry it around inside and it grows into something usually more painful than the original wound itself. Be careful of this. Resentment is a relationship killer!
- Forgiving someone is giving up hope you can change the past. It often means coming to a place of acceptance that the pain happened and it was hurtful. Forgiving takes you out of your denial.
- You don’t have to wait for them to say I’m sorry to forgive. Many people think that they have to be “asked for forgiveness” to receive it. The reality is you may never hear “I’m sorry” from someone who hurt you. They may never see that they did anything wrong, let alone ask for forgiveness. Waiting for them to make the first move will many times cause you to stay stuck and not get past the pain of the wound.
- Forgiving is recognizing someone’s humanness. We are all human which makes us imperfect and capable of hurting other people. Just because someone hurts people doesn’t mean it was intentional. Recognizing someone’s humanness doesn’t make it ok that they hurt you, but it can help you accept that pain is a hard part of relationships and caring about people.
- Forgiving someone is not saying you are ok with what they did. Many people worry that forgiving someone sends the message that they are condoning a person’s behavior. It is not about making a moral judgment, but about you being free from holding onto the pain. They will suffer natural consequences for their actions. It is not necessary for you to be the “punisher” of their actions.
- Forgiving someone does not mean you have to be friends with them. Some people are not emotionally safe for you to be around. Forgiving them does not mean you have to let them back into your world.
As you embark on the journey of forgiveness, remember this quote by Lewis Smedes: “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and to discover that the prisoner was you.” Pain is a part of life’s journey; therefore, forgiveness will be too. Whether your wounds are the result of a cheating spouse, an abuser, a hurtful word, or abandonment from a friend, forgiveness is a vital part of your healing process. If you need additional support, more resources, or to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced trained therapists to help you with the forgiveness process, call (317) 569-0046 or visit our website at www.imaginehopecounseling.com. We provide individual, couples, family, child and adolescent counseling for Indianapolis and the surrounding areas including Fishers, Carmel, Zionsville, Noblesville and Westfield.
- Forgiveness: The Path to Happiness by Sandra Summerfield Kozak
- Forgiveness: How to Make Peace With Your Past and Get on With Your Life by Sidney B. Simon and Suzanne Simon
- Total Forgiveness by R. T. Kendall
- Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves: Healing Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families by David A. Stoop and James Masteller
- How Can I Forgive You?: The Courage to Forgive, the Freedom Not To by Janis A. Springs
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Related Categories: Relationships, Healthy Living