Tag: forgive

The Freedom of Forgiveness

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“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
― Nelson Mandela

 

“True forgiveness is when you can say, “Thank you for that experience.”
― Oprah Winfrey

Forgiveness is not about pretending something didn’t happen, surrendering, accepting injustice, or being weak. It is about acknowledging what happened and moving past it, hopefully with more wisdom and enlightenment.

When we hold onto the feelings caused by a wrongdoing—anger, resentment, fear, hurt, shame—we keep ourselves imprisoned in that story. We relive the injustice and its effects on us, which prolongs the pain and can even cause it to grow. Releasing our feelings through forgiveness releases us from the story.

The following are some ways to facilitate the process of forgiveness:

Try to separate the facts from the story. Think of how your situation would be presented in a scientific journal. Only things that could be proven would be included, and anything not directly observed would be considered a hypothesis or prediction. Anything related to emotions, feelings, and hearsay would be useless to a scientist. This exercise can help untangle emotions from events to provide a more objective view of what happened.

Remember that this involves another human being. We all make mistakes. While being human doesn’t excuse us when we do something that is considered “wrong,” it is helpful to remember we all have faults, weaknesses, and errors in judgment.

Examine why you feel the way you do. Perhaps your feelings are tied to a previous betrayal, or the person’s actions brought up issues with which you are struggling but have nothing to do with this person. Knowing specifically what you are upset about and why can shed light on the real issue. It can also allow you to have a clear conversation with the person you want to forgive, if you decide to talk with them about it.

Make a commitment to forgiveness. Sometimes we say we want something, but don’t really want it or aren’t ready for it. To forgive someone and move on, we have to truly want to forgive that person. Give the same kind of focus and energy to forgiveness as you would a meaningful goal or intention. Imagine your desired future relationship with that person, or if dissolution of that relationship is in order, imagine yourself making peace with that decision and moving on in a way that is supportive to you. You may want to try Loving-Kindness Meditation.

Be gentle with yourself. Forgiveness can be difficult when the wounds are fresh. If you do not understand the reasons behind the injustice, or you can’t find any positive light from the experience, you may not be ready or willing to forgive. It often does not happen overnight, and it is also not something you master like a learned skill. Forgiveness is the subject of many spiritual teachings and can be viewed as a daily spiritual practice. Therefore, allow yourself to see forgiveness as a journey, not a destination you must reach. Try to release any self-judgment in the process. Forgiveness starts with you.


One Story of Infidelity

  • Any similarity to you or someone you know is just that a similarity. So many people have similar stories.

About two years ago I began working with a couple that began marriage counseling, believing that they would get a divorce. At the point they came to me, their relationship seemed to be based upon a bond of hostility. They consistently argued angrily as their main form of communication. Both said that they loved each other very much after 19 year of marriage; which let me know that there was hope for this couple.

What led them to reach out for my assistance was that the husband (we will call him Peter), confessed to his wife, (we will call her Robin), that he had been having an affair for over 16 months. At first Peter was only aware of feeling shame and Robin was only aware of feeling hurt and anger. Robin, as you can imagine, felt a gamut of emotions, rage, anger, hurt, shame, and confusion to name just a few. Peter, as we became more involved in the work, also began to feel a whirlwind of emotions, anger, confusion, resentment, hurt and shame.

As time passed and we worked on their communication, forgiveness and reconnecting, Peter began to feel quite resentful and impatient that Robin seemed unable to forgive him faster. Both Robin and Peter had the tendency to blame the other for the affair as well as anything that they did not like in the relationship. It took much hard work for them to reach the place where they could truly hear each other without wanting to prove that their version of the truth was correct for all. Once this occurred the couple began to move towards re-connecting and the work of regaining trust within their relationship.

As they moved forward, Robin and Peter began to laugh with each other in my presence as well as report back to me that they were having fun together again and having “hot” sex.

They both shared in a session that they now believed they could and would reach their goal of rebuilding their relationship. It took several more months of intensive marriage counseling for Peter and Robin to reach the place they are now. Robin no longer blames Peter for ‘the affair’. She understands her part in the weakening of the marriage and is willing to forgive Peter. She has also regained a high level of trust in him and for their marriage’s continued growth. Peter no longer feels shame and understands his motivations, actions and the consequences of them. They have come a long way from the couple that came to me thinking that they would get a divorce.