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.