Forgiveness is vital to moving on from the past. At the same time, it is a term that is often misunderstood. And its misconception prevents many from enjoying its benefits.
So, to start with, let’s look at what forgiveness is and what it is not. Because so many people are confused by the concept of forgiveness, we’ll start with what it is not.
Forgiveness is not:
- Forgetting, denying or condoning the event or the pain it caused.
- An act that can only be performed if the other person asks for it, feels remorse or is still in your life. In fact, it doesn’t rely on anyone but you.
- The same as reconciliation, which entails a resolution between two parties.
- An indication that you will allow the event to happen again. You can forgive while still learning from the event and making changes to ensure it will never take place in the future.
- A sign of weakness or being a pushover.
- Always easy: Forgiveness often requires time, energy, strength — and sometimes even assistance.
Surprised? Most people are. You see, there is a misconception that forgiveness can only happen if what took place wasn’t that bad. Or that, when you forgive, you are letting the other person off the hook. None of those are true.
So let’s look at what is true.
- A gift to yourself that releases the emotional and physical burdens of resentment
- A choice to improve your entire life: mentally, physically and spiritually
- An act performed because you’ve been wronged (not because the act wasn’t wrong)
Forgiveness is something you do for yourself as a way to move past what happened.
When you forgive someone, you let go of what I call, “If only” thinking. By that I mean, “If only X had not happened, then I would be OK.” In essence, with forgiveness you release the belief that only if the past had not taken place, you could be happy, be confident, be successful… in the present and future.
Forgiveness allows you to move past the anger, the depression, the denial and the bargaining that often comes with loss (a death, a loss of innocence, a departure from what was), and move on to acceptance.
This is usually not easy. Forgiveness is not a superficial “no big deal; I’m moving on” kind of mindset. It often entails some deep soul-searching and work to help you move past the past.
When you get to a place of forgiveness, this acceptance does not mean you agree with what happened, deserve what happened or like what happened. It means you acknowledge that what happened happened, and you cannot change it. And this mindset then permits you to move on. To stop wishing you could change the past and start focusing effort to improve your present and future.
How can you forgive? Watch this video for the BREATHE steps I created to help promote forgiveness so you can move on. “BREATHE” is an acronym that stands for:
- B: Believe: Believe in yourself and believe that forgiveness can happen, that you can forgive without going against your beliefs or getting yourself into a bad situation.
- R: Remove obstacles: Get rid of untrue beliefs about forgiveness, such as “This is too bad of an event,” or “He didn’t ask for forgiveness, so I can’t.”
- E: Embrace: Embrace your worth, the process of forgiveness, acceptance and that you cannot change the past, but you can change the present and future.
- A: Address faulty thinking: When we are stressed, we often think in inaccurate or faulty ways of seeing things. Consider how accurate or helpful is your thinking or interpretation of what happened. Common faulty beliefs include, “It is my fault,” or “I cannot trust any men or even anyone.”
- T: Tell your new story: Rewrite your perception of the event, not in terms of what happened, but your interpretation of what happened. So you might identify, “It was NOT my fault,” or “There are some trustworthy people in my life.”
- H: Highlight positives: No, what happened to you was NOT positive. At the same time, what positives may have come from such a horrific experience? Did you meet new people? Learn about the profound love someone has for you? Can you use what happened to you to help other people prevent such a trauma or better cope with one if it has already happened to them?
- E: Espouse your new life: Embrace and enjoy this new life you have created as a result of your forgiveness.
What to learn more? Watch this video I created about relationship forgiveness.
What has your experience been with forgiveness? Please share it with us here.
Here’s to greater forgiveness, so you can move on from real trauma and pain, learn and grow from the past, and create the life you truly want and deserve!