I’ve recently been having my own ponderings and questions about forgiveness, and what that really means, and how on Earth you do it when it’s something so ongoing. So I’ve decided to put all my findings in a post in the hopes of summarising all I know so far.
The definition of forgiveness is “to stop feeling angry or resentful towards (someone) for an offence, flaw, or mistake”. To me, forgiveness is accepting what has happened, even if what has happened is wrong. It’s being okay with something even though what happened wasn’t okay. My very amazing friend Cody who has contributed to a blog post on here before shared their insight on what forgiveness means to them, as well as how religion has influenced this…
For me forgiveness is about trying to put things in the past so I’m able to move on. I tend to ruminate a lot on everything that happens to me and so when someone upsets or angers me I really feel the impact. Usually it takes me some time, but when I forgive someone, even if I don’t get the chance to tell them I have forgiven them to their face, it helps me to move on, and forgiving doesn’t mean you have to forget. There is also a power to forgiveness. Even if someone has wronged you and made you feel small, you do still have one power in you – forgiveness is powerful. I might feel like someone has taken everything from me, but the power of forgiveness is something nobody can take from me. When I forgive, I feel like I am making my own decisions again.
Buddhism has really helped me to understand forgiveness. It’s not about whether someone apologises or whether they are truly sorry, it’s about the kind of energy you put into the world and whether holding onto anger and hurt is going to help. There are some things that are really difficult to forgive, but if you are able to forgive, it is such a relief. Forgiveness relates to treading the Earth lightly. It’s like when you meditate and you let thoughts pass through your fingers like smoke – forgiving is about letting go and recalibrating yourself so that you can move on from bad feelings and live in the present moment again.
Forgiveness is hard. Not only because it is a state of mind but because you have to keep choosing it. You have to forgive them every time you remember what has happened, on your best and worst days. DBT teaches ‘radical acceptance’ which essentially means completely and totally accepting and stopping fighting reality, because life can be worth living even with painful events in it. Rejecting reality does not change reality.
I think this lines up quite nicely with the Christian view of forgiveness, although Christianity takes it a step further to having compassion for the person who has done wrong. I’ve been looking towards Christianity for some support in accepting and forgiving the persecutor of past trauma who is still in my life. As well as forgiving myself for what I’ve done wrong.
From what I have gathered, forgiveness isn’t one decision, it’s something you choose every day. It’s fair enough forgiving someone for hurting you once you have had a brilliant day and you have survived despite mental illness and feeling proud of how you have managed. Or when you have helped someone else which you couldn’t have done without your experiences. However on the days where you feel like it’s your fault, you’ve had a meltdown or are consumed by flashbacks, and still choosing to forgive. That is hard.
My hero Corrie Ten Boom talks about it in this short video. It’s just 2 minutes long but managed to fill me with hope.
Thank you for reading,