Let’s talk about forgiveness. It’s been a subset of my writing all week here.
It is very, very important to acknowledge that forgiveness is NOT forgetting being wronged, nor ignoring that something happened, nor denying that you were upset or offended by something.
This is equally true whether this is a matter of forgiving yourself or someone else.
When it comes to the bigger picture disputes we’re inundated with every day, the idea of forgiveness isn’t truly applicable.
Right now, there are a lot of people and circumstances that will be difficult, if not veritably impossible, to forgive. This almost turned into a whole political thing — because, in the United States right now, we’re faced with a lot of people doing and saying terrible things that are largely unforgivable.
When it comes to the grand scheme of things, forgiveness is a challenging idea. I, for one, will not just forgive the people who are blindly siding with white supremacists, hate-mongers, and threatening people I care about just because we’re on opposite sides of an artificial divide. I don’t expect anyone else to forgive this — not without those people recognizing how their behaviors are having a negative impact on the world.
Frankly, forgiveness on that scale is not really in your control anyhow. That’s because you have no control over anyone but you.
Releasing the idea of forgiveness for the big picture is important — because it makes it far easier to be accountable to yourself and the people who are a part of your life. Because that’s the only place where forgiveness can occur.
Forgiveness is a personal matter
Let’s zoom in on how forgiveness can and should be applied. It’s a matter for the self and when dealing with those close to you. By that, I mean family, friends, coworkers, and other people you regularly interact with.
Bringing the focus in like this allows you to work in the one area you can. On yourself. Because really, that’s the only place where you have any control.
The things you do as you live your life impact the big picture. But that feels small and selfish because we receive a lot of messages that tell us self-focus and selfishness are the same.
Everyone has a singular, unique perspective on reality. How I see the world is not how you see it. Yes, there are similarities and ties between our personal consciousness and collective consciousness. But the collective is made-up of the individual consciousness of communities.
Some communities are big — like countries; while others are small — like households. Every big picture is made up of its constituent parts. And that, in this instance, is you.
Your consciousness — your mindset/headspace/psyche and overall being — belong to you and you alone. Nobody is inside your head but you — so self-care is hugely important.
This isn’t self-care in the sense of pampering and a spa day — this is mindfulness of your mental health. While there are lots of ways to get help in the mental health department, it all comes down to you. Again, because nobody lives in your head but you.
When something awful occurs — something that makes you feel negativity — forgiveness matters. Why? Because holding onto negativity causes stagnation, suffering, and can get in the way of everything.
The need for release
When you get a cut, you need to clean it out as part of the treatment. If you don’t, it can get infected. The infection can lead to pain and suffering exponentially greater than the cut itself caused. In a worst-case scenario that one cut could kill you.
Emotional wounds are exactly the same, save their general invisibility. When someone you love rejects you (or you fuck-up in some way), it hurts just like that cut. But if you don’t clean out that hurt it can grow, become infected, and cause much more pain and suffering.
Forgiveness is, in effect, cleaning out the wound. It releases toxins that can sabotage and derail your life.
We all know people who are bitter, jaded, miserable, finding no joy, and seeing slights and hurts where none exist. Yes, this can happen for a time to EVERYONE — but I’m talking about people who have been this way seemingly forever. And they only appear to get worse and worse over time.
One emotional/mental wound that was never cleaned out has infected them. And that infection, unchecked, will kill them in time. Or, in some instances, allow them to live a long, bitter, painful, unpleasant life as they drive people away with their poison.
When the hurt was your own doing — it’s just as important to be forgiving. When you hold onto the negativity you experience unnecessary pain and suffering.
Holding onto the hurt or the pain, as the phrase goes, is “like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
This is why forgiveness is so important. When you forgive yourself or the person who caused the hurt you are releasing the pain, letting go of the suffering — and cleaning out the wound to prevent infection.
The five steps to forgiveness
There is no one-size-fits-all quick fix for forgiveness, but in my experience, you need to work with the following:
1. Acknowledge what has happened. Straight to the point, what happened and needs to be forgiven, and don’t avoid seeing it.
2. Be accountable/accept accountability. We live in a society that delights in placing blame. Don’t do that. You need to be accountable for the error/mistake/fuck-up. When it’s something that you shared with someone — you must be accountable for your part in it.
3. Apologize/accept the apology. You need to apologize to yourself. I’m sorry I screwed-up is the first step in opening the door to forgiveness. If you are forgiving someone else — accept their apology.
4. Release the hurt. Whatever negative feelings come up because of this, YES, you need to feel them. But you don’t need to define yourself by them (i.e. I am a fuck-up). No good comes from holding onto negativity regarding mistakes. Release it like a pressure cooker releasing steam.
5. Move on. When you fall off a bicycle or a horse the best thing to do is get right back on. When you forgive, it’s tempting to avoid a new situation. But the best thing to do is to move on. When you release the hurt caused by someone else, keep moving on.
Acknowledgment, accountability, apology, release the hurt, and move in. These are the five steps to forgiveness I have experienced in my life.
EVERYONE makes mistakes. We all get it wrong, and we unintentionally cause hurt –to ourselves and others. However, you can often learn from the mistakes/errors/screw-ups/fuck-ups in your life. Hence why forgiveness is necessary.
When you don’t forgive you let the wound fester — and experience a lot more pain and suffering than you need. Clean out the wound and forgive.
When you can’t forgive
It is important to acknowledge this. There are going to be times when forgiveness is impossible.
However, when it comes to yourself — there is ALWAYS an option of some sort for forgiveness. You are infinitely capable of change — so you have infinite options for forgiveness. When it comes to yourself, there is ALWAYS a way to forgive.
When it comes to other people — some things are unforgivable. When they intentionally have caused hurt, pain, and suffering; or gone so far off-the-rails from reason and logic that there is no conversation with them — forgiveness might be impossible.
What can you do when you can’t forgive? You probably need to cut them out of your life. But then, you’ll need to forgive yourself. Especially when this is about family.
You can’t control how anyone else is. Thus, if someone you love does something unforgivable, the best option might be to release them and break ties and connections with them.
This should be a last-ditch, you tried everything else option. When you cannot communicate with them, or they continue to cause hurt, pain, and suffering without remorse or understanding, that’s when you may need to do this. It will hurt. Nobody wants to cut people you love out of your life. But if all they bring is pain, and all they do is upset you and make your life miserable — it may be the only choice.
You never need to do this alone. There are professionals, friends, confidants who can be there with and for you before you amputate this person from your life. Maybe they offer an angle or perspective you can’t see that will let you forgive.
But forgive yourself if this is the action you need to take for the sake of your sanity.
Forgiveness is only really applicable to your life, your experiences, yourself, and the people you interact with. While unforgivable things exist, they should only be reached when all other avenues are exhausted.
Remember, the five steps to forgiveness are:
1. Acknowledge what has happened
2. Be accountable/accept accountability
3. Apologize/accept the apology
4. Release the hurt
5. Move on
When you take these steps, you make forgiveness easier to apply. Then the healing can begin.