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The Unfiltered Truth About Forgiveness: All the Things We Get Wrong

Updated: Apr 7

"...But if ye do not forgive men their offences, neither will your Father forgive your offences."

(Matthew 6:15, Darby)

Wait. Please do not click out of this article. I have something really important to share. Don't judge the article by it's caption scripture.

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You have not made it this far in life without suffering your fair share of disappointments, pains, injustices, betrayals, mistreatments, or neglects. And there are many of us out there who have shared all of the above. You might have experienced childhood abuse or rape. The person you deeply cared for may have subjected you to physical violence and made you feel worthless. Your long-time partner might have suddenly abandoned you, leaving you with nothing. Alternatively, you may have tragically lost someone dear to you due to murder. And yet, some love and light fanatic tells you that you have to forgive! Even guilt you with expressions like, "If you can't forgive man for what they do to you, then God won't forgive you for what you do to Him" or "Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die." I get it. Those statements can be, well, cruel and isn't really a true depiction of what forgiveness is all about. And that's what I hope to explore with you if you'll stick around.

Forgiveness, What Is it Really?

Forgiveness is how our hearts heal from hurts and disappointments in life. It requires that we soften the heart and let go of resentment and anger towards those who have harmed us, betrayed us, or abandoned us. And yes, this includes forgiving ourselves. Forgiveness though, is a personal choice we make to replace anger with love. Though some will tell you forgiveness isn't necessary, it is. Can you imagine living in a world in which 8 billion people carried around every single hurt, every single resentment, and every single desire for revenge? If this were the case, by now, our entire species would have annihilated itself either by endless retributions or by stress of the burden of carrying the hurts. Forgiveness is extremely necessary. The key point most people overlook and get wrong is the when. Forgiveness should only be done under careful consideration and only when the time is right. The act of forgiveness isn't something we get to rush or impose on another to do. Don't check-out yet. We need to get explore more into what forgiveness is and what forgiveness isn't.

Forgiveness, Freedom from an Inner Prison

Forgiveness is vitally important for the mental health of those who have been victimized. There is so much focus on how forgiveness is a gift that we offer to the other person, we forget that we ourselves actually receive the greatest benefit from forgiveness. If you have watched any of Tyler Perry's Madea movies, the character Madea has often said that forgiveness is not for the other person, it is for you. And this is true. Because there is a secondary definition for forgiveness that we have not yet explored. Self-compassion. Forgiveness is an act of self-compassion. Back to that aforementioned poison analogy. There is some truth there. The long-term effect of resentment is poisonous to our minds and bodies. How so you may be wondering? Resentment often leaves us feeling angry, bitter, maybe even hostile. These emotions do little in the way of solving the initial problem but do much in the way of ratcheting up our stress which can later contribute to more anxiety and depression. Long-term, chronic resentment and stress can manifest as poor decision making, headaches, digestive problems, insomnia, and weakened immune function. In a John Hopkins Medicine article, Forgiveness: Your Health Depends on It, researchers found, "Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health."

Forgiveness, Doesn't Mean Reconciliation

One of the things that is disappointing of the "You just got to be the bigger person and forgive," brigade is the expectation that (a.) the hurt person is the one responsible for being the bigger person and (b.) that forgiveness equals reconciliation. Nah boo. It don't work like that. Forgiveness by definition is the process of letting go. It is not excusing the other person and it is not reconciling. If reconciliation naturally happens then great. Wonderful in fact. But let's not get this thing twisted. It isn't possible to reconcile without forgiveness, but it is quite possible to forgive without reconciling. So, in case I haven't been clear here. You can forgive a person and still opt to never see him or her again. There is no need to doom yourself to an unhealthy or toxic relationship. You can wish them the best and keep it moving.

Forgiveness, Doesn't Minimize Your Experience

An argument I have often had with myself was that forgiving those who had seriously hurt me meant I was letting them off the hook. Afterall, where I come from, we weren't too big on "Turn the other cheek," but were more like, "Turn the other's cheek." Because if I let you slide, I'm sending the message that what you did was okay and it 100% was not okay. I'm just sweeping what you did under the rug. Who knows, you may even get the big head and try it again. As I have studied and trained as a therapist and coach (and did a bit of healing might I add), I learned that though my fears were valid, it didn't equal truth. My feelings were not facts. When I choose to forgive those who wronged me, I'm not letting them off the hook. I am letting myself off the hook. Off the hook of resentment. Off the hook of pain. Off the hook of anger. Forgiving doesn't mean what they did to me was okay. It simply says what happened hurt, but I am choosing to move on with my life and not allow the situation to imprison me mentally and emotionally.

Forgiveness, Inner Strength is Required

We sometimes can't help but feel like a doormat when faced with the decision to forgive. It feels like we are giving in. But please know, forgiving is not the same thing as giving in. The two are worlds apart. When we give in, it means we don't have the strength to keep fighting. It's that sort of, "Okay, you win," mentality. You compromised and you didn't want to. However, forgiveness feels good. It feels freeing. If you feel anything other than that, slow it down because that is a sign that something else is going on here. It takes a strong will and self-control to be able to forgive rather than reacting and striking back.

Forgiveness, Can't Be Forced

Cutting through the fence damages the whole structure. Some things take time to work through especially depending on the depth of the hurt experienced. This is why forcing scriptures like my opening one onto other people can do more harm than good. We can't force anyone into forgiveness; it's one of those things that can be cultivated but not forced. If we liken this to a garden, we can plant the seeds, true. But we cannot force any flower or plant to grow no matter the amount of Miracle-Gro, de-weeding, and watering we may do. Our hearts have their own maps and cycles just the same. No matter the amount of well thought out and articulated lectures we receive, our hearts will only let go when it is their time. We also must note that forgiveness isn't a linear process. Meaning we may dip our toes in the pool of forgiveness and then go right back to the unforgiving barren ground. It takes time to work through all of the emotions and thoughts. Forgiving serious offenses is neither simple nor easy. So be patient with yourself.

Forgiveness, Doesn't Equal Forgetting

There is a misunderstanding that forgiving means forgetting, thus being disloyal to our pain, our suffering. Forgiveness is just holding in our hearts something that is wrong while also taking the necessary steps to correct it and prevent it from happening again. Reflecting on past hurts helps us learn and grow, giving us the ability to set boundaries and protect ourselves from getting hurt again. Forgiveness doesn't mean ignoring the past, but rather facing it without letting it consume us. This process leads to healing and personal growth, allowing us to move forward with authenticity and strength. So, no forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgiveness is an empowering decision to reclaim one's peace and emotional well-being, not an erasure of the past.

In my attempt to grab your attention, I do sincerely apologize for the misleading opening to this article. However, I hope that I have done a well enough job of providing the unfiltered truth about forgiveness. Let me know in the comments what you think.

Forgiveness is often a misunderstood and multifaceted process. We have attempted to force it to mean a lot of things that it doesn't actually mean. Forgiveness encompasses healing, growth, freedom, and self-compassion. It's not a quick fix or a one-size-fits-all solution, but rather a journey that requires patience, self-reflection, and inner strength. While forgiveness doesn't mean reconciliation, forgetting or excusing the harm done, it does offer the opportunity to release the burden of resentment and reclaim one's peace of mind. By acknowledging past hurts without allowing them to define us, we pave the way for healing, transformation, and ultimately, a life lived with authenticity and resilience. So, let's remember that forgiveness is not about erasing the past, but about finding freedom from its grip, one compassionate step at a time. Most importantly, forgiveness cannot be forced. With that in mind, please remember. Wherever you are on this journey, do not worry about getting it perfect; just get it going. Until next time. Happy reading.

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"To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you." ~Lewis B. Smedes


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1 commento

Wanted to do a brief update. Life started life-ing again. Had to rearrange the challenge momentarily. Rearrange, but not giving up. We got this!!

Weeks 9, 10, 11, & 12 complete.

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