Forgiveness. I forgive you. Both acts require a difficult degree of extending ourselves to someone who has wronged us. In some ways, it requires giving up power. The power to hold someone else accountable and finding them guilty of being a bad actor. We find the other person responsible for our pain, discomfort, loss, lack, or their role in a misunderstanding.
Unforgiveness is a form of withholding grace. It says I will not grant the other person clemency; I will not reconsider any form of reasonable doubt or examples of human infallibility. We maintain the position that the other person was wrong and should (or will be) treated as such…forever. The uncanny aspect about unforgiveness is it locks up everyone in a proverbial jail cell with the very person or circumstance that we refuse to forgive. Or, until we become receptive to reconsidering our position on what or who is “right.”
Many of us are reluctant to forgive because we don’t believe anyone should be let off the hook. Even ourselves. Sometimes the pain is so deep that we haven’t yet processed the effects of how the other person’s actions affected us. Depending on the relationship, we must first reconcile that there was a breach of trust, confidence, or even innocence. After doing so, sometimes we need others to bear witness to this foul behavior or occurrence so that we can realize vindication.
During the process of forgiveness, once blame has been assigned, we should be clear about the appropriate level of restitution. What can the other person or party do if anything to make things right? Is an apology sufficient? Is there a monetary value that will provide adequate recompense in exchange for what happened? Is the situation even fixable? Until we know what we need or want to make things right, it is difficult at best to extend a sincere pardon or ask for what we need.
Forgiveness or a lack there of changes relationships but not necessarily people. If a ‘bad actor’ didn’t care in the first place about hurting our feelings, wronging us, or even harming us, will a denial of forgiveness make a material difference to them? Will they even realize or care on a meaningful level that we’re angry with them; have blocked their calls or texts? For example, I once dated a guy who told me that he didn’t feel anything. Which explained or clarified the emotional rollercoaster ride that largely defined our experience together. When he disclosed that he didn’t feel anything, I became responsible for my well-being. Though there were signs before, once he said it, any ambiguity that remained was removed.
It is important to remember that the other person or party must care first. I would take it a step further…the other person must care about themselves first before they can have any semblance of compassion for anyone else. Otherwise, we hurt ourselves attempting to penalize a lawless person who has no respect or regard for ethics or possesses a value system that allows them to appreciate anyone. Therefore, forgiveness can never be about another person.
Unforgiveness is sharing an experience with someone possibly into perpetuity. Why would any of us want to ride in a two-seat car on an 18-hour road trip with someone that we vehemently dislike? This is essentially what unforgiveness is; unforgiveness provides the opportunity to be intrinsically linked to an undesirable person, or experience forever. Are they worth it? Or, do you deserve to be free?
Some people confuse forgiving someone as accepting or affirming something detrimental, or reprehensible inflicted on us by someone else. If we flip the words around, ‘give’, ‘for’, we reclaim our power and authority when we choose to give up the need to seek “punitive” damages, in exchange for the gift of our own peace, longevity, and happiness. What “they” did was about them. My response is for me. Some say that “karma never loses an address.” I will remix this a little by adding my understanding of Universal law and Divine Order, which dictates that our actions will be “Returned to Sender.”
Return to the center of your peace through the act of forgiveness.