Forgiveness is the most CHALLENGING thing for me in my relationships with friends, family members and my husband. I have ALWAYS had issues with this topic of forgiveness and have found that I am not alone in my struggles.
I remember when I was a teenager, I used to brag about the length of time I could hold grudges as though it was worthy of a gold medal. I would brag about not speaking to a former friend for 2 years or 5 years with pride and joy. I almost expected a standing ovation for my actions. In my mind, only tough people could keep malice for years. I proved my toughness by how long I could hold grudges and reveled in my unforgiveness skills. I used to have no qualms about cutting people off like King Henry VIII famously beheaded people.
The older I have gotten, the less I have engaged in this behavior, but I continue to struggle with the issue of forgiveness. My experience with forgiveness is that I still struggle despite my decision to forgive. All it takes is a trigger to take me back to that memory and I am fuming and foaming in the mouth as though the experience just occurred. I have listened to many messages, read books and blogs on forgiveness, but they all made me feel good about forgiving until something happens that takes me back to that issue.
After many years of struggling with forgiveness, and working with many clients in counseling on this topic, I decided to write this blog about my personal experience, and observations on forgiveness and I hope it blesses someone who is struggling with this issue.
I believe that the biggest myth about forgiveness that has ever been told is that forgiveness is an act we do once. It is something that we decide to do and it automatically happens. My Clinical and personal experience dispels that myth. I have discovered that forgiveness is not just a decision, it is a process. Making a decision to forgive is only the beginning of this long, arduous process.
Once we decide to forgive, the next process is to continue to consistently forgive the issue until the sting is completely gone. As a matter of fact, once we make the decision to forgive, life will bring us a series of tests to really give us the opportunity to CHOOSE forgiveness over and over again.
Forgiveness is an ongoing act. When a person hurts us and breaks our trust, we might feel heartbroken and the weight of that pain can be very difficult to bear. Choosing forgiveness is always the HEALTHIEST decision that we can make.
Choosing to forgive helps to lighten our load, but it does not vindicate the perpetrator of our pain. However, it does set us free from the chains of pain. Our forgiveness will be tested whenever we are reminded or triggered by events that takes us right back to our pain. And each time we choose forgiveness, our wound moves from scab to scar.
There will always be a scar. Whether it is an unfaithful spouse, a painful break up, divorce, abusive parent, or broken friendships, we will always have the scars from the pain, it is a reminder of our story.
Choosing to forgive over and over again stops us from constantly pulling off the scabs and allows the wound to heal and scar. Choosing forgiveness means that over time, triggers will no longer have the power they used to have.
Forgiveness takes time. Time is an essential ingredient on the forgiveness journey. With time and the ongoing choice to forgive, the pain dulls until it is no more.
So the next time you are confronted with a trigger of despair, and feel yourself starting to drown in the sea of sadness from the painful memories of 'the hurt,' remember that you DECIDED to forgive. More importantly, remember to choose forgiveness AGAIN.
Here are some helpful tools that you can use when triggered after you've decided to forgive
1. Remind yourself of your decision and commitment to forgive
2. Remember how far you have come on this forgiveness journey and hold unhealthy lingering thoughts captive. If you allow your thoughts to continue to drive you to that pain and re-live and feed those emotions, you will re-lapse
3. Pray about your feelings, journal and/or read encouraging articles about forgiveness
4. Talk to a trusted friend about your struggle (not a friend that will encourage your unhealthy behavior, but one that will validate your feelings while helping you navigate through this ocean of feelings to the path of forgiveness and remind you of how far you have come)
5. Remember that forgiveness is an ongoing process of choices. Put one step in front of the other and choose forgiveness again and again.
6. Be patient and kind to yourself…Forgiveness takes time and Rome was not built in a day.
7. Remember why you’ve chosen forgiveness. Forgiveness is for you. This is about YOU.
The more you practice these steps, the easier it will get until one day, you reach the scar forgiveness destination where your wounds don’t bleed or hurt anymore. The scar is only a geographical reminder of your pain, rather than a direct experience of the pain.
Forgiveness is not easy, but what is even more difficult and poisonous is unforgiveness. It robs you of your joy and peace and keeps you negatively attached to the event and the person that caused the pain. Unforgiveness has the opposite desired effect. You may desire not to have anything to do with the perpetrator of your pain, but unforgiveness is the umbilical cord that continues to feed that situation and keeps you linked to that person and situation.
If unforgiveness is the chord, forgiveness is the scissors. Cut it off!