I forgive you.
I recently posted a rant of Facebook, something I very rarely do which I now regret in a way but in another way it has actually brought up some issues which I think are worthy of further investigation. Forgiveness is something that is often overlooked as a form of therapy these days. The power of simply being able to say, with sincerity, “I forgive you” is perhaps the most powerful form of healing there is.
Being able to acknowledge and say sorry for past transgressions is one thing, but being able to forgive someone who has done you wrong is an entirely other proposition. Sometimes, it’s not possible to say sorry to someone, for various reasons, but if you do and they are gracious about it then that is when true healing starts.
But if it is possible, if the person is still alive or contactable should you? Well, that’s up to you. But if you do, should you expect their forgiveness? Well, no, of course you shouldn’t. It depends what has transpired and every case is different. However, if someone does apologise to you for something they have done that may have been hurtful to you, if you are able to forgive them then in the end, it is you who will receive the greatest gift. For being able to let go of hurt, suffering, pain, resentment and our attachment to these feelings can be the most liberating experience of a lifetime.
Maybe there is someone out there that really hurt you. Someone you blame, rightly perhaps, who did the wrong thing by you. Maybe they have never apologised. Maybe, and most likely, they never will. Should you still forgive them? Could you? Maybe your parents were jerks or outright abusive. Maybe a past partner has wronged you, hurt you and made you cry. Maybe an ex boss was a complete bitch to you and made you feel 2 feet tall and you have moved on from those times but the hurt is still there. The resentment, the anger is still lurking in the background waiting for a chance to ruin your day yet again.
Or maybe you’re the one who was hurtful to someone else. Maybe you have made mistakes and done things you just aren’t proud of and have never really been able to forgive yourself. Well, chances are that’s a good place to start.
What’s important to remember is that we are not our mistakes, for one thing. So much bad blood gets thrown around because we fail to separate the actions from the person, especially when it comes to ourselves. So, instead of saying, I did a bad thing, we say… I am a bad person because I did a bad thing. And over time we reduce that even further to, I am a bad person, or just “I am bad”.
Narrative therapy calls this a “meta-narrative” – stories we tell ourselves over and over again so that they become our way of thinking about and describing who we are . CBT calls them “core beliefs” – messages that we continuously and subliminally tell ourselves which become part of our definition of who we think we are. Whatever you decide to call them and whatever therapeutic modality or theory you choose the effect is essentially the same. We become what we tell ourselves is true.
So in essence, perhaps the place to start is awareness. Separation of your self from your past acts and behaviours is the first step, and then just saying to yourself, I forgive you. That could be a pretty good place to start. Why not try it?