Forgiveness is one of those things that I have struggled with all my life. I’m still struggling with it, but I sense that finally I am making some progress.
As a Preacher’s Kid it is understandable that the things I learnt about in my growing up years, were always flavoured with Christianity. I don’t have a problem with that, although I admit it helped trip me up a few times in my attempt to understand this difficult issue. Just about everything I learnt growing up was flavoured with Christianity, so why should this be any different?
What I remember most was the ‘forgive and forget‘ line. So I’m supposed to say that what s/he did to me is okay and then I had to forget it? Yeah right! (a popular Kiwi expression best consumed with a bottle of beer) That never made any sense from being subjected of minor bullying in the playground to much greater hurts as I grew older. I just came the conclusion many times that I simply wasn’t a good Christian. Actually that was a common conclusion for me on so many issues.
As I grew older, the issue of forgiveness became more problematic, not simply because the hurts grew larger and had a much greater impact on my life, but because my belief that it was my fault I couldn’t work out the forgiveness thing became even greater.
Perhaps the biggest thing I learnt wrong was that giving forgiveness was about saying what the person had done to me was okay. Because it very much wasn’t okay.
Unfortunately (because it meant a whole lot of hurt happened, most of which I have been unable to mention here) this past year has seen the issue of forgiveness become critical in my life. By now I had read enough on the topic to know that if I couldn’t forgive the person who caused the hurt, then it would eventually destroy me. That’s not just something I read in a book, but rather something I realised for a fact as I reacted to the hurt inflicted. It was destroying me. The hurt was so bad that if I couldn’t move on from it, then it was me who would be destroyed. I’m still working on the process, but forgiving the person eventually became something that simply made sense. And it separated me from the hurt.
It wasn’t okay what had been done to me, and it never would be. I am very unlikely to forget what was done, and actually that’s a good thing because it will hopefully help me avoid similar hurts in the future. The issue I’m still struggling with is that of forgiving myself, but then that is a whole other post.
Meanwhile yesterday I read a wonderful post by Scott Williams, a Clinical Therapist in the United States. I thought about reblogging it but I don’t usually do that. I know many people (including me often) don’t read reblogged posts. But this is really worth reading, so go check it out:
Forgive and Forget
I should add that I’ve tried the boredom technique he suggests. It’s very long and very slow… but eventually I got there with the help of a very good therapist. The therapist was gracious enough to never mention how long it took. It must have been painfully slow for him.
In spite of all I’ve learnt, the second sentence of this quote is simply the best:
“Forgiveness is not about forgetting. It is about letting go of another person’s throat……Forgiveness does not create a relationship. Unless people speak the truth about what they have done and change their mind and behavior, a relationship of trust is not possible. When you forgive someone you certainly release them from judgment, but without true change, no real relationship can be established………Forgiveness in no way requires that you trust the one you forgive. But should they finally confess and repent, you will discover a miracle in your own heart that allows you to reach out and begin to build between you a bridge of reconciliation………Forgiveness does not excuse anything………You may have to declare your forgiveness a hundred times the first day and the second day, but the third day will be less and each day after, until one day you will realize that you have forgiven completely.”
― Wm. Paul Young, The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity