No one can force you to forgive. You also can’t be forced into taking vitamins, staying away from abusers, and following your dreams. Let’s get this straight right now. Forgiveness is NOT for the other person. It’s for YOU.
When you forgive, you no longer put the energy into the other person, into hoping for their pain, or wishing they would finally make yours right. You put yourself in charge of the future and allow the past to stay where it will do you the least amount of harm.
Not everyone wants to be in charge of themselves. It’s a harsh truth that being victimized can leave some people in a bitter place of waiting for someone else to make it right. That feeling can be somewhat addictive. If you’re the victim, you’re always right, you’re always sure the other person is wrong, you never have to give up on what you’re owed.
It’s not actually a good life. But it has a dark addictive pull. Some people would rather be right than happy. And if you only hurt yourself, that’s horrible. But permanent victimization allows you to hurt everyone around you. The most horrible behavior I’ve seen as a therapist has been justified by victim status. Guys who wind up in an anger management group for knocking their wive across a room, all say the same thing. “She came after me! I wouldn’t have had to do anything if she would have just shut up.” Women who’ve abused their children or allowed one boyfriend after another to do it for them, same thing. “He called me a b****, you would have hit him too.” “I didn’t hurt my child, my boyfriend did and I’m being blamed!” The worst behavior is always justified by how badly the abuser has been victimized. And it’s crap.
No one ever had the right to abuse you no matter what happened to them. You do not have the right to abuse anyone else no matter how crappy your day, your week, or your whole life has been. Forgiveness is the verb that allows us to let go of how badly we were treated so we don’t recreate the cycle for someone else. We make the effort to let go of what we’re owed, so that we can get what we truly want. You need more than what you’re owed by the people who have hurt you. You definitely ought to want more than that.
When you hang on to what you’re owed, you are more likely to take the payment from someone who wasn’t even there. Let yourself become the victim and you will have a black hole sucking all the light out of your relationships with no end in sight.
Do you truly want what you think you’re owed so damn much that you will sacrifice everyone around you to that goal? Will you sacrifice your own happiness because your need for vindication is so extreme?
Forgiveness hurts and it’s hard, and you will wish you didn’t have to do it. And it’s the best hard thing you will ever do for yourself. Imagine you had spend 5 years eating snickers and watching vapid TV with all your free time. Now you really want to fit into a decent outfit and be attractive to the opposite sex. You have 5 years of damage to undo and you will be sweating, screaming, throwing out foods that don’t help you, watching TV from an elliptical, and discussing how you let yourself go with friends and professional helpers. In about a year or less, you will walk into a room and show off every painful moment it took to get you into fighting shape. You will love every moment you hurt because it led you to feel this good right now. It will be better because it took the pain to achieve.
When you forgive, you take on the pain of your life without any hope of someone else rescuing you from it. You take on the pain that the other person will never accept and you feel pain that was never a fair or just payment for your actions. You agree that you will take on all the pain for both of you and bear the entire load. Because that is the ONLY way you’re ever going to be in a position to dump the whole thing overboard. You can sit on that couch and feel the pain of rejection but not take on the extra possibility of failure, or you can lever yourself up and make painful changes that lead to that moment of freedom you’ve dreamed of.
We’re going to spend the next 4 days on the specifics of how to forgive. I hope you’ve been convinced to at least think about this, for your sake and the sake of the people you actually like.
Picture from AlicePopcorn from flickr creative commons