Most people have an idea of what forgiveness is, but have you ever considered what forgiveness is not? Maybe it’s not what you think it is. Let’s take a few moments to go over some key concepts so that maybe you will find it a little easier to forgive someone in the future.
It is Not a Sign the Pain Has Gone Away
Forgiveness is not a sign that the pain you feel has gone away. On the contrary. It is one of the best ways to help heal your pain. When someone commits some transgression against you it is normal to feel emotional pain. That pain could stem from feelings of anger, disappointment, abandonment, and betrayal, just to name a few. When you are hurting emotionally you need a way to channel that energy out of you. Forgiveness often can be not only the catalyst to promote your healing but it can actually be what helps you to feel whole and centered again.
Even though it may feel easier to forgive someone if you wait long enough for the pain to subside, don’t make the mistake of waiting for that to happen. The pain may subside and then it may not. Forgiveness is what makes it possible for you to release the emotion that’s causing your pain. So it is not a sign that you’ve stopped hurting. It’s a sign that you’re ready to stop hurting.
It is Not a Sign You Forgot
Forgiveness is not some kind of signal that you have forgotten about the incident or transgression. To err is human, to forgive divine, but it’s not amnesic. You may never forget the pain you have endured, nor should anyone expect you to forget. Forgiving is not forgetting. Letting go is not forgetting. Forgiving does not mean that you must deny what happened either. The memory may diminish over time until it is almost forgotten and it is just a vague shadow of a memory, but it is forever there as part of the relationship between you.
It is Not a Defeatist Position
Forgiveness is not a defeatist position. Nor is it masochistic. You do not expose yourself to more pain by forgiving someone. You’re not somehow inadvertently giving the other person permission to hurt you again in the future. What you are doing is displaying the power of grace in action. It is not surrendering to the person or the situation. It is surrendering to the “now” moment of your relationship and what has transpired between you.
It is Not About the Past
As Eckhart Tolle points out in his book, The Power of Now, forgiveness is a present moment, “now” experience. If we were to constantly offer forgiveness for each moment as it went by, we would never create a past that needs forgiving. That is the epitome of what he means by the power of now.
Like your pain, forgiveness is also a present moment experience. You cannot forgive what happened in the past until you experience forgiveness in the present. This is how it severs the hold that the past has on you. It is letting go now of wishing the past had been different.
It is Not an Act of Acceptance
Forgiveness is not an act of acceptance or that somehow you will tolerate this behavior in the future. Your forgiveness is merely surrendering to the acceptance and acknowledgment of “what is.” You can clearly be upset by what happened and claim it as your red line in the sand going forward. You can make forgiveness a part of the process of owning your feelings, setting your boundaries, and claiming your space.
It is Not an Act of Absolution.
Forgiveness is not an act of complete absolution. You can offer forgiveness and still expect for the person to experience consequences for their actions.
However, it does not mean that it is your job to dole out the consequences. Life has its own timetable for payment of karmic debt. Just know that when we fail to forgive and choose retaliation instead, retaliation keeps the cycle going and creates more karmic debt for us. Forgiveness ends the cycle by cleaning your slate, not theirs. It means that you have become bigger than the transgression itself.
It is Not Just for the Other Person
Obviously, forgiveness feels soothing to the person receiving it but forgiveness is also for the benefit of the giver. The mere act of having forgiveness in your heart, whether you express your forgiveness to the other person or not, is a gift you give yourself. Forgiveness allows you to let go of the emotional weight you have been carrying around. It literally lightens your load. And when you acknowledge your forgiveness to the other person, your forgiveness then becomes a gift you give them.
Forgiveness does not care who is at fault. It is about letting go of the burden of assigning blame and guilt, two sides of the same coin. When we assign blame to someone, we give away our power. We give away our responsibility for our own life. We mistakenly think that making another feel guilty will somehow make us feel better about ourselves.
It is Not Something That Needs to be Requested
Forgiveness does not need to be requested to be given. It can be offered as an act of grace. Someone need not say they are sorry before you offer your forgiveness, but when they do show their remorse, the closure for both of you is complete.
So the next time someone does something that hurts your feelings, reflect on what it will feel like to forgive them, remembering what forgiveness is but also keeping in mind what forgiveness is not.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of The We Spot, its employees, sponsors, or affiliates.