I am sure you have asked yourself this question before. I am sure you have spent sleepless nights wondering and agonizing over the concept of forgiveness. How do we forgive? Where do we begin? If you’re looking for me to give you the simple answer, you won’t find it. Forgiveness isn’t as simple as forgetting. It’s quite easy to forget as time moves on and heals your heart and your mind. When life creates a new space where your soul is at ease. In time, we place the awful experiences and the awful person or persons on a shelf in a box and seal it tightly. We place what needs to be forgotten at the back of our closets; out of sight and out of mind. I am not saying this is a good thing, but life does move forward with or without you. Even without forgiveness, we can move on, we can live and we can be happy. I have started to realize that forgiveness has as much to do with the forgiver…the one who must forgive as it does the doer…the one who wronged you. Forgiveness requires complete openness. It requires both parties to let down their armor, to let the rawness show. It requires a fearless vulnerability that must take place within you.
I have learned that the process of forgiveness cannot take place if you are not willing to receive the apology. It cannot take place if you are not willing to open your mind and heart to the efforts that are made to make amends. You must be open to receive the healing that forgiveness can create. If you are not willing to do so and have conditions upon how and when this process must occur you are preventing that which you have decided to give…your forgiveness. You prevent an open flow of reconciliation from the doer who themselves are going through a process of forgiveness. Forgiving themselves for the wrong-doings that they have done to you, for instance, the way they made you feel, in addition, how they themselves feel. The heaviness is carried by both the doer and the reciever (the one who was hurt).
A Clean Slate
When we open our hearts to the process of forgiveness we must operate with a clean slate. This is probably one of the most difficult tasks. It’s hard not to go back and replay all the ways you feel you have been wronged. It’s hard not to fear that you will experience the same pain again by the same person because it’s a possibility. It’s a possibility that you may have experienced in the past or you have seen by witnessing the experiences of others. So I don’t blame you for being fearful, protective and on guard. I don’t blame you for keeping some distance. What I will say is that we mustn’t approach the process of forgiveness with spiteful conditions. Forgiveness can only take place without conditions and a cloak of anger. It can only take place when you say to yourself, “I want to forgive you…I will forgive you…show me what this forgive should look like and I am open to this change you would like to show me”. If you examine your life, maybe you separated from a lover, a friend, a family member? Ask yourself what has gotten in the way of you truly experiencing what it can be like to come out on the other side of forgiveness. Where you both experience the change you seek. Where you can evolve from something that was heavy and dark and transform it into a space that is light with joy. I understand every circumstance is different, and it’s true sometimes forgiveness simply involves the process of letting go. Sometimes, you can’t look back. In order to move forward, you have to go through the process of forgiveness alone and move forward, let go of the burden and the heaviness from something or a situation that you cannot control. At a time like this, self-love and the process of forgiving yourself for seeing what you didn’t see or the role you played in how things occurred is at the forefront.
When We Seek or Desire Forgiveness
When you have chosen the path of forgiveness, whether you’re the doer or the receiver, a lot of emotional work must take place by both parties in order for both individuals to receive the benefits. It’s important to understand that you cannot create a picture of what forgiveness looks. Remember, there are no conditions in true forgiveness. There are no invisible check lists. Does this mean you can’t express your expectations? Of course, you can. Part of the process is to express what you desire, what you would like to see. Or to express the ways you felt wronged and how whoever made you feel. What you cannot control is how the doer goes about seeking forgiveness. They are free to do this in the best way they know how and it’s up to you to decide whether or not this is acceptable. If it’s an effort you seek, the efforts made may not fit into the framework that you have designed in your mind. Forgiveness and the process of forgiveness doesn’t have a blueprint. It’s different in every situation but you will know bullshit when you see it. You will know when it’s not sincere…definitely, something to pay more attention to rather than grand gestures that can disguise bad intentions or motivations. With all this said, if it’s not enough for you then it may never be enough for you. Forgiveness is about building anew, you remember what brought you here so you can better prepare for where you want to go. Once you get there and if you get there-there is no room to go back. Many people say forgive but don’t forget, but there will come a time when forgetting is the only way you can move forward. If not forgetting has made you wiser and more in-the-know then I say it’s a good thing. If not forgetting keeps a cold and skeptical space in your heart, I would say you need to do some work alone before you enter the process of forgiveness. I see the concept of not forgetting as a knowledge bank account, it’s an account where you deposit life lessons, an account that helps you learn about yourself and others. We can always access this account and take withdraws when needed. Take a look at the deposits to see what needs to be improved or what we will not accept where our emotional finances are concerned. I don’t see the concept of never forget as a giant red ‘not approved’ expense stamp constantly flashing before you. It’s just a good reference point to fall back on and a way to ensure that the same mistakes aren’t repeated. It’s a way to keep your emotional bank account balanced. Ask yourself these questions when checking your emotional bank account during the process of forgiveness: Am I repeating the same mistakes? Are they making the appropriate efforts? Have we been here before? Is it time to just move on? Are we in the clear? Is there growth? How do I feel? How do I feel in relation to them?
When We Forgive We Are Free
There is so much joy in forgiveness. Whether you have to go at it alone or you have to do it with someone else. You begin to understand that we all makes mistakes. You begin to understand that no one is perfect…NO ONE. You begin to understand that there’s nothing wrong with you because you have faith in someone and see the best in them even if they showed you differently. It’s good to see the good in people and it’s also good to understand that everyone at some point may disappoint you knowingly or unintentionally. You can’t control what others do but you can take responsibility for the weight you allow those actions to hold in your life. Forgiveness will always be a matter of what you want to get out of it regardless of what someone does or will never do to gain your trust and forgiveness. Forgiveness will always be more about you than anyone else. It always will be about what you choose to carry in your heart and how much you allow this to impact all aspects of your life; even with reconciliation. The freedom you seek with forgiveness dwells within you and the actions or desired forgiveness and the receiving of this is just an extension of the overall process.
Life is indeed a beautiful and messy up and down rollercoaster. No day will ever be the same and we should be thankful for this. Just like the changing days, we will change. Hopefully, we will change for the better. Hopefully, we will seek forgiveness and do what’s needed when we have wronged someone in the best way we can, even if all that’s required is saying “I am sorry”. Hopefully, we will open our hearts to those who have learned from their mistakes and have experienced growth so we can receive forgiveness. Hopefully, you will forgive yourself. Hopefully, as we journey along this bumpy rollercoaster, we experience more love than we do hate or emotional turmoil. Maybe, I am wrong, but wouldn’t it just be sweeter? I think so.