I promised to write this post last week, but due to the insane preparations for my hubby’s 40th birthday, a three night stay at our friend’s house and a rough weekend illness-wise, this is the first chance I’ve had to finish writing and post it. While I apologize for the lateness, the topic actually came up again in a discussion with a young woman still trying to recover from an abusive relationship and I think I have better formulated my thoughts.
Someone in Twitter expressed how hard it is to forgive someone for hurting you while they are still doing it. I won’t say who it was, as it may make a complicated situation more difficult.
My response was a lesson that was hard learned and remains even harder to enforce: “Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself, not the other person. It takes a lot of work, but is freeing.”
That brought a follow-up tweet by @ObiOrion: “There are acts over the recent years I’ve been forced to accept but does that mean I have to forgive?”
Short answer? Of course not. You can hold on to that for the rest of your life, if you so choose. I simply choose not to.
The long explanation of my short answer involves revealing that, like most, I’ve been hurt grievously by some that I loved. In the most damaging case, I spent years carrying the pain around with me, waiting for the phone calls of apology. I nurtured that pain, feeling justified and righteous, knowing that I did not deserve the years of mis-treatment from them, and that there would someday be an epiphany that would lead to them coming to me with arms open wide. I would finally have what I needed, which was acceptance for who I was and all that I had been, and continue, trying to do.
And you know what? I finally realized that those calls would never come. Maybe pride or a belief that I deserved the treatment that I got would never allow them to apologize or acknowledge my place in their lives.
So, being an analytical type of gal, I then had to ponder what to do with my need for apology as well as the need to have a situation that would allow me to forgive them. Because it was crushing me beneath the weight of anger, sadness and rejection to the point that at times I had trouble catching my breath.
Should I continue suckling at the teat of hurt and rejection? Drop hints or openly confront them on how I’d been wronged and hope for an apology to come? To get people to acknowledge that they aren’t, in actuality, any better than me? That we are all just animated lumps of meat with frailties, gifts, fears and beautiful flaws? That you don’t have to make someone feel worse to feel better about yourself? To break through facades built up over lifetimes in order for them to deal with things that were done to them?
Or, should I just forgive them? Let go all of the pain, rejection and loss that I felt. (Or at least try to). It seemed impossible and unlikely, but I’d heard some TV shrink talk about it, and while I initially scoffed, the possibility of freeing myself was tantalizing.
So, I simply stood in front of a mirror, went through some of the most egregious and painful events, and spoke them out loud while looking myself in eye. And then I told myself how I felt: rejected, diminished, foolish, ugly, unloved, fat and unworthy. You’d think I felt ridiculous or silly, but didn’t. I was caught up in it, as pent up as these feelings were. Hell, the venting aloud itself was cathartic.
Then I closed my eyes and thought long and hard on whether or not forgiveness was in my heart for the pain that I spoke aloud as well and all the pain I didn’t. I again looked myself in the eye, and said, “I forgive ‘A’. I forgive ‘B’. I forgive ‘C’ … And on and on down the list of people related to this long-term issue. I then gave myself permission to drop that load and move on without it. I know there are some that will call it crazy, (and I could NOT care less) but it took that physical tangible act for me to be able to begin to move past it. Hearing an apology from them was not something that I had control over. The only control I could exert was how I let it affect me and impact the rest of my life and future relationships.
The apologies never came. I’m convinced they never will. Now, I won’t lie and say there isn’t still insecurity and sadness. And a few aspects still haunt me. But I’m freed from it, at least as much as if they had apologized and maybe even more than that. Because I did it for myself. I took control of how much more time I would waste on them and the pain they brought me over the years.
In talking with my aforementioned troubled friend, I could see how the continued burden weighed on her. Plus, there is a continuing issue that keeps these people in her life. Another friend and I tried to convince her to once and for all cut those ties, and move on past them. Don’t waste another minute on people that make you feel bad, especially since they may not agree that an apology is in order.
“I forgive.” Two simple words that mean so much. Who cares if the oblivious people that committed the painful acts that inspired it never hear it? And no, I’m not saying that if an apology is given that you should withhold forgiveness. That’s a personal choice you have to make. But I figure that life is pretty fragile and extremely short, so why not? It will likely make you feel even better for taking the high road.