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When to forgive

You’ve been hurt badly – by a spouse, a family member, a friend. What they did left a lasting effect on you. Sometimes you don’t know how you have survived the hurt and the pain; there are even times where you’re not sure that you have survived it. You talk about what happened to your spiritual adviser, your therapist, your support system, and one thing they may tell you is to forgive the offender.

‘Forgive and you will feel better’ is a mantra you have probably heard more times than you would really care to count. But, will it really solve everything? Is forgiveness a magic eraser that will serve to eliminate your painful feelings? Not always.

Saying you forgive someone will not automatically heal you and will not make you forget what has been done to you. Others may encourage you to forgive and move on, believing that doing so will assist in relieving your residual emotional pain.

People encourage others to forgive for a multitude of reasons. For example, family members may think that without your forgiveness, the family will remain broken. While this may be true, it may feel to you that you are being pressured to accept poor treatment without consideration of your feelings and concerns. You may feel as though your interests are being overlooked for the good of the family as a whole.

Forgiveness is a very personal decision. The emotional and intellectual process required to arrive at a place of forgiveness is different for everyone. No one – not your priest, not your therapist, or your family members – can push you to forgive someone if you’re not ready for it.

Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself; after all, it doesn’t feel good carrying baggage of anger and bitterness. Forgiveness is a letting go of anger and resentment towards other people without the need for their apology. While it will certainly help in the grieving process, you can still forgive without the offender making amends or providing an apology.

Offering forgiveness does not mean that you forget the wrong. Forgiving means that you’re acknowledging the wrong done to you, as well as the consequences of the event. Forgetting, on the other hand, is repressing the memories of what happened. Processing the hurt and pain with a mental health professional, friend, or family member will allow for greater understanding and acceptance; it allows you to free yourself from the need to continually ruminate on the painful life event

There is no clear-cut answer, forgiveness is unique to each person. Some find it easy to do, and actively strive to forgive while others don’t feel ready to forgive at all, no matter how much time has passed. This doesn’t mean that you are inherently flawed, stubborn, or a grudge holder; it just means that they’re not ready to let go yet.

If you need someone to talk to about forgiveness, contact us. We can help.

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