Mental Health

Forgiveness – A process, not a planned occasion

Anger so hot it felt frozen washed over me in repeating waves that carried whitecaps of sorrow. There was a mixed sadness along with a tiny bit of hope, but it carried a bittersweet echo that caused the wraiths of my past to walk. I felt them crawling free of the tomb I’d tried to seal them in, cold fingers inching out and pulling their weighted chains behind them. A series of short sharp knocking sounds rang in my head, clank, clank, clank…

I had spent a lot of time trying to ignore inner pain, trying to distance myself from any emotion. I had mistakenly began using this as a way to avoid further hurt and victimization. Now my first step toward healing and feeling emotions again was to forgive starting with forgiving myself. I could hear the question rolling around inside my head, banging against the inside of my skull with a force that couldn’t be ignored, what is forgiveness?

To forgive by definition means to stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone for an offense, flaw or mistake. However, for me it is deeper than that. It is a mental action followed by emotional healing. For me, it involves letting go, and this isn’t condoning the action nor is it pretending that it didn’t happen, it is simply letting it go and moving forward with healthy boundaries. Everybody has views and motivations; some people can be hurtful, unreliable and so on, they are what they are and they won’t change. My goal is to stop expecting them to change and instead change my own response to them.

Forgiveness also involves giving up claims of compensation for any hurt suffered. It is about freeing myself from that bitter anger that is provoked by what is perceived, and quite possibly is/was, unfair treatment. One part of forgiveness that I struggle with is understanding that friendly relations don’t need to be restored in order to forgive; forgiveness can be given regardless of whether it has been asked for.

I understand that forgiveness is about personal attitude and not about someone else’s action. It is a process and not a planned occasion, it can be a very private thing. For me forgiveness is not only a key to happiness it is the key to being released from a painful past. I can take back control by understanding that I couldn’t change what had happened or how it had affected me, but I can learn from it.

By Shari Marshall – 2020

7 thoughts on “Forgiveness – A process, not a planned occasion

  1. So well said Shari. I hesitate and resist the temptation to add anything to what you’ve said. The need for forgiveness has rarely been so needed in our world, but the decision and commitment to wrap our minds around then “do forgiveness” has always been the more difficult path of all options available for our choice.

    Thanks for producing and sharing this essay.

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  2. Wow!
    “I understand that forgiveness is about personal attitude and not about someone else’s action. It is a process and not a planned occasion”
    These phrases really struck me – I think to choose to forgive is such a critical step that we often find so difficult to make.

    Thank you for tackling such a private and challenging issue in an intimate & honest manner. You have got me thinking about difficult things which we really need to do for ourselves, and those around us.

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  3. Forgiveness is a process. I see things a bit differently. I believe that forgiveness is different from deciding to not hold a grudge and move on on your own. True forgiveness is two (or more) sided: an open recognition of the hurt and mutual decision to move together forward. You can certainly decide to not redress grievances and let things go, but the relationships will never be the same if the decision is one sided. I know that sounds hard, but it actually isn’t. It is necessary to recognize that someone who hurts you and feels no regret or desire to make you whole will just hurt you again. You need to protect yourself from this, and it is fair to do so.

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