Forgiveness is a dirty word. It causes people to do things they don’t understand and then shame themselves for doing so. Having a sense of what this word means only comes when you are more fully aware of what choices you need to make in your life. It happens when you are clear about how to set boundaries and to ask for what you want. However, religions tell people they need to “forgive,” self-help books tell people they need to “forgive,” then folks dish out this word with “I forgive you,” and all they are really saying, when they aren’t clear what it means is, “I am sorry I was upset with you for your behavior. I shouldn’t have been.” This means we are merely letting the person off the hook.
Forgiveness is something you have to give yourself but only when you are strong enough to step away from a situation and have some clarity and wisdom to know that you must now let go (or you are ready to let go of) the hold the other person or situation has over you (such as past trauma).
If a person strikes you, you don’t walk away and say the next day “I forgive you,” therefore we will continue our life as it is and hope this doesn’t happen again. That sounds easy but likewise if you are with a partner who does not find relevance in what you have to say, you don’t “forgive” them so that you can just have peace once again until the next scenario crops up. Instead, you must view the relationship and say to yourself “Am I getting what I want from this partnership?” If your gut says “no,” then don’t allow yourself to find fifty different excuses as to why you are really the problem instead of them. You also don’t say “Okay, I forgive my perpetrator,” so that my family will be happy that I have shut up about what happened.
Naturally if you are in a bad relationship, you must take responsibility for making an unwise choice. However, this does not mean you should stay. You do need to face your partner and state your intentions. “We need to do some work on our relationship by doing, x, y, z.” If their response is negative, they do not feel a need to do anything, than your answer should be “Then I don’t think we have anything more to say to one another and it is time to end this.” The way they will react to you when you are being mature and standing your ground with them might not be mature in response. After all, if they are a mature person themselves, you probably wouldn’t be in this predicament in the first place.
Once you stand your ground and state your intentions, you must follow through. If you don’t, than you are saying, “I am not a person who deserves respect because I don’t respect myself.” This is not the time to say “I forgive you,” otherwise we are back to my initial paragraph.
It is important not to use the term forgiveness to anyone unless you are self-aware, have moved on and are in a stronger place in your life. It is not necessary to say this to anyone else anyway because you are the one who needs to know this in your heart, not them. You need to be ready to let go the issue that you face with another person but only when you see your responsibility in the matter. Your responsibility means “I made a choice to be with that person even though I knew intuitively that it was wrong, so I am forgiving them of any hold they have over me.” They did not do anything to you that you did not allow by staying with them and not setting boundaries or asking for what you want. In a past trauma you are saying “I have worked on myself and I no longer need to make that aspect of my life a conversation I need to have.” This is something you will feel within, after doing a lot of psychotherapy and soul searching.
This is a huge thing for me to write and put out there because it really doesn’t make any sense unless you have survived a situation and can really grasp what this means.
Yes, you can “forgive” your child for a mistake they made. You are their parent and it is important to teach them what is right and wrong. You can “forgive” a spouse for making a mistake, when they come to you and take responsibility for what they did or said and are stating a realization they have had about how this has effected your relationship. If they are coming to this conclusion then they value you and the affect their actions have on others. Of course, this again does not apply to someone in an abusive situation as this is merely the cycle of violence that continues over and over. I am talking about a healthy mature relationship where two people are growing as a couple.
In fact, I don’t even like using the term forgive in the above paragraph either. I would say “Thank you for taking responsibility for what happened.” With a child I would say “This was wrong what you did,” and here is the reason why. You state what behaviors you want from them in the future and depending on the mistake you either give consequences or tell them you will give them another chance to prove themselves. It isn’t about forgiveness really but a lesson learned.
Try to take forgiveness out of your vocabulary all together until you are clear what it is that needs to take place in your heart. Then begin to let the past go inside yourself, after you are in a stronger, self-aware state and have a sense that you no longer need that aspect, or person as a part of your life and you are ready to move forward without this being part of your story.
Don’t worry about forgiving them, focus on taking care of yourself and moving forward in your life in a way that works for you. Choosing the wrong person to be in a relationship with isn’t about forgiving them, it is about forgiving yourself, being strong, taking responsibility and making the right decision this time. Staying with the wrong person only prolongs your ability to have the life you want.
Enjoy your life and the people around you. Choose people who support you for the person that you are and for the path you have chosen to walk down.