People are often reluctant to forgive others, or themselves, because they think they have to disregard their pain and emotions. If others have wronged you, or if you hurt others, forgiveness is an important tool in the healing process to help you find inner peace. The first step to forgiveness is understanding what it is and what it isn’t. Forgiveness is being compassionate, generous, and loving. It is not forgetting the past, excusing or condoning bad behavior, a band-aid to repair a relationship, or a favor to hold over someone. Forgiving yourself and others will allow you to heal, move on, and have a more productive, happier life.
Forgiveness is not about the other person – it’s about YOU. It’s not about making peace with others, it’s about making peace within yourself. I’m not saying you shouldn’t take the other person’s feelings into consideration or try to repair your relationship with them, but forgiving others is a tool to help you find peace of mind. By forgiving the other person, you’ll begin to chip away at resentment and anger that’s holding you back. Hanging onto those, and not being forgiving, can turn into depression and self-destructive behaviors. Forgiving is about making peace and change for yourself so you can move forward. When you redefine forgiveness and view it as a positive part of the healing process, you can allow yourself to move on. You are still allowed to feel hurt, disappointment, and anger, but you’ll be better equipped to handle them. It’s OK to have feelings (no emotion is a bad emotion), but the problem is when they consume you and prevent you from healing. Forgiveness is saying “I know what happened. I know what I did. I know what the other person did. Now what can I do to heal and move forward?”
Self-forgiveness is often harder than forgiving others. How does blaming yourself serve you right now? Has it helped you grow or stay stagnant? It’s important to remember that what you’ve done in the past doesn’t define you. How you think people perceive you, or even how you perceive yourself, doesn’t define you. What defines you is what you do from now on and what you’ve learned from your past. Just because you forgive yourself doesn’t mean you’re not taking accountability for your past mistakes. FORGIVENESS ISN’T FORGETTING. We have this idea of what forgiveness and remorse should look like, but there’s no one way it is presented. Crying? Drinking? Sulking? Saying you were wrong? Self-destructive behaviors? There’s no inner peace with those and they’re not rectifying. You may worry that if you’re living a happy, healthy life, and don’t look remorseful, other might think that you aren’t atoning for your past mistakes. Living happily and responsibly means you have learned from your past mistakes, and you are continuing to heal and grow. You do not have to worry about how other people perceive you, as long as your intentions are good and genuine. Show remorse through: being consistent with making healthy decisions; engaging in positive behavior; taking initiatives; and being genuine. There’s no growth in self-destructive or disingenuous behaviors. Don’t just try to show you’re a better person to others, be a better person for your own sake. Take actions to be on the right track, not to prove you’re on the right track. Forgiveness is an internal experience, not for others. If your actions are to benefit someone else, yet that person doesn’t forgive you, it will impede your growth and be harmful to you and your relationships. You can’t predict others’ feelings. They still might be resentful, angry, or upset with you, but you can’t change that. If you are genuine in your feelings and actions, you can’t allow anyone else’s resentment to hold you back. Going back to self-destructive behaviors, including drug or alcohol abuse and addiction, suicide, and depression, harm others and don’t serve you. When you start to forgive yourself, you’ll begin to chip away at guilt and shame that are holding you back.
Forgiveness isn’t easy. If you find yourself engaging in self-destructive behaviors, need help improving relationships with others, and struggling to find inner peace, Serenity Lane offers mental health therapy for a variety of life’s issues. Contact Dr. Heather Violante today and learn how she can help you get on the right track and find your happiness.
YOU ARE WORTH WHILE
YOU CAN BE FORGIVEN
YOU CAN FORGIVE OTHERS