What is Forgiveness? What is unforgivable?
Being unwilling to forgive is a sign of pain. Anger and resentment are deeply rooted in pain. Instead of dealing with that pain, we shove it aside and deal with it in other ways. This is actually a mechanism for survival. We treat pain like it threatens our lives. Rather than demonstrate our weakness, we act in pride to showcase our false strengths. There might be one small part of someone’s wrong doing that we simply cannot let go. Part of healing takes place with simple awareness. Look at what seems the most unforgivable about someone’s transgression and notice how that part affects you most. In time you may find yourself willing to forgive.
What is holding you back from forgiveness?
When we resist forgiveness, we may feel a certain sense of power in that. We might believe that without the relief of our forgiveness, our offender surfers horrendous pain and punishment. Since they hurt us, we take a certain pleasure in knowing we can hurt them ongoing. Unfortunately, we do not hold such privilege. Forgiveness does not mean we affirm someone’s hurtful behaviors. Withholding forgiveness does not mean we convict them either. Regardless of our actions, people have free will. When we don’t forgive, we sacrifice our own free will, giving that person even more control in our lives. If you realize the inspiration behind your penalization, you may find that you can let it go.
Is there room for empathy?
There’s a good chance that whatever they did to hurt you was a projection of their own inner pain. Can you identify with this person? Did you have a relationship that is worth saving? Have you committed such emotional crimes before yourself? If you cannot find that you are completely angelic compared to this person there may be room for humility and empathy. Think of a time that someone forgave you for one of your own shortcomings. You might find that you are grateful for the forgiveness shown to you, and want to show it to someone else in return.
Set new boundaries
“What if it happens again” is a very legitimate fear and the most common motivation for not forgiving. Just like we think we have power over hurting someone, we believe that we can control them in the future. Recovering from addiction is about learning not to hide from life out of fear for what we cannot control. “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change” is a powerful mantra for recovery in this regard. We also learn to set boundaries and be empowered by having the “courage to change the things we can”. We may not be able to control their behaviors but we can set a limit on what we are willing to tolerate.