Since launching the app I have been asked by many, “How easy is it to forgive?” My answer is always the same, “Well, it depends.”
It depends on what I am forgiving, how committed I am to the process of forgiving, am I really at a point where I’m ready to forgive, the depth of the relationship I have with the person I am forgiving and how much time is spent reflecting, reminiscing and contemplating what has occurred?
A few weeks ago I found myself talking to a friend about a mutual friend that I felt betrayed me. I surprised myself and her by saying in the middle of the conversation “I’ll never forgive her for what she did”. I stopped and said to my friend, “What! I’ve spent all this time working on forgiveness and here I am. Those words just fell out of my mouth without thinking.” I’ve had time to reflect on the situation and have come to realise a couple of things.
I hadn’t considered the context of the situation. I felt betrayed but was not surprised by the behaviour. I had seen this person do the same to others so why would I be any different? I thought I would be different because this woman and I had a solid friendship for many years. I chose to ignore the times over the years that I had witnessed this behaviour. I was just pleased at the time it wasn’t me. I was angry and hurt by this person but in reality I was angry with myself. I was anry with myself for making decisions that I knew at the time would have consequences.
I realised that for me to move onto forgiving her, I had to forgive myself first. I had to start to think about my choices over all of those years of failing to say to her that what she was doing was not okay. Despite many times having thought exactly that, I had to think about why I hadn’t spoken up. Why, in my current situation did I trust this person who I knew couldn’t be trusted? I wrote down all those things and at the end of each of them I wrote down that, “I forgive myself not not acting on my instincts.”
It’s now three weeks since I had that discussion within which I heard myself saying “I’ll never forgive her for what she did,” and it was only this morning that I thought, “I don’t feel angry about the situation anymore.” I am hurt by what happened and maybe that feeling will always be there but I have let go of the niggling thoughts of “How could she?” and, “I should never have trusted her.” Now, I can look at the situation and say that I made a mistake, my decisions during those years had consequences and the betrayal was merely the consequence.
I can now say that I forgive her behaviour, it’s a behaviour she has developed over many years and it’s people like me who have not spoken up in the moment that have encouraged this behaviour whether we were aware of it or not. I have now made other choices about our friendship and no longer have any contact with her.
So in summary, how easy is it to forgive? Well, I can tell you from first hand experience it is not instantaneous. It’s taken me three weeks to reflect, ask myself some tough questions, allow my feelings of hurt and anger to surface and deal with them, to confront my part in the situation and make choices of how I want to live. In the past, I would have harboured those thoughts and feelings and continued to mindlessly use the phrase, “I’ll never forgive her for what she did.”
If there is an easy part, it is this. You have to take responsibility for the part you play in any situation, you can choose anger and hurt or you can choose to start to forgive. My tip – start with yourself.
Until next time.