Forgiveness is a personal experience that varies among people. Some people need to forgive to move on while others can move on and go about their lives without it. It is a personal choice that people should not feel pressured to rush into or even feel like they must forgive. Rushing or forcing people to forgive invalids their experience and feelings. Expecting people to forgive you or someone else comes from a place of false entitlement, not accountability and responsibility. Just because you think you are worthy of forgiveness does not mean you are worthy of it from the person you have hurt or harmed. Wanting someone to forgive you is fine but forcing or rushing them is not the way to go. If it is forced or rushed, it’s probably not true forgiveness. People can understand why you did an action but still do not want to forgive you because it is their personal choice.
Whenever I apologize to people, I do not expect them grant me forgiveness or anything else in return. I usually expect the worse like them brushing me off or cursing me out. When I apologize, I do it to acknowledge the fact I was wrong, the ways I was wrong, and I work on changing whatever behavior I need to change. The apology is genuine and thought out. I do not just say, “I am sorry” or make excuses. I say exactly what I am apologizing for and whatever changes I am going to make. Usually people forgive me within seconds after I said the apology, which surprises me. My usual responses are something like, “That was quick,” “Are you sure?” “Take some time,” “You do not have to forgive me.” I say statements like these to make sure that it is a choice that they want to make, not feel like they must make.
Forgiveness is a privilege and a process that takes time. Some people can forgive within a short time span while for others it’s a longer process. Some people even have conditions for earning their forgiveness, which is totally understandable. Having conditions is not being difficult, it is a form of boundaries and a way to respect yourself. You do not have to forgive every single person if you genuinely do not feel like it. You are not God or any other all forgiving spiritual being, you don’t have to be all forgiving. And let’s be honest there are certain things that are unforgiveable, such as trauma inflicted onto a person. Healing from trauma in itself can be a rough process. Forcing or rushing someone to forgive just makes it more overwhelming for them. It further invalids their story and makes them feel pressured. There are some people who has experienced trauma and found a way to genuinely forgive. While there are others who have not forgiven the person(s) but found a way to let go and heal. Aside from forgiveness, there are multiple ways to let go of the anger, sadness, and other overwhelming feelings. For example, writing a letter expressing yourself to the person but do not send to them. Finding the lesson in the situation, talking it with a trusted friend, or having therapy sessions with a licensed mental health professional are some other examples.
Throughout my life, I have heard the phrase “You need to forgive others in order to let go” or something similar with the same connation. As you can guess, I do not fully agree with that statement. The process of letting go varies for people. It is possible to let go of a situation and/or person without forgiving them. It is possible to let go of feelings of anger and resentment toward them without forgiveness. I do this most of the time, I let go of being angry and do not dwell on the issue or person. I do not constantly talk about it or the person. When I say I am done, I am done and usually forget about it. I do not think about the person in a negative light. If someone brings up their name, I do not get angry or start bashing them. At that point, that person is indifferent to me. I wish them the life that they deserve, and I move on with my life. When I was younger, I used to harbor hatred for people and hold grunges but now I do not have the energy for that. I just let it go and keep moving. Some people may consider letting go as forgiveness while other people don’t. They may see letting go and forgiveness as two different concepts.
There is a variety of experiences and narratives related to forgiveness. It means different things to people and could be influence by culture, religion, or other beliefs. I am still trying to figure out what exactly forgiveness means to me at this point in my life. In the past, it meant that I was willing to let the person back into my life and we could continue to be friends. But recently there have been a few times where I have forgiven a few people and kept them at a distance. Similar to other concepts, there is no hard and fast rule for forgiveness. Whatever works for you, works for you.
Time to Focus on You:
What does forgiveness means to you? What are the basis or conditions of your forgiveness?
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash