“I’ll never forgive you.” Said in the heat of the moment it can feel like you really mean it. You’ve been hurt. The pain is unbearable. You will never forget and you will never forgive. End of story.
Except that it’s not. Not wanting or not being able to forgive brings further anguish. It doesn’t diminish over time like a memory can. It can filter into your soul filling you with bitterness, intolerance. Thoughts of revenge will keep you trapped in the very past that you despise and keep your heart like stone.
Forgiveness is the key to freedom. It will release you to live the life as the person you were meant to be. Not the person held captive by the actions and words of someone else.
“Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.” ~ Corrie Ten Boom
In my own life, one of the main barriers preventing my recovery was not being able to forgive. Until I could, I was going to continue holding onto the anger and pain. I was going to continue looking for something to numb me from reality. And I was going to carry on thinking that life owed me. It didn’t.
For me the greatest healing came from forgiving the mother who had abandoned me and the father who had abused me. It was a journey over many years requiring patience, determination and courage. Forgiving isn’t a transient emotion, it’s a decision that continues over time. It was worth it. My reward was a life free from the horrors of my past and the liberty to enjoy each day with a clear mind and an open heart.
Of course there have been many other instances since then that I have been lied-to, insulted and betrayed. Each time I have had to make the choice to forgive. Even when every fibre in my body has screamed ‘Never!’ I have still resolved to make my peace.
Forgiveness is not a form of acceptance or surrender. It is a battle cry. Another person’s actions have already stolen enough from me and I am refusing to let them take any more. Even if there is no recognition of wrong-doing or apology, by forgiving I am taking control of a situation over which I had none.
“Forgiveness is not an occasional act. It is a permanent attitude” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King.
Have you ever replayed an event over and over in your mind? Have you driven yourself half crazy doing it? Has thinking it left you feeling depressed, frustrated and emotionally exhausted? You need to let it go.
Remember that forgiveness is not to be confused with being a doormat or allowing the offender to ‘get away with it’. Neither does it mean you should not express your grief and upset. It means that you are willing to move beyond your rawness and vulnerability. And you are willing to let go of the negativity and animosity that hold you emotionally hostage.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” ~ Lewis B Smedes
Reclaiming your spirit of compassion will release your body, mind and soul.
That’s the freedom of forgiveness.
Top image thanks to Kathleen Tennant
Bottom image thanks to Elle Major