December 2018 -
Monday, 31 Dec 2018

The Mis-Conceptions Surrounding Forgiveness

By Dr Becky Spelman

Forgiveness is something we all crave when we’re in the wrong, yet, it’s an act that all too few of us are able or willing to extend in return. At its heart, it’s a simple concept. Let go of the hurt or injustice you’re feeling, and absolve the other party of their guilt, depending on the circumstances. But when it comes to the crunch, there’s a mental block. Our emotions take over and the ego-mind plays soundbite after soundbite in our head.  We hold onto our anger with both hands, playing out as many hypothetical scenarios as we can imagine relating to closure. All except forgiveness.

For many, it has become a forgotten virtue, especially in western culture and among males in particular. It is perceived as a weakness. In other parts of the world, there is a greater emphasis on forgiveness as a practice of restoration, as it is with Buddhism and the act of loving kindness. However, this kind of thinking is still the exception rather than the norm. We have formed so many misconceptions about its role in the healing process; it has become the elephant in the room. True, unconditional forgiveness is a skill many of have yet to master in their personal relationships.

Here are some thoughts to bear in mind if you’re struggling with the process of healing your past traumas:

You Forgive the Person NOT The Act Itself

This is the prime reason why so many people not only refute the idea, but are often offended by its mere suggestion. It’s understandable why this can sometimes be the case, especially in situations when there may be instances of prolonged and systemic abuse, for example. To expect anyone to forgive in this context can appear as though they’re expected to condone the crime(s) against them. This is not what is being suggested. The act forever remains inexcusable, and there should always be full accountability on the part of the abuser. However, by extending forgiveness to the person, you do so for your own sake, not theirs. And to clarify, there does not have any further interaction. You simply forgive and let go to reclaim the power those horrible events had deprived you of for so long.

Forgiveness Starts by Making a Choice, But it is A Process

It’s common to assume that forgiveness is a snap decision, a binary yes or no before we go on with our lives. This can mostly be attributed to the kind of acts we forgive on a daily basis. We excuse people for minor trivialities almost without thinking, so when we’re asked to forgive something or someone on a much larger scale, it seems unthinkable. We only know one way to forgive, and to do so with such a blasé attitude can feel almost degrading. When dealing with serious wrongdoing though, forgiveness is much more about the process. You work at forgiving someone. You accept what has happened; you grieve, and purge yourself of the ill feelings of anger, sadness and hurt. Little by little, these residual emotions lessen over time, until you have completely let go.

Forgiveness Makes You Weak (or a doormat)

Although forgiveness is far from being a gender-specific issue, it can definitely be a sticking point amongst certain males. To forgive is to lose face; it casts you as weak. And where others sense weakness, they perceive an opportunity to test boundaries. But this line of thought can also be applied to cases of abuse, as mentioned in the previous point. There can be the feeling that the act of forgiveness erodes character, and is likened to a form of surrender. Again, this is quite simply not the case. The truth is that it takes great courage to forgive those who’ve wronged us in such shocking ways. It goes against all of our basic primal instincts. To walk the path of forgiveness is to show great integrity and strength of character.

***If you’re struggling with issues of forgiveness surrounding present or past traumas, one of our specialists would be happy to provide you with an initial consultation to help determine the best way to assist you in finding closure.

  • By Dr Becky Spelman
  • General
  • Personality Disorders
  • Relationships
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