When someone treats us badly, we can be left with feelings of anger and bitterness that last long after the immediate effects of the mistreatment. Sometimes these feelings can even cause us more harm than the behaviour. For this reason, it is essential to learn how to forgive.
The idea of forgiving someone who has done something awful can be very difficult to accept. What about murderers, rapists, domestic abusers, and other violent criminals? What makes them deserving of forgiveness at all?
The fact is that forgiveness is not really about freeing an abusive person from the consequences of their actions, but about freeing their victim to move on with their lives. If someone has done something dreadful, they certainly should suffer all of the consequences of their actions—a prison term, the loss of their family and good name, or whatever the case may be. That is a simple matter of justice.
But for the person who has been hurt, reaching a state of forgiveness is liberating. It is not about saying, “What you have done to me is OK and I am going to let you off the hook,” but about saying, “Regardless of the terrible things that you have done to me, I am strong and I am not going to let this stop me from living my best life. I will not let the way you have treated me poison my life and stop me from being happy.”
By deciding to forgive the person who has hurt them—while not releasing them from the consequences of what they have done—those who have been hurt by others are enabled to move from a position of victimhood to one of strength, which is an empowering thing to do in and of itself, and which creates the foundations of a happier life moving forward, as we leave behind, or learn to manage, the damaging emotions of anger and bitterness, and the pain associated with constant recrimination and thoughts of revenge.
It is easy to say that victims of damaging behaviour should forgive. Of course, it is a difficult thing to do, and of course, it will take some time to reach the necessary state of inner peace. We can look on achieving forgiveness, even of people who have treated us very badly, as a work in progress. Even if we never get there, the work we do as we reach towards that state will be healing. We will start to be happier, and we will learn how not to waste our emotional energy thinking about how badly we have been treated and how we would like to lash out in return. We can take the empowering step of cancelling the vicious circle of pain that risks damaging our prospects of happiness.
WHO CAN I SPEAK TO FURTHER ABOUT THE ISSUES IN THIS ARTICLE?
For help with the issues discussed in this article speak to one of our therapists here at Private Therapy Clinic for a free initial chat or to make an appointment.