To Forgive; a gift but who is it for?
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Jayne Phillips, Psychotherapeutic Counsellor, Dip Couns, MBACP Registered
29th August, 20130 Comments
Forgive: verb, to stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offence, flaw or mistake.
Synonyms – pardon, remit, excuse, condone.
What does Forgiveness mean to you? To your family, friends or colleagues? How do we feel as a member of society when we hear of truly horrific things being done to vulnerable people? Is it right to forgive?
What is your experience of feeling forgiveness towards another person(s) or the experience of them forgiving you?
We can all look in a dictionary and find out what it means to forgive and we can listen to others' experience of finding it, but how do we truly feel about it? For me, I feel it is a gift; a gift I give to myself and I only arrive at that 'gift' by travelling on quite a painful journey. So from my perspective, I feel to forgive is about me more than the other person.
However, I understand, respect and value that we all feel differently when it comes to this emotive subject of forgiving. For many people, they struggle to see it as giving themselves anything or it may be difficult to give yourself a 'gift' if you suffer with low self-esteem, which can be amplified by being hurt and let down. For others, it feels like, to forgive another, they are giving a gift to a person who has caused them or others harm. Why would that make any sense? Why should that person have any peace?
This is why so many of us can get 'stuck' and we are almost rooted to the spot; almost in the same spot we were left in when we were hurt. Waiting and waiting for the other person to show some form of shame, sorrow or to make amends. At times, of course, you may receive that from them and you travel together on that journey of finding forgiveness, learning about each other in the process. Making decisions on how you move forward.
For others, they will not see any signs and the other person may not acknowledge or realise that they have actually done anything wrong. You can be left feeling you are just holding a 'grudge' or being silly, living in the past. This is where a state of forgiveness can be truly difficult to find. When we wait for the 'other' person, waiting until they are in a place where we feel we can forgive and let go.
However, it is in that waiting that many individuals may suffer so much pain - at times, ironically, more pain than the original situation caused them. They have been replaying what has been done to them over and over again in their minds; repeating it like an old movie. Each time, it still hurts and they are left with so many questions that, quite often, will never be answered.
If we find ourselves on a lonely journey of forgiveness, where the other person has denied causing any pain or they simply feel that they cannot face what they have done, it is down to us to connect to that part that feels so wounded - and we know it is not easy. Each emotion, thought and physical reaction will show itself ranging from wanting to curl up in a ball and hide from the world to feeling you want to do something very physical and punishing, either to yourself or the other person. This can be even more confusing if it is totally out of character with our personality. It may be difficult to talk to friends and family about those strong feelings and thoughts.
So, to forgive is a gift. We would not value it if it was just simply dropped into our laps without any of the journey we have to go on to find it. We can all look at what it means to forgive differently and it will always be our own unique, personal experience.
If we find ourselves stuck, we may potentially stay in that spot for a very long time. If we know we are not moving forward in the way that we would like, perhaps it is time to ask ourselves the question of what we are looking for to allow us to forgive and ultimately, move on.
Is it for you?
Is it for them?
Related articles from our experts
Fiona Goldman, BACP Registered CounsellorJanuary 17th, 2017
Julie CrowleyJanuary 18th, 2017
Tom KeelyJanuary 16th, 2017
Andrea Harrn Psychotherapist and Author of The Mood CardsMay 13th, 2011
Imi Lo: Psychotherapist, Art Therapist, Supervisor (MMH,UKCP,HCPC,MBPsS)March 29th, 2015
Keeley Townsend BA (Hons), Ad.Dip.CP with Distinction, MNCS (Acc)December 14th, 2009
Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.