Forgiveness Day is around the corner! As a Forgiveness Expert, I have spent many hours, days and nights learning all about forgiveness and un-forgiveness. In my book, the Forgiveness Solution: A Step by Step Process to Let it Go, I break down forgiveness into my Forgiveness Algorithm to walk you through how to forgive. A big component of the Forgiveness Algorithm is Understanding Forgiveness. It is so important, in fact, that I used all of chapter 4 to talk about it!
Here are my take-aways for breaking down Forgiveness:
We have to break down what forgiveness is and what it is not
Are we supposed to forgive and forget? Is forgiving unconditional? How do we forgive a perfect stranger? Even harder, how do we forgive someone we have loved and trusted, when that love and trust is broken? To answer these questions, it is important to understand what forgiveness is, and what it is not.
Forgiveness does not eliminate the problems, it recognizes the problems.
You can be right and forgive. You can be wrong and forgive. You can be neither right nor wrong and still forgive.
You can forgive someone and still not trust them.
Oftentimes trust is confused with forgiveness. Forgiveness is not trust. Trust is earned, and it can take time. You can forgive someone for their bad behavior but you do not have to trust that they will not do it again. Whatever “it” is. They are on their path and their journey. Forgiveness does not require that you trust a person or a situation. Stay out of their path!
Forgiveness gives us a chance to take a step back from the situation, but not forget that it happened
Take a deep breath, and allow the pain to leave as you exhale. Forgiveness does not mean you forget what happened. Forgiveness does not mean the person who offended you is not accountable for their actions. What it does mean is that you are no longer their jailer in the “cells” of your heart and mind.
You don’t have to suffer
You can now stop trying to change what already happened. News flash: The person who you’re having a hard time forgiving had no idea you locked them up in the mental prison. Really, you have been the one jailed by the pain and suffering. It is time to open the gate and let the pain out. “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” - Buddha
Using the list above, create a T-chart with “Forgiveness is…” and “Forgiveness is not…” Keep for yourself or review with a good friend or trusted family member. Work through your personal situation using this same chart.