Saturday, January 8, 2011

Day 4 - Something you have to forgive someone for

From Thirty Days of Truth

I am as slow to forgive others as I am to forgive myself. It's not because I like to hold grudges. It's because I expect the same from others as I expect from myself. How can I forgive myself for something I continue to deny doing? How can I forgive another person for something they refuse to acknowledge? I think there is something very wrong with unquestionably absolving someone of their responsibility without holding them accountable.

Forgiveness is never meant to be one-sided. Forgiveness is supposed to benefit the forgiver and the forgiven. It's meant to resolve an issue or mend a gap in the relationship, to bring closure. Forgiveness requires courage to examine oneself and to trust one another, as well as humility to accept one's own flaws. If I am unable to forgive when asked, I have personal work to do to make that happen and I should be held accountable. If the other person is unwilling or unable to ask for forgiveness, holding him/her accountable for their words or behavior gives them an opportunity to develop greater self-awareness and emotional intelligence.

Forgiveness given prematurely is merely a form of denial. Now everything is okay. We'll just move on like nothing ever happened. We've all heard the adage, 'Forgive and Forget'. But, in reality, everything is really NOT okay. In fact, my insistence that I have absolved the other person merely provides the framework for the behavior on both sides to continue...I'll continue being the victim and thereby continue to repeatedly 'forgive' and the other person continues hurtful behavior undeterred because s/he is never held accountable. I heard a psychiatrist aptly call it "The Doormat Effect."

So if I don't think that forgiveness is the first step to moving on or healing, then how do I let go and attain inner peace? It's not the act of forgiving that allows me to move forward with a clear mind and heart. It's the acknowledgment and full expression of the hurt or anger that allows me to finally let go. After that it's respecting myself enough to choose to no longer be a victim.

That said, every person in my life who has accepted their responsibility in whatever hurtful exchange has transpired between us has been forgiven.

For everyone else, I have acknowledged my hurt or anger, taken a few deep cleansing breaths and let it go. I may not have forgiven or forgotten, but I am no longer held hostage by it because a hostage is a victim and I choose to not be a victim.

Christians believe that one must acknowledge one's transgressions or 'sin' to receive God's forgiveness. Why then would we expect any less from each other?

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