Forgiveness is not an abstract theological concept; rather, it’s an experience. Many teach this as a duty that people should ‘just do’, forgive and forget we often hear. However, few take the time to help the victim understands how to undertake the sometimes arduous journey into pardoning someone for the harm they did.
Forgiveness is the kind of experience that can be life-changing.
The conventional method of teaching forgiveness is problematic and often alienate those who are grappling with people who show no remorse. Sometimes before the hurt from yesterday has had time to heal, the cycle of pain continues. For many layers of pain makes forgiveness an unsettling topic. Helping individuals in this group needs awareness, time, care and sensitivity.
I believe that for anyone to be successful at mercy, they have to decide on how they plan to let go of things that happened.
Why would this be necessary?
Forgiveness doesn’t start when something goes wrong, or when someone does something harmful to you. Absolution begins with a decision long before anyone does anything to you. It is a process of releasing yourself to let go of any wrong done to you by anyone.
This kind of decision making takes a high level of self-awareness and self-reflection. Self-awareness happens through reading and being purposeful at self-evaluation. Nevertheless, some will still find it challenging to let go. Therefore, there needs to be room for people to allow the process to happen as it unfolds for them.
For example, let’s consider the woman stuck in pain that the perpetrator refuses to acknowledge. Or the person who is dealing with an issue that will not receive validation because the perpetrator is deceased. For individuals in this category, the lack of validation can prove a real obstacle to pardon.
Forgiveness and the wounded child
We are often not taught how to forgive.
Often the steps to successfully let go of hurtful events are learnt through trial and error. Usually, this process leaves damages.
Also, sometimes, forgiveness was not modelled in the home. Many were beaten to the point of physical abuse when they did something wrong. In this atmosphere, a child would struggle to let go. Because letting go is not something we automatically know how to do. Letting go is learnt, through behaviours that significant adults modelled or through instruction.
Let’s also consider the person treating the injuries caused by the hurt sustained by the narcissist or the wound the church refuses to acknowledge and use scripture to justify.
An individual in this position can live in a perpetual place of hurt unsure of how to begin to forgive. Some in this position will attempt to let go but often struggle with the day to day challenges of remembering without the pain. Often individuals in this place feel inadequate or less worthy because they’ve failed in forgiving and forgetting.
These and other situations highlight once again, that forgiveness is a dynamic process. It changes and grows as the person develops. It heals as they heal and gets a little easier each time. Therefore the individual in the example above will need to pursue healing as they attempt to absolve the person of the wrong they sustained.
For those who try to muster enough energy to forgive without healing, finds it challenging. Forgiveness cannot be undertaken as an exercise out of guilt, nor can you consent to forgive out of fear. Trying to forgive without healing is unstainable. Attempting to pardon an offender without adequately addressing what they did to cause the injury will result in frustration and sometimes self -blame.