Why is forgiveness so hard? Because it involves going back to face deeply unpleasant feelings. Rejection. Betrayal. Fear. Shame. To feel these is to hurt. That’s why we choose anger instead. It makes us feel distanced from our source of pain. It makes us feel powerful. How do we give this up? What reason do we have to trust again? Is it justice to give the person who hurt us, a fair hearing, understanding and empathy? Does saying sorry have to guarantee a fair hearing?
Yes. For a simple reason. We don’t forgive because we are kind. We don’t forgive because it’s good for the world. We don’t forgive because it’s a virtue. We don’t forgive because we love them so much. We forgive because we love ourselves that much.
Forgiveness is an act of self-healing. It is the setting down of a volatile, heavy burden of anger. It’s relaxing the rigid rules that distance us from people. And most of all, it is breaking free of a story that boxes us in as victim. We forgive because we transcend that.
The thing is, words like ‘transcend’ and ‘freedom’ sound big in a way we often don’t feel, especially when we are facing having to forgive. That’s because we forget that this bigness is a state we have to grow towards. Growth takes time. It happens in small, often innocuous ways.
Having been hurt decimates us. We’re also plagued by parasitic things like ego & guilt that make us spiral inward. Smaller, smaller, smaller. We need time to weed out these. And then more time to rebuild.
One day, we laugh at a silly joke. Another day, we remember how good our favorite food feels, before we recall having eaten it with the person we can’t forgive. Weeks later, we are smiling and we realise all of a sudden, that we haven’t thought about them in awhile. Yes, we crash. We backtrack. We relapse. But with each one, we rebuild just a bit stronger.
Power? Empathy? Justice? These are big responsibilities to take on. Who has time for that, when there are small, deep wounds to be healed? It’s not dramatic and it doesn’t have to be. It’s only everything you need to be you.