Thursday, August 28, 2014

The struggle to forgive

Yesterday was Global Forgiveness Day. The subject of forgiveness is one that I have struggled with for a long time. Being able to forgive others for wrongs done to me, being able to forgive myself for hurting others or making mistakes (sometimes by accident) that hurt or upset others. I have also been thinking about how some people try to use some sort of reason or another to explain why somebody did something to them and so this makes it easier to forgive them.

And for some very interesting reason, I have seen a lot of pins on Pinterest of quotes on forgiveness.

All of these things are issues I have struggled with in coming to terms on whether or not I can forgive certain people in my life – and those who are not in my life anymore.

For one thing, I kept asking myself this: Why was I able to forgive some people but not others? On one hand, I would say to myself, ‘well, that was just a bad person who MEANT to hurt me and that’s why I can’t forgive that person.’ But, you know, most people change, so I can’t think that thought for the rest of my life. The person may be sorry. Or, not. That person could have changed, or not. So that reason really doesn’t hold any merit.

The pain of what happened with those people stayed with me for a long time. And in some cases, I had nightmares. But I recently decided that, you know what? There is no point in dwelling on a wrong a person has done to me. It was done and it’s all over with. I’m on a new chapter in my life. Carrying that burden around will only hurt me, so there’s no point in allowing it to continue to exist. Grudges are uncool. So I had to let it all go. The lies, the manipulations, the betrayals, the physical harm, the hurt and anger. I just had to let it all go. This is the story of my life. Those things happened because, at that particular time, that is how it was supposed to happen. Those people who have hurt me in the past and are not exactly seeking forgiveness for it are not in my life anymore and they won’t ever be in my life anymore because I know for a fact that those particular people have not changed. And I had this belief that I cannot forgive them unless they ask to be forgiven. I have not actually SEEN them make right what was made wrong. There’s no communication or anything. So maybe that’s why I could not forgive them. They’re not exactly asking to be forgiven.

And, really, all they DO need to do is ASK to be forgiven. If someone apologizes to me for a wrong, I’ll forgive it. I’ll wipe the slate clean. You know, it takes a really big person to admit they made a mistake and even more so to say they are sorry. So, you know, I feel totally fine in forgiving them.

And I thought that, having said that, I could move on. But it bothered me that there were people out there holding grudges against me, refusing to forgive me and hating me for the rest of their lives because of mistakes I made, my personal security methods or because of something I meant to do – At That Time. (I am not the same person I was 10 years ago.) So, when I have prayed, I asked God if he would help those people to come to terms with what happened and find it in their hearts to forgive me, to stop hating me.

But then I read this one quote on Pinterest and it really made me think. The quote went like this: “Forgiveness does not make the other person right. It makes you free.”

That quote made me realize that I had to accept that those people may not forgive me and they may not be sorry for what was done. But I had to be okay with this because if I was not going to be okay with this and let it bug me, then I would only continue to carry around the pain they inflicted or this grudge they still have against me. By accepting that they are not sorry or that they won’t forgive me, but I forgive them, then I can break free of all that. I’m not gonna be on good terms with EVERYBODY in the whole world.

Still, I wondered, was there something I could do to encourage them to forgive me? I have said I was sorry and tried to reconnect with them (even when there was no response to my reaching out). I have tried to make things right with those people. Was there something I could DO to fix things? Bring about their forgiveness? I have been reading this book for research. It is called How to Pray Without Being Religious by Janell Moon. (Side note: I am not exactly a religious person anymore, but mainly spiritual.) Today I read something that really affected me. It was this: “She wants to be free of this guilt and be better friends with her sister, but she is pushing the river by wanting her sister to forgive her. That is not her business. … Her sister will forgive her if and when she can.” (Page 130) So I realized that if there was someone out there unable to forgive me for a past wrong (my dad, maybe??), I have to let them decide on their own if they want to forgive me. If they chose to forgive me, that had to happen on its own.

The best way to do that was to step out of their lives for good. Just don’t communicate with them, don’t try to get messages to them through other people and just “disappear” from their lives. Leave them to live this journey their life is on right now. Stay silent. In time, they might remember me. They might be able to forgive me or stop holding this grudge against me. (Whatever it is!) And I have to just let that happen in its own time.

Meanwhile, maybe I could finally start to forgive myself? There have been MANY times I reflected on those instances and think, WHY did I do that?? Or, I was such an IDIOT! Or, I’m a terrible person. (I counter this with, I was a terrible person THEN. But not anymore. I don’t like to talk too much about what life was like for me growing up and why I was the way I was in my 20s and early 30s. But I know better now because my life is better now.) Well, I usually know WHY. I jumped to conclusions. I was afraid. I felt I could not trust people. I was overly cautious. I was mad. I was drunk. I was distracted or tired. I was influenced by others. Etc., etc. The key word is “was.” As in, not that anymore. That was all in the past so there’s no point in dwelling on THAT part of the situation, either. This, ultimately, helped me to forgive myself. It is true it can be so hard to forgive oneself but I knew I could not completely move on unless I did. That’s just the way it was at the time. The way I was at the time. I have to accept that and forgive myself for playing that unfortunate role in that unfortunate experience.

Of course, these do not explain away everything wrong or bad that has happened in my life. They are reasons, yes, but that does not make the bad stuff better. It does not make it easier for me to forgive or seek forgiveness. All it does is help me understand the why. By understanding that, I can make peace with it. I can find closure and move on. I prefer to live in the now, for today. Yesterday is over with and gone. All that matters now is moving forward. Being able to forgive everyone and everything, and accept that forgiveness may not accepted or returned, will make it easier for me to do that.

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