Forgiveness... It's Not for Them, It's for You. Part 1
When we think of forgiveness, it’s often in the context of someone apologizing by saying, “I’m sorry.” or “My bad.” which is met with the response, “It’s ok.” or “No worries.” The person apologizing is accepting ownership for their behavior and is actively involved in asking for forgiveness. When the respondent accepts the apology, they are actively involved in forgiving the offense and are agreeing to move forward and to put the incident behind them. This is a balanced interaction as both parties are actively involved in the process.
So, what if the forgiveness isn’t asked for? What if it doesn’t feel earned or deserved? Is this “one-sided-forgiveness” necessary or even possible to achieve?
The concept of what I call “on-sided-forgiveness” used to really bother me. If you read my last blog post, you will see I am part of the #MeToo movement, and that’s really where my forgiveness journey began. I could not fathom how I could ever or would ever forgive the man who raped me. In my entire life, he is the one person I have ever hated. The idea of forgiving him was not something on my radar, because I was convinced that my healing was contingent on hating him, and I was terrified to shift out of that mindset.
Early in my self-care journey, as I started reclaiming my life, I decided to not overwhelm myself with the things I couldn’t yet accomplish. Instead, I chose to focus on what I could do. I needed to be able to feel my emotions. I needed to be angry. I needed to hate. I needed to scream and cry. It was important for me to feel all the things, and I am a believer that we do the things we need to do in order to cope with the world around us until those things are not longer helping us. The more I connected to my emotions, the better I felt, and I knew there were deeper levels of healing still to come. I knew that had to start by taking care of me, and I would have to tackle my healing at my own pace and on my own terms.
While I was busy working on my own self-concept, it became apparent that there were some things holding me back. I knew I was harboring a lot of anger and hate at my offender, but I was discovering there was more than one target. I was also angry with myself. I remember saying it out loud to my life coach. I said it through angry tears streaming down my face that I was angry I let myself get raped; that I let it happen to me. WOW! As the words left my mouth, I was shocked to hear myself say such things. I blamed myself, and I didn’t even realize it. How is that possible?! All the clients I have helped overcome this very thing, and I’m saying the words about myself?!
Well, I’ve always said that awareness is a funny thing, because you can’t unknow something. Once I knew how much anger I had at myself, I knew that I had to start working on forgiving myself. How long was I going to hold myself accountable for someone else’s evil actions? Having my coach to talk to and having her guidance was so helpful. It gave me a judgement-free zone to express myself, and the more I worked through my anger, the freer I felt. I was able to stop blaming myself for what happened to me, and I started to see how strong I was for having survived some really horrific experiences. I now see that not only am I surviving, I am thriving.
Through the use of daily affirmations, gratitude practices, and daily self-care, I started to like myself again. It was an amazing feeling to not be stuck in my negative thought patterns of self-anger, self-hate, and self-rejection. Instead I was beginning to feel self-love, self-compassion, and self-acceptance. I still didn’t know how I was going to forgive the person who hurt me in the most awful ways, but I had figured out how to forgive myself. I was making progress, and the more progress I made, the prouder I felt of myself, and I knew I had to stay on my self-care journey.
There are definitely moments when I slip back into my old ways of thinking, but I am so grateful that I’ve been able to make such progress on this journey to living my best life. I’m learning forgiveness can be quite complex and often confusing, but it is also freeing and empowering. I’m so glad I’ve been able to add this additional tool to my life, and I have so much more to share on this topic. Forgiveness is a process, and I have decided to tackle it through a series of posts, so this is where I’ll end for now. ..
Part 2 will be continued very soon!