Forgiving someone that has harmed you is never an easy task. Sometimes people refuse to forgive because they feel the other person simply does not deserve it. Sometimes the pain is too severe and forgiveness does not seem like a real option. But why should we choose to forgive? Is it really to let the other person off the hook and to alleviate their guilt? I don’t think so.
I recently had a client that could not forgive his long time girlfriend due to infidelity. As he told their story, he discussed her behavior uncomfortably. He mentioned that she brought someone else into their home several times. He felt as if the relationship and the home itself had been tainted. Regardless, he chose to stay with her and to work on the relationship but still harbored intense, lingering feelings of anger and resentment. When we discussed forgiveness, he simply felt as if her actions did not warrant forgiveness from him. They were unforgivable.
I found his perception of forgiveness interesting. It’s a view many of us share, that forgiveness is about the other person, about casting away their sins.
I contend that it is not. Essentially, I believe, forgiveness is about YOU.
My client could, in fact, forgive without excusing his spouse’s behavior. Forgiving could be understood as a form of letting go your own anger towards someone. It’s just a shift in perception. My client could choose to forgive his spouse, and in this way, help himself move forward. The other person does not receive anything for this, they do not feel less guilt or shame. The act of forgiving is done simply for you. You are the beneficiary. Forgiveness in this way releases the burden of pain from your own shoulders and you allow yourself the opportunity to heal.
I know it’s not easy and everything isn’t perfect afterwards, but it certainly helps.
So even when it seems impossible, try to forgive. You deserve it.