The Gift of Forgiveness
As the gift-giving season wraps up, and we move into the new year full of new challenges, we discuss the gift of forgiveness and what is has to offer us.
What exactly is forgiveness and how do you do it? Those are important questions.
But perhaps the most important question to ask first is WHY? Why forgive?
Listen in as we pull apart the topic of forgiveness to gain a clearer understanding of the what, how, and why, in it all.
Forgiveness can be a hard journey that feels like it will cost too much, but can you actually afford not to? It's not about what you should or shouldn't do. The power of the choice to forgive or not to, is all yours.
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Welcome back to Life’s Seasons Speaks… a place where we can come together and talk openly, honestly, and vulnerably about our life experiences. Thank you for being patient over the holidays while we had some time away to be with family, friends, and honestly, our deep feelings of possibly having another Christmas with people we love, but also with the void of missing those whom we still do truly love but are no longer with us... as was the experience for my family, as well as Jenny’s and many of you as well I know.
Now, as we wrap up the holidays - that have a gift-giving focus amongst the gatherings we attend, and as we step into a New Year that often focuses on having new goals and new challenges, I want to talk about a special gift, that really does set your life into a new path of new perspective. Which is possibly what you are thinking about right now as this new year starts and you are considering new challenges for yourself.
I want to talk about the gift of forgiveness.
Now before you totally shut off this episode because you certainly KNOW, WITHOUT DOUBT, that the person who hurt you doesn’t deserve forgiveness… I’m not even going to debate that with you. You very well may be absolutely correct. But you deserve so much more than what you may be carrying around inside you, because of the pain that they brought into your life.
Today, I’m not looking to talk to you about setting your abuser or anyone who caused you pain into some space of being free or to even be in your life at all. I want to talk to you about letting yourself live in that space… of freedom, and in good relationship within yourself.
You know, sometimes in our grief and trauma, we make those who hurt us HUGE. The epitome of all that is bad, a monster, the villain of our life story. And while much of that may feel true on many levels, it’s just too much power for those who have caused us pain. That’s too much space to be taken up in our lives.
And something that huge takes up so much space that it requires us to push something else aside to make adequate room for all that we feel they are.
Sometimes, the best thing we can do for our own sake, is to make this person, just that again… a person. Not necessarily to extend them compassion. And not even for empathy. But to bring them back to their proper size. Not the huge monster that has us living in fear. But just a human… amongst many we’ve known. A human WE have the power to set ourselves free from. We need to bring them back down to size, so that we are not powerless against them.
That leash of trauma, with hooks at each end of the tether has a way of hooking you both together so that you end up pulling your pain around with you through life. But that means that when you try to celebrate, have fun, succeed, accomplish goals, and move forward in life… you are dragging a too-heavy piece of hurt with you. One that is so heavy, because it is so big. And everywhere you turn, there they still are.
The concept of forgiveness is confusing though. It feels like we are saying “that’s ok” when it is certainly not ok. It gets tangled up with the idea of reconciliation, which it is not. It can get meshed with the notion of a fresh start with the person who hurt you. But this is not part of forgiveness. It could be. If you wanted to go that far. But if all you wanted was to take the hook out that connects both you and the person or thing that hurt you; that is what forgiveness really gives you. Freedom from the hooks that are dragging them and your pain with you through life.
And the truth is, you may not be the one that caused so much hurt and pain in your life, but you alone are the only one who can choose to disconnect the bond between you and whoever did cause the pain. You are the one with the power to keep the hooks intact that will corrode your future - or pull them from your side and throw them into the abyss.
Concluding that forgiveness is the way to dislodge the grapples that keep you and your painful past attached to your future, can be both a huge relief, and cause of panic and strife. But I want to take this to a place of clearer understanding and comfort… and really – power. Because at the end of the day, I am not here saying this is what you SHOULD do. I am simply saying “here is an option” – the power remains with you, and you alone. You get to choose what to do with it.
Maybe you are sitting here thinking “But I already did this. I forgave that person.” I believe you. And please, don’t think you didn’t do it right if you are finding yourself back in a place of feeling like they are a part of your life again, causing pain and anger and fear all over again. Forgiveness is not a light switch. We don’t flip the switch, and all is well. Forgiveness is a journey. It is a process. And sadly, there is no fake it till you make it with forgiveness. It takes the journey.
Society will often expect you to fake it till you make it, though. Your friends and family may want that from you too. The truth is, they are uncomfortable with your discomfort. They are uncomfortable with whatever conflict may be in the family, the friend group, or in their lives somehow, and you forgiving, or at least acting like you have, sure would make them feel better.
But this is not about them. This is not even about the person who may have hurt you. This is about you and your freedom – from the person who caused pain – from the painful event – and from the daily destruction it wants to cause in your life now.
So how then, do you actually forgive, and in such a way, on such a level, that you are able to go forward without the hooks of pain clenched into your side, dragging along that person and experience with you?
Well, that could be a season of episodes on its own. It can be looked at psychologically, spiritually, intellectually, theologically, and so on.
And you can look up the “how-to’s” for forgiveness and find an endless list of videos and articles. But I’m not sure the first question we ask should be HOW. What if the question we looked at first was WHY?
That changes the atmosphere a bit, doesn’t it?
Some people will set out to forgive because it is “the right thing to do”. It’s what we have been taught as to what good people do. And we want to be good people, don’t we? So, we set out to forgive. And quickly too sometimes. Because it will feel better as soon as we forgive, right? Because it must feel good to be a good person.
Another reason we forgive is one we have already briefly touched on. People want us to. It makes them feel better. It helps THEM move on. And we want to please people, don’t we? But that’s not a great reason to do anything.
And another reason why we forgive, and often as swiftly as we can – to heal – and quickly – hoping to skip all the pieces that will take us through grief and sadness and anger and vulnerable pain. Sometimes we try to forgive right away in hopes of bypassing all the “messy” parts of healing.
These are not altogether terrible reasons. We want to be good people. We want to do the right thing. We want people around us to be happy and comfortable. And we want to heal.
But this is still not the goal of forgiveness. These things we have just mentioned could be well-intentioned, meaningful things in our lives, but it is still not what forgiveness is all about.
Forgiveness is still about freedom. For ourselves, from who and what hurt us. It’s the removal of the hooks that keep up connected to who and what caused us pain. But in order to really do this, we must get specific about what it is exactly that we are forgiving… being specific about what hurt us.
It’s not just about unhooking the person who hurt you. It’s about dislodging the hooks of pain and grief and sadness and agony and fear and abandonment and rejection and loneliness and all of what it was.
It’s not forgiving your father for hurting your mother. It’s forgiving your father for the pain it caused you to see your mother hurt. For the feelings of loneliness, you felt while your mother was in bed, sad and depressed, leaving you to feel all alone. For the feelings of fear, you lived in, being a part of such an unpredictable and angry atmosphere.
This is essentially breaking down the big picture. It’s not forgiving the person who hurt someone you love. It’s forgiving the person who hurt you when they hurt someone you love.
It’s our job to be very specific about what it is that damaged us. It’s about understanding what happened to us and consequently, what we deserve because of it.
And I don’t mean vengeance. Vengeance is another way we plunge further the hooks of pain that tie us together with what happened to us, and by who.
I mean what the result was of the pain they caused, and what we need because of it. Because having those needs met is what we deserve. And realizing that those needs can’t be met while we are still tethered together.
This might be the very reason why many of us will avoid forgiveness or find it unattainable. Because it will require us to take an inventory of our wounds.
And looking will cause its own pain – and anger. But that’s ok. Looking deeply at our wounds lets us realize what we have lost. Sense of safety, belonging, innocence. And loss brings us grief. And grief brings its own hard feelings.
See why forgiveness isn’t a switch to be flipped? See how it must be a journey? See why you haven’t done it wrong if you thought you forgave but you are still struggling with the tether of pain and anguish?
This is not for the weak. Forgiveness is marathon of endurance.
But when you have sat and looked at your wounds and taken an inventory of what you deserve, what needs you have that can be met now, you will find that you are owed many things.
An apology. Amends. Restitution. A say in their punishment. Yes, you may be owed all those things. But being OWED is very different than RECEIVING. And owed doesn’t mean NEED.
You don’t need all that to be free.
To be free, you need to be whole. But here is the difficulty in being whole without forgiving...
Remember what we said at the beginning of this episode, which could also be looked at as the beginning of this process? We tend to make who and what hurt us HUGE. Bigger than life, encompassing all that is evil and vile and wrong.
Something that big takes up a lot of space we said. It takes up so much space that we cannot be whole while tethered to it. To make room, we give up pieces of ourselves, our lives.
You are ready to forgive when you realize you are not whole, but deserve to be, because that is the greatest thing owed to you. It is your right to be fully you.
You are ready to forgive when you realize that trading a piece of you, to carry your pain around with you, is too much of a cost and too high of a price to not forgive.
Now, you are ready to ask HOW.
This is not a specific way. Some people write letters. Maybe to send, but often just to organize and see their thoughts and feelings and words in front of them. Some people role-play and say what they need to say to a stand-in, safe person. Some will say it to that person. But remember this is not about owing them anything. This is about you. And doing this the safest way possible really matters - on all levels. Emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually.
What is specifically done, and how, is important to think about. I don’t actually recommend directly communicating with anyone you are not trying to reconcile with. Not without assuring safety and security in what will be an uncontrolled outcome.
But remember again that this is for you. It's what is communicated in your mind and in your heart that matters.
Being able to say that what happened to you was not ok. It will never be ok. It caused damage and made you feel scared, sad, alone, angry, rejected, abandoned, shameful, guilty, and unloved. And saying that in order to heal, you do not need an apology or an explanation. You are now at a place where you refuse to be reduced to what happened to you and you no longer want to be tied to who hurt you or how. You are healing and you will be whole. There is no room for the hate or anger or bitterness that you have been carrying. You forgive them. Because you deserve to be more than the pain of what happened to you. They are forgiven. And you are free and healing to wholeness now.
And then a new journey emerges. Who are you without them and what happened to you? Those possibilities are endless. That’s not even a grueling journey. That’s an adventure.
And one that has been owed to you. The one you deserve.
That’s what forgiveness is about. Unhooking who and what hurt you. Reducing their size in your life to make room for you to be very specific about what it is you need to be whole again.
And then going after who you are now.
I want this for your life. This is what you deserve, and what you get to choose. If and when you’re ready.
I want to speak freedom, healing, wholeness and the adventure of who you’ve always been meant to be ALL OVER YOU.
Love you guys. Until next time… goodbye for now,
And we’ll speak again soon.