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I’ve been thinking a lot about forgiveness lately. We’ve all been hurt. We’ve all felt wronged or betrayed by someone. We may have even done some pretty hurtful things to others, *intentionally or not, ourselves. We may even have felt our hurtful actions were completely justified at the time.

We also know when we feel honestly and deeply sorry for the pain we may have brought into someone else’s life and how hard it is to approach them and ask them to forgive us. To admit we made a mistake, to admit we did something very wrong and regret it, to admit we are not perfect, to say, “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” is not easy. It takes a certain level of bravery because we are showing a weakness.

To forgive also takes great strength. It’s also the first step towards rebuilding trust in whatever form of relationship you have with that person be it parent-child, between siblings, close friends, or lovers. Trust is probably one of the most fragile elements of a relationship. If you can’t trust a person, you can’t grow to love them. You lose the trust, everything else starts falling to pieces. In some cases, once that trust is gone – there’s no getting it back. We all have our standards of what is a forgivable act against us is and what isn’t. For me, that line is cheating and abuse. In other cases, there’s still hope. It’s all very personal based on what we’ve experienced and felt before.

It gets pretty tricky while you’re stuck in the middle. You’re confused. You’re still hurting. You love them, but you hate what they’ve done. You may even desperately want to forgive them – but – trust. Can you trust them? Can you believe them when they say they’re sorry and won’t do it again? Can you rise above that doubt and fear and give them a second chance? Or, maybe it’s time to move on. Lesson learned.

I’ve had to walk away from a couple of relationship where not only was an honest apology never given, but the situations would not allow me to forgive with equal honesty. Trust was completely shattered beyond repair. However – even if forgiveness will never be in the picture, I’ve taken it upon myself to be GRATEFUL for that experience. What did I learn about myself because of it? What was I looking for in the relationship? What did I gain from it that I can now use for future relationships? There is my gratitude and that is how I put that pain behind me.

Instead of dwelling and asking myself over and over again ‘Why?’, beating my self-worth into the ground and putting the blame on something I did, I took a step back and said, “Wait just a  minute here.” This happened for a reason. I may never know that reason and that’s fine, but what I do know is I’ve Learned Something Important! Instead of the Blame Game it turned into something like, “Thank you for being such an asshole and screwing me over. I’ve learned from you. You taught me what I DON’T want! And, I am genuinely thankful.”

Remember how it felt when someone gave you another chance to prove you were truly sorry? Felt good, didn’t it? When it’s your turn to offer that chance to another, will you be strong enough? That’s what forgiveness is all about. It’s that first glimmer of trust coming back. It’s hope. It’s love. It’s not saying what that other person did was right, not at all. It’s saying, “I love you enough to try again, to rebuild, to be the best WE there is, to give US another chance.” If your forgiveness is as genuine as their apology – the trust and love will return. That will take work from both sides, but it can be done.

I don’t believe in “Forgive and Forget”. Sorry, no. I will NOT forget. If I do, I take the risk of repeating that madness over again. Instead, I take the knowledge into the future. Yes, it made me slow to trust every single relationship after, but the reward for applying lessons learned has been so worth it!

No one likes feeling weak and vulnerable. No one likes feeling like they can’t be trusted. No one likes feeling wronged or betrayed.

**I believe we all have the capacity to know when we’ve made a big mistake and when we’ve hurt another. I also believe we all have the power to face the errors of our ways, admit the wrong-doing and apologize with the deepest honesty. That heartfelt apology is the first step.

The second step comes from the act of true forgiveness. Letting go of what was, learning from it, moving forward instead of keeping yourself and the relationship in prison. The one who forgives is the one who holds the key to the jail cell you are both locked inside of.

*Sometimes we may NOT know we’ve hurt someone. Over any given period of time, people can forget aspects of long or varied conversations or get-togethers. We may say or do something in passing that we considered harmless or unimportant, yet a friend may have found it devastating. If we don’t know and they don’t tell, it’s going to be nearly impossible to apologize or forgive on either side.

**Unless you’re a narcissistic-psychopath, of course, then none of this applies to you at all because every bad thing that’s every happened to you is someone else’s fault, never your own. You’re perfect!

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