In the world we live in there are so many misconceptions about what forgiveness is and what it isn’t. For the longest time I suspected that true forgiveness meant that the person who wronged you was enabled to come back into your life with no consequences. I am grateful to have learned different. Anyone who has met me or read my writings knows that I’m typically a fairly private person. I’m going to step out of that box for the purpose of this blog post. I can not begin to imagine how many people I have met who want to pontificate about forgiveness, who don’t seem to have ever been harmed. I am not, one of those people. In 2007 I was brutally assaulted and raped. In the logical mind, there could be no doubt that this was rape. The police had to bust down this human’s door to free me from his captivity. So please trust me that I know some things about forgiveness.
I can’t clearly recall the messages I received growing up about forgiveness, but it wasn’t happening on my watch. I suspect I viewed it as a weakness, because in my mind at that time, you then let your guard down. It goes without saying, that there was a lot of damage that went along with the assault. That damage was far reaching in even the most invisible ways. It impacted me physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I would vacillate from wanting drastic harm to come to him to just wanting it to not have happened.
I was taught many years ago, that anger and resentment is the equivalent of drinking poison, and expecting (and wanting) the other person to die. However, with each passing breath you are withering away…closer and closer to death. Meanwhile the other person was laughing, dancing, and singing. At some point it occurred to me that this other human being was not impacted by my pain at all. But I was. I was unable to be undressed, I was having horrible nightmares, I was struggling to trust anyone and could not even fathom being touched. And then at some point…a very very subtle point… the reality hit me.
I was still allowing him to control me! That’s exactly what happens when we allow someone else to have the power over our feelings, emotions, responses, etc. I began slowly taking back my power by re-engaging in society and returning to what was normal for me previously. And I began to contemplate the power of forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t happen in a bubble. I was taught a wonderfully empowering definition of forgiveness a long time ago. The definition that I use of forgiveness today is: Giving up the hope of a better or different yesterday. The wonderful part of this definition is it takes the people, places, and situations out of it. When I look at forgiveness in this light it seems so simple. And it allows me to take my power back from people and situations, which don’t deserve them. I have even identified a way to forgive myself in this process, which is probably the most powerful aspect of all.
If you are struggling with forgiving a person or situation here are the tips that I recommend:
- Acknowledge and identify exactly how you feel and what you think about the experience.
- Make a commitment to the process.
- Breath, repeatedly. Deep breathing is the opposite of anxiety, I really can’t express this concept enough.
- Let go of other people’s thoughts, opinions, wishes and desires for your life. People who love you and support you need to understand that you are working through a process.
- Keep a notebook and on a daily basis add to the following topics: Things I did well today, Things I am grateful for today, Ways that I took my power back today.
- Love yourself. You are worth it and you deserve it!
Jenn Bovee is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who practices in Bloomington Illinois. You can learn more about her or contact her through: www.Inspiringenterprisesllc.com