I do almost exclusively couples work as a therapist... And forgiveness is a key theme.
Often, I have couples in who have had extraordinary difficulties and profound hurt between one another... One party has injured the other and the other party is trying to find a way back.
I often hear "I don't know how to forgive" and "I just can't get past this" This is what I say to them.
Forgiveness is not about fairness... Forgiveness is about Mercy...
Forgiveness is making the decision that this person will not be kicked to the curb... That this person will remain a part of your life... this person has value.
What does that mean? That means that the offender is off the cross... Out of the doghouse... No longer being punished.
But WHAT IT DOES NOT MEAN is that there aren't consequences. The person causing the injury is responsible for the consequences of that injury. And to that end must make amends.
If trust has been broken, then it's the responsibility of the party who has injured the other party to rebuild that trust by becoming even more transparent.
This can be an arduous process for the person who caused the injury... But there are consequences, and they must make whatever amends the other party needs... It must be done without resentment and with complete and total humility
It means the person you love feels pain...a pain caused by you...a pain that doesn't just "go away" when you're forgiven. It means that the pain caused by you is overshadowed by the greater love of the other which makes the hurt partner that much more precious. The guilty party gives room for grief, sadness, and disappointment... they fully embrace culpability.
But Damian I don't feel forgiveness... Or forgiveness comes and goes...
Forgiveness is not a feeling it's a decision. It's the choice you make not to entertain thoughts of injury and thoughts of harm that has been done to you. It's making the mental effort which can be excruciating at times to say "I will not go down this road"... "I have forgiven this person"...
At some point in this process the feeling will take root...
That being said also consider this:
Forgiveness is a mercy not only to the forgiven but to the forgiver.
Nevertheless, forgiveness does not negate consequence... I can forgive someone genuinely and from the heart but also realize that having them as part of my life is toxic.
Leaving them behind is not a punishment but a decision to be functional and healthy.
Choosing to be whole is not the lack of forgiveness but the realization that I have no power to change the other.
Forgiveness should never be a prison that shackles me to a person who will not change and cannot acknowledge accountability. It is however me letting go of all my hurts and desire for punishment... Sincerely wishing the best for the other and knowing that I have no power over their own Journey.
So, if I choose to absent myself from someone who's injured me it does not imply that I have not forgiven however what it does mean is that I understand their limitations and my powerlessness to effect change
There are six lessons I give in the first two sessions that deal with functional communication and conflict resolution
Seeking and granting forgiveness is the final and most important of them all.