Forgiveness is a challenging topic because it touches so many different situations. While coaching families I have found that the lack of a resolution process and the resulting lack of forgiveness has three negative impacts:
1. Leads to family units that are emotionally disconnected, functioning together as needed, but essentially living as
individuals under one roof.
2. Results in kids who are good at "acting the part" they need to keep their parents happy, but carry with them un-forgiven
hurts that lead to distance, hiding in their rooms and often escape behaviors from gaming, to social media and sexting to the relationship mill.
3. A defensive and reactive culture with in the home.
Forgiveness is defined by Google as:
noun: forgiveness; plural noun: forgivenesses
• the action or process of forgiving or being forgiven.
• "she is quick to ask forgiveness when she has over stepped the line"
Not veryhelpful. I find it is amazing how many definitions use the word they are attempting to describe to define the term,
which to me indicates how little we truly understand the word. A more helpful definition is found in the
word exoneration which is defined as:
ex·on·er·a·tion iɡˌzänəˈrāSH(ə)n/ noun: exoneration; plural noun: exonerations
the action of officially absolving someone from blame; vindication."the defendants' eventual exoneration"
the release of someone from a duty or obligation.
This is more helpful because it releases another person from blame there by removing the offense from
them. True forgiveness would then be the offended party releasing or exonerating the offender of the blame so that their
anger and hurt within does not remain and fester spilling over into other areas of their lives and relationships.
The challenge many people have with forgiveness is that releasing the offense opens us to the potential that the offending party may not alter their ways and may continue to hurt us in similar ways.
To forgive we need to realize that the pain we feel is real. Offenses, attacks, control and manipulation cause pain; sometimes our self-protective instincts or pride can lead to denial. When enough unresolved hurts pile up, they can cause an internal shut down and to a "who cares attitude" in kids, teens and adults. This leads to thoughts like “you do not mean anything to me” or “I will prevent you from hurting me,” which can take over our lives. These thoughts are a self-defense or coping mechanism that attempts to protect us from the very real pain we can carry within. If we do not process and grieve these hurts, they become toxic to our hearts and we can grow cold, callous or angry. They can also lead to bitterness, which can impact our perspective in every area of our lives and affect every relationship as we seek to prevent anyone else from hurting us.
Denying the pain keeps us from grieving, healing and from moving on to forgiveness. Emotional pain while very intense will not kill us and allowing ourselves to go through the pain and grieve will bring resolution, healing and make it easier to
This requires the offended person to work through feelings of responsibility.
When we are hurt, we need to identify the sources and determine who is responsible. Too often people enable and find fault in themselves due to negative beliefs they carry about themselves that lead them to draw the wrong conclusions related to responsibility.
This is especially true for children, who have a very small world and tend to believe their world is all encompassing. When traumatic events occur, kids automatically believe it's their fault. They think things like, "if I did not make mom so angry, she would not have gotten sick” or “my parents would not have gotten a divorce.”
As a parent and coach for other families I have found that we collectively have a weakness as parents. Rarely do we circle with our kids to see how they perceived our communication or message and how they are processing a conflict or
what we said. As a result many carry far more unresolved hurts than we parents can even imagine. This can lead to emotional distance, defensiveness and out of proportion reactions to seemingly small things because the hurts we unwittingly inflicted were never brought up, addressed. Therefore they could not be forgiven and released by our kids.
Helping our kids process hurts, allowing them to grieve and helping them determine responsibility, is vital to preventing bitterness, anger and shutdown. In this process we as parents often have to own how our verbal and nonverbal communication was actually received by our kids and apologize. This frees them to forgive and not retain the hurts to bounce around inside them waiting to be triggered by something small we say or do.
Once we're clear as to who's responsible for what, the next step is to discover why the offender hurt us. This keeps us from dwelling single-mindedly on how we were hurt or how we wish to see the other person punished.
Allow grieving to begin as one encounters pain can lead to tears, confusion and even anger for a period of time. All these emotions are ok and are part of dealing with pain in a healthy manner. Find a safe person to share these feelings with and let them out. Repressing pain prevents healing and ultimately our ability to forgive.
Sometimes it is hard to forgive because we believe we are giving the other person a free pass both on that offense and to hurt us again. We think it means they get to go about their lives free and clear, while we attempt to recover from their actions. We also may think it requires us to go back to the old relationship causing us to avoid forgiving.
To over come this we need to understand forgiveness better. It is important to realize that forgiving someone is not
giving them a free pass. We still need to hold others accountable for theiractions or lack of action going forward. Accountability does not mean angry responses, but rather clearly holding an emotional boundary that you will not be treated this way anymore. One way to handle this is to end aconversation when an issue recurs.
Taking a break holds the other person accountable for the action without a fight ensuing and more damage coming into the
relationship. Discuss and agree with the person that if they repeat specific behaviors that you have permission and
authority to end the conversation to allow the offending party to consider the situation, and hopefully come to sound conclusions, apologize and approach the situation differently. It is not the responsibility of the one forgiving to keep taking the hurt in order to help the other person learn the same lesson repeatedly. Establishing healthy boundaries frees the
heart to be able to forgive. Forgiveness is not allowing the same thing to occur repeatedly.
We should not keep ourselves open to harsh, cruel or angry behavior that opens old wounds and creates scars. Emotional abuse is real and has been proven to have long-term effects on people who experience it. Establishing emotional boundaries with the other person, if possible, and holding to them is important.
Sometimes it is not possible for forgiveness to lead toreconciliation. There are times we may need to forgive and let go of the offense because reconciliation is not possible due to death or mental health. This also holds true when the offending party has severe baggage that does not allow them to accept true responsibility and make needed changes
for a healthy relationship to ensue. God did not command us to reconcile, but rather to forgive when a brother repents. Whenever possible, forgiveness should not be done from a distance. The goal of forgiveness is a reconciled relationship, but sometimes we must forgive without a return to the old relationship.
Forgiveness should stem from discussion of the issue and offense which should lead to a mutual understanding of the situation bringing about apologies. When this uncomfortable step is taken we often find miscommunication or other factors that we were not aware of were happening. We may discover and that the situation was not a deliberate attempt to hurt us which makes it much easier to forgive.
If we find ourselves needing to repeatedly forgive someone for the same things, we might need to take a look at the situation to determine if we have healthy emotional boundaries. We may need to speak to whether they are truly owning the damage and behavior they are repeating. We should not and God does not require us to allow another person to repeatedly wound us. We should not allow ourselves to be continually hurt, attacked, or abused which can develop a victim mentality within us.
If God is a just God and makes judgments in eternity, we need to release our desire for revenge and punishment to his infinite wisdom and insight. God knows each individual, his heart and his baggage better than we do and can see beyond the offense to make a much more fair and sound judgment than we are able to make.
Forgiveness is a process.
It might take some time to work through our emotional hurts before we can truly forgive. Sometimes this requires several discussions with the other person and giving ourselves the time to grieve the situation and begin to heal before we can truly forgive.
People will hurt us throughout our lives. We can either keep a defensive, hard heart towards others due to past hurts or we can begin to see the brokenness in others. We can learn not to take every offense personally thereby allowing them to roll off of us. This is far easier when we have grieved past hurts and healed within ourselves. If we are carrying unresolved and un-grieved hurts we are far more sensitive and easily hurt by others. Healing allows our attitudes and perspective to change regarding other people.
Sometimes we may not forgive in order to not feel weak or vulnerable and to give us some perceived control over the situation. We canfeel powerful if we hold forgiveness over the other person in an attempt to punish them or make them feel guilty. We may fear that we will again feel powerless if we forgive. All relationships will deteriorate over time without discussion, mutual understanding, and apologies that lead to forgiveness and reconciliation. If we cannot forgive no matter what the reason, we will end up lonely people.
Forgiveness should help release the pain we are carrying and free us from a focus on the offender. In the midst of the turmoil we can seek a quick fix to make it all go away. Some women and even men may want to rush the process and to forgive too quickly so the pain will end. Sometimes this is done to maintain a relationship with the other person. Kids are often expected to forgive their parents immediately short circuiting the release of pain that should occur with forgiveness and allowing it to build up within them over time.
If we believe we are required to forgive just so others will still like us, or not think badly of us, it's not true forgiveness. Keep your healthy boundaries, have the needed conversations and allow the time necessary to allow true forgiveness to develop
within you. Let the other person know you are working on grieving so you can truly forgive and reconcile with them.
Forgiveness is notcompletely forgetting the situation, as this would prevent us from remembering and holding our boundaries in place. It is normal for memories to be triggeredin situations tied to past hurts. The question is how do we react and respond to these memories. If we find ourselves focusing on a past offense, we need to remember that this is not
the same situation and that the person admitted their fault to us.
We also need to determine if memories bring back pain that causes us to react. If so we need to take time and separate those feelings of pain from the present situation to be able to have a good discussion with the person who triggered the memory.
When pain floods in from the past tothe present due to a triggered memory it is a good indication that we have not
grieved, resolved or forgiven that past situation. Therefore we need to go back and revisit that situation and time frame in our lives to bring about healing and to stop allowing the past to impact the present.