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Thread: Forgive... but how?

  1. #1
    Member Juicifer's Avatar
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    Forgive... but how?

    I have come to a point in my life where I have recognized I need to 'clean up' some old things and part of this was to forgive two people in my life. But the thing is: I don't know how.

    The first person hurt me badly a long long time ago. She acknowledged she did but seems to have moved on pretty well. This kind of bothers me. And even upsets me. How can she hurt someone and still live a normal life, as for me I have been thinking about this pretty much every day for a long time. Even talking about it makes me cry. But I have to move on too.
    I want to forgive this person what she did but am I going to sit with her and tell her that I forgive her, face to face? She might not take me serious because this happened a long time ago (18 years) and could wonder if I am sane at all to wait so long with this to deal with. Or am I just going to write a letter and tear it up on the beach and forget about what happened.

    The second person is my mother. We had a serious argument and I decided not to talk to her for a while. I felt she did me wrong and I still do. But she passed away one summer morning. And I felt guilty over my anger right after her passing. But after a while I figured she really had hurt me and owed me an apology. Even if she passed away.
    I know this sounds silly but how can you forgive someone that has passed away?

  2. #2
    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    Boy, I went to a fantastic evening program on forgiveness by a counselor who specializes in "forgiveness therapy" and I WISH I had saved the handout for you.

    I think the main thing is realizing the forgiveness is not for the benefit of the other person--it's for you. You are the one who has to let go--so it doesn't matter if your mother is now dead. Maybe you could write her a letter and express your feelings, letting them all go in the process. You could explain the hurt, but then tell her in the letter that you forgive her.

    As for the first person, you don't have to sit face-to-face. Because forgiveness is for you, you can just forgive in your heart and let the hurt go.

    I had a friend who had a lot of lingering anger and resentment towards a person and she couldn't let go. She really, really wanted to. One day she saw a room in her mind that was cluttered with dead leaves and sticks and stuff. All of a sudden a breeze came through the room and swept all the leaves out the door. At that moment she knew she had forgiven, and all the resentment and anger was gone. So maybe you could visualize something similar.

    Forgiveness is sometimes not easy, but if you harbor the negative feelings, it can make you physically ill, so you might as well try!
    "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?" Emily Webb, Our Town
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  3. #3
    Senior Member reader99's Avatar
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    I very much recommend Byron Katie's "Loving What Is". It is a clear and usable method for letting go of things like what you describe.

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    Senior Member leslieann's Avatar
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    It is so hard to wrap our heads around the idea of forgiveness being for ourselves and having NOTHING whatsoever to do with the other person apologizing, acknowledging, or in any way responding to our change of heart. But it is true. If you feel you have something to forgive, then that's your work. Good for you for seeing it and being prepared to rise to that challenge. I also like Byron Katie's work, and have found a lot of release for myself in expressing my feelings (sometimes pretty darn loudly) in private or in therapy, and then allowing the hurt to just evaporate in its own time.

    Best wishes on this very important personal journey.

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    I agree w/ above posters who say that forgiveness has nothing to do with communicating it to the person who has wounded you (dead or alive.) I also find the work of Katie Byron helpful, but I REALLY like the following from Joan Borysenko:

    Forgiveness is one of the least understood of the spiritual practices. It has nothing to do with condoning poor behavior in ourselves and others. Rather, it calls us to responsibility. In forgiving ourselves, we make the journey from guilt for what we have done (or not done) to celebration of what we have become. This transformation of heart comes about through reflecting on the results of our mistakes, understanding how ignorance or woundedness created those actions, and doing the necessary healing so that we will do better next time. Error calls us to repentance, which means literally to think again. It is the crucible in which the soul is forged and the psyche healed. Mistakes, in fact, are sacred because of the powerful potential for growth that they contain.

    Joan speaks mostly about forgiving ourselves. Forgiving others who have wounded us calls for recognizing that their woundedness or ignorance created the offending behavior. If they are not willing to aknowledge it, distancing oneself for protection is the only sane route, while continuing patience w/ oneself and hopefully eventally forgiveness. (Again for the benefit of oneself, not the abuser)

    [I find it really intersting that you posted this in Organization, not Family...]
    author of A Holy Errand

  6. #6
    Senior Member Anne Lee's Avatar
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    From a Christian perspective, forgiveness is different than reconciliation. Reconciliation means that you and the other person have made peace. Forgiveness simply means you are not going to make the other person pay for what they did, that you will willingly forego anything owed to you. It doesn't mean what they did was right or that you will put yourself in a position where they can do it again. Forgiveness is unilateral, reconciliation is not.

    So you can forgive someone who has died in that you will stop thinking in terms of that person of how they wronged you and they owe you. The same with other person who is still living. A true, deep forgiveness is neither easy nor glib but ultimately very beneficial.
    Last edited by Anne Lee; 5-26-11 at 9:05am.
    Formerly known as Blithe Morning II

  7. #7
    Senior Member leslieann's Avatar
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    Fawn,

    Thanks so much for the Joan Borysenko quote. I'll have to check her out. In my personal experience, I've found that I can't forgive anyone else unless and until I can clearly see my own part in the situation and forgive myself. This is even in the case of an abusive parent; to clearly see that I was a child and not responsible was necessary for me before I could start the process of opening up forgiveness for my parent. From inside the crucible of child abuse, the victim carries enormous guilt...which can look like rage (when turned outward) or withdrawal/depression (when turned inward). Either way, I had to forgive ME first.

    Forgiveness is about tidying up personal relationships: perhaps that's why the OP posted in Organization! Works for me....

    Leslie

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    Senior Member kitten's Avatar
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    OMG - you've hit on one of my new-age pet peeves, the notion that forgiveness is voluntary.

    We're constantly being exhorted to forgive others so that we can move on. But it's not up to us individually. Love can't be forced, and neither can forgiveness. If you wake up one day and realize you're not hurting about the situation anymore, you might be on the path of forgiveness. But it has to happen on its own - if it ever happens.

    The ability to will yourself to forgive requires superhuman strength. I ALWAYS suspect people who claim to have done it. Many many many people are fooling themselves around this, because they have a need to feel that they are fundamentally nice people who don't (God forbid) hold grudges. My thinking around this is TOTALLY opposite. Hold the darn grudge, if that's what you want to do! Why deny anger? I've never understood this anger-must-be-denied-at-all-costs thing. I recently stopped working with a feel-good therapist who simply could not deal with my anger. And he really hated it. And he just couldn't get why I was unable to snap out of my rage fog and just forgive people, move on, etc. etc.

    The thing is, it IS hard to forgive. That's one of the things that was so remarkable about Christ, for instance. Sure, HE modeled forgiveness, but are mere mortals really expected to be able to do the same thing? It's as hard to forgive when you're not ready, as it is to turn water into wine!

    So - you might wait for forgiveness, or even pray for it. But my question is - why do it? And why worry? You feel how you feel. Strong emotions last a long time. Some things we will be unable to forgive. And that's part of what makes us human.

  9. #9
    Member Juicifer's Avatar
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    Wow, I really appreciate the input of all of you on this! I never imagined there where so many ways of looking at forgiveness. I'm going to have to think about it.

    I did put this item in Organization for the reason Leslie already pointed out: this was about tidying up personal relationships.

  10. #10
    Low Tech grunt iris lily's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kitten View Post
    OMG - you've hit on one of my new-age pet peeves, the notion that forgiveness is voluntary.

    We're constantly being exhorted to forgive others so that we can move on. But it's not up to us individually. Love can't be forced, and neither can forgiveness. If you wake up one day and realize you're not hurting about the situation anymore, you might be on the path of forgiveness. But it has to happen on its own - if it ever happens..
    I disagree--somewhat. For me not forgiving someone is a thought in my head, and if I dwell on it and feed it, it does not go away and may even get worse. Meditating on forgiveness, what that looks and feels like, how that idea would give me feelings of peace, is one way to move toward forgiveness.

    I agree with you that feelings are feelings and we feel what we feel, but if those feelings are destructive enough to our lives we'd better be examining them to find the truth within them and to move on. And, I think that's part of forgiving--recognize that someone hurt you, our hurt is real, honor it. Then move past it.

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