"I forgive people but that doesn't mean I accept their behavior or trust them. I forgive them for me, so I can let go and move on with my life." -- Unknown
This is such a wonderful message! From the time I was a child I was taught to forgive people because it was the proper thing to do. As a result, I have spent most of my life believing that forgiving someone was my way of showing them that I understand what they have done wrong and "it's OK." Forgiving others became my way of accepting another person's unacceptable behavior. For too long I have forgiven people hoping it would result in the apology I so desperately felt I needed in order to move on, but over and over again that apology never came, and over and over again, I was left feeling empty and confused. My journey of self-discovery has allowed me to re-evaluate what forgiveness means to me and most importantly taught me that an apology is not required in order to be freed. It has opened up a whole new perspective in my life, one where I put my emotions and needs first. It has given me the opportunity to understand what the purpose of forgiveness is. Just like the word sorry... we throw around forgiveness as if it's the expected thing to do -- because society has taught us this - instead, we should reconsider the meaning and purpose of forgiveness and offer it only when it's the right thing to do for ourselves because in the end, we must be content and satisfied with our decisions and even more significant is ensuring that we understand why we make such decisions.
So having said that... what is the meaning and purpose of forgiveness? Why do we even consider it? If someone else has done something to hurt or possibly disregard us, why would we even fathom forgiving him or her? Is it really our concern? And if so, should it be? Forgiveness to me -- now -- is freeing myself of the negativity projected upon me without the expectation or need for the other person to acknowledge the affects of their behavior. I believe forgiveness is a process and should not -- in any circumstance -- be the knee jerk reaction ingrained in so many of us. It should be a well thought out process of understanding how and why the behavior affected - and possibly wounded or saddened -- you before any speck of consideration is given to forgiving. Let me be clear, I don't say this because I worry about people being forgiven when they don't deserve to be. I say this because too many of us shovel out forgiveness without providing for ourselves the inner peace, understanding and self development each one of these situations should afford us. We unconsciously offer our forgiveness without analyzing the reasons why we feel the way we feel. Just like so many transactions in our lives, many of them become habit and lose their purpose and value along the way. We take for granted the many situations where we could actually be learning more about ourselves and as a result grow more as an individual. We have become so accustom to doing so many things out of habit - and in zombie mode - that we often don't even realize what we are doing? How often have you been driving and suddenly wonder how you got somewhere? Or how many times do you wander through most of your day without being truly present, making decisions along the way. Some decisions are simple enough where maybe they don't need our full attention - this can be argued though -- but a decision as significant as forgiving someone should come with plenty of thought and regard for it's reasons and affects. A decision such as forgiveness should be reached only when we are fully present and aware.
Too often we convince ourselves that we forgive people for their benefit or in order to help them understand however, our actions can and only should be for our own closure and clarification. Forgiving someone with the hope that our compassion will help them realize the affects of their actions usually results in you -- the forgiver -- getting hurt again. It's been a huge -- and much needed -- realization for me to accept that the only person my forgiveness should influence is myself. If it happens to affect another in a positive way then that's a bonus however, it is no longer an expectation. I have learned that forgiveness is not only granted because a person deserves to be forgiven, forgiveness is granted in an effort to deliver personal peace and possibly a way of releasing negative energy and moving forward with an open heart. Most importantly, forgiveness in no way denotes acceptance of behavior but instead, it denotes the realization of what you will and will not allow from that moment forward. It's important to realize that the words "it's okay" don't serve a purpose where forgiveness is concerned. When we actually consider what message those words deliver, the feeling of confusion and emptiness becomes much more clear. Telling someone "it's OK" after they had upset or hurt me was what I thought was normal for my entire life. OMG, he/she feels bad so I need to make him feel better and tell him/her "it's okay". WHAT?? Why am I more worried about someone else's feelings and leaving myself out to dry when I was the one that was wronged? What I realize now -- and not a moment too late - is that forgiveness must come from within. Its purpose is to help you grow, develop and release negativity. What I realize now is that the only person your forgiveness is intended for is you. What I realize now is that it's OK -- and actually preferable --- to put yourself first because in the end, the only person that can truly make you happy... is YOU!
The lessons I have learned when it comes to forgiveness are several. The most important one to me is learning not to say "It's OK" when clearly it's not. I've learned that forgiveness is a choice and not a requirement in each of my relationships and, I now recognize that before offering my forgiveness I must acknowledge and understand my own feelings and emotions therefore, giving myself the opportunity to know myself better and grow as a person every step of the way. Forgiveness is my way of freeing my soul and moving on with an open heart!
"Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself." -- Tony Robbins