In Your Own Time – The Non-Formulaic Nature Of Forgiveness
By Mel Billings
Holding onto a grudge can be bad for you. Anger is a corrosive emotion, useful only in the short term and very stressful if needlessly prolonged. Furthermore, moving on with one’s life and achieving personal growth is very hard indeed if old grudges keep plunging us back into the past. To forgive is to improve your own health and wellbeing as much as it is to improve your relationships. It is a rare counsellor indeed who will advise you otherwise. However, desirable though forgiveness is, it is not always an easy thing to achieve. Forgiveness cannot be forced, and nor should it be. We should feel able to acknowledge that forgiveness is sometimes hard. We often need to be able to fully process any wrongs done to us before forgiveness can be achieved. Otherwise, our forgiveness may well be in name only, and the old wound will continue to fester.
If you need to forgive someone, chances are that they have wronged you in some way. Unconditional forgiveness is a wonderful concept, and those who can bestow it are lucky indeed. But we are not all saints. It is natural to feel that wrongs should be noted, and your anger is part of that acknowledgement process. While seeking retribution for the ills done to you is not a healthy course of action (history has shown time and time again that this merely prolongs and promotes bad feeling), you should not feel that you must, in the name of forgiveness, immediately dismiss things which hurt you. Instead, try to take a closer look at the hurt and resentment you feel, see it as impartially as possible for what it is, and try to work out a way around it which does not suppress or deny the validity of your feelings. Forgiveness is a process which needs working at, and acknowledging your feelings is a part of that process.
Forgiving someone is always a good idea, but this does not necessarily mean that you have to continue your relationship with them as though nothing had happened. Perhaps you fell out with this person for a reason – you may be a poor mix, character-wise, and bring out the worst in each other. It is perfectly possible to come to an amicable state of forgiveness, and respectfully agree that it may be better for you both to suspend or reduce communications. This can be a tricky position to work out, and needs to be done when you’re in a completely rational and non-recriminatory state of mind. Anger is not always a negative emotion – it can protect us from deeper feelings of hurt and despair – but it is not helpful when you are trying to move on beyond a row and effect true forgiveness.
Forgiveness is essential for moving on and developing, but it needs to be remembered that forgiveness is a complex process which cannot be forced. For more on this, read this article.