Forgive. Let Go. Move On. That’s what I read in every article that talks about healing emotional wounds and finding love for the people that hurt you. The thing is, though, I don’t really know how to forgive – and when my therapist asked me about what I expected forgiveness to actually look like, I genuinely didn’t have an answer. I still don’t, but it’s a damn good question.
I know that I can forget; I have been doing that to maintain a decent relationship with the people I have been struggling to forgive all of my life. I’m not even sure if they are aware of the fact that I have been harboring anger towards them for years. Regardless, these individuals are deeply involved in my life, leaving me very little room for maintaining distance. So, I try to forget the past and look towards the future.
But forgiving is very different from forgetting, that much I know for certain. It’s not like I trust these people to never hurt me again, as their actions are still creating ripple effects in my life. And it’s not like I let them get too close; I guard my heart with the ferocity normally reserved for the United States Army on the offensive. And I most certainly don’t disclose the thoughts and feelings hidden in my head as well as my heart to any of them.
This is not something I am ready to discuss with my therapist just yet. I am slowly trying to understand the pain I’ve carried around this entire time, and I want to really think about what forgiveness means to me, alone, for now. In my attempt to expand my understanding of forgiveness, I did the most reasonable thing I could – I Googled it.
PsychCentral refers to forgiveness as, “letting go of the need for revenge and releasing negative thoughts of bitterness and resentment.”
The good news is that I don’t have feelings of revenge towards the people I’m having trouble forgiving. I am not sure if I have resentment towards them, as I understand that they may not be aware of how their actions come across. And I don’t really think I feel bitterness towards them either, but I am probably blatantly lying.
What I think I am really struggling with is imagining how my relationship with these people will change once I do manage to forgive. Over the years, we have all learned that complicated dance we engage in for all of us to get along. We have our roles and we play them the best we can, so that the show goes on. And even though we have learned to get along a very long time ago, what we haven’t learned is forgiveness.
So, dear therapist, the question that remains is simple: How does one learn to forgive and forget when forgiveness seems unimaginable?