We’ve all heard the adage, “forgive and forget.” I’m pretty sure we’ve also forgiven and forgotten a time or two in our lives. And you may have read my prior forgiveness blog.
Forgiving is important.
It also can be irrelevant.
Let’s say you know someone who has experienced a devastating tragedy. It could be childhood sexual abuse, the betrayal of a spouse, the murder of a family member, or some other horrific event, and that person is now grieving and healing. She possibly could be feeling as though she’s simply going through the motions while coming to the realization that her life has changed and she’ll never be the same person she once was. Figuring out how to navigate post-trauma is a struggle without a deadline.
Now let’s say that person is you. You find yourself obsessed with your own victimization. You’ve been to therapy, read self-help books, written in your journal, and you realize that any movement forward occurs at a snail’s pace. Well-meaning family and friends will observe this and try to help you get there faster. Although they have the best of intentions, they cannot possibly understand what you’re feeling. At some point, your brother might ask you if you’ve forgiven your stepfather for abusing you, or your ultra faith-based grandmother might suggest that if you forgive the guy who murdered your husband, you’ll go to heaven. And maybe, at some point in order to shut them up and end their well-meaning but painful pressure, you say the words, “I forgive.”
If you’ve sincerely forgiven the person, I want to congratulate you. It takes unimaginable courage to do so. However, if you’re simply saying the words to appease someone else, or to remove the focus from yourself, I urge you to take those words back. Know that forgiveness is your decision, you have 100% control over it, and you don’t have to forgive unless you mean it.
Maybe, in your case, a better choice would be to accept rather than forgive. Accept that something horrible happened to you, something that was not your fault, and something that you can’t change. Acceptance can be an alternative to forgiveness. These two words are not synonyms. They’re options.
If you’ve decided that acceptance works better for you than forgiveness, you’re well on your way to moving forward. Again, I congratulate you.
So, what do you do next? Here are my four suggestions:
- I want you to find what brings you peace.
- I want you to find what brings you joy.
- I want you to help somebody else.
- I want you to take baby steps.
The resiliency of human beings is amazing. We are capable of bouncing back from anything and everything. Forgiveness? Acceptance? We have the choice. Neither is wrong. Both are correct. If you find yourself (as I did for an entire year after my husband died) struggling to catch your breath, slow down. Take some baby steps. The path you choose is the correct one.