10 Lessons On Forgiveness
Updated: Nov 29, 2022
As an abstract construct that only exists in the minds and bodies of humans, forgiveness is hard to understand. You learn about it your entire childhood, and deal with it your whole life. Of all the lessons taught about forgiveness, here are 10 you might find helpful:
1. You forgive because you love. You do the kind thing, the human thing, as an act of love for yourself or others.
2. Forgiveness is a choice that is only yours to make. It’s not a yes/no and done answer - it’s a long answer/essay/research/practicum/career/lifelong/forever kind of question.
3. When you forgive you release the emotional debt you feel is owed. You do not need another person to say sorry or be sorry or show remorse to forgive them. They cannot erase your pain or take it away or make it better. You can heal you.
4. Forgiveness is letting go of your suffering. When you have already lost and let go of so much, it can be protective to wear the pain as armor, ensuring you won’t get hurt again. You can learn to protect yourself in other ways.
5. Not forgiving is exhausting. It’s awful carrying the hurt – in your thoughts, feelings, body, memory, and sleep. Maybe you rehearse, replay, relive, daydream, wish revenge, feel overwhelmed, hold grudges, insult, gossip, blame, or punish. You are angry, yet sometimes you have no control of when it comes or how it shows up. Sometimes you don’t know how or can’t forgive. Sometimes you can’t even forgive yourself.
6. If you forgive, you release anger. It doesn't mean you stop hurting. It doesn’t mean you forget or stop pursuing justice. It doesn’t mean you don’t care – sometimes that’s another way of saying you can’t tolerate the feeling of caring. It means you when you think of the person or problem, you feel hurt that isn’t angry or ashamed.
7. Staying forgiving is hard. Sometimes you say “I forgive you” but the reminders still make you feel angry or owed. Sometimes you change your mind, the feelings come back, or something shifts.
8. Writing down forgiveness can help. When you write, you bring the experience into your awareness, allow the words to move through your mind and body, feel the emotions as they are, regulate them by containing them in the letters, and express them in a healthy way. Art and music help too.
9. Forgiving isn’t meant to be done on your own. By sharing your individual grief, we can mourn together the losses we have already endured and choose to release the suffering of blame and shame. We are social, relational beings – we can support each other to feel the pain as we release it from our minds and bodies and collective spaces.
10. You can create your own process of forgiveness. If there is someone you want to forgive, read A Letter of Forgiveness, then try your own process. As little or as much as you need. Write, draw, paint, speak, or find a song to express forgiveness, then share your grief and letting go and tag @therapyalberta. You’re not alone.
A Letter of Forgiveness
I want to be free of the pain I’m suffering. I’m so tired of this weight I’m carrying. I wish I could forget how you trapped me in my fear, but I’m still stuck remembering and feeling my reactions to your actions. You were human, harmed and hurting – passing your pain onto me. It’s not my fault those wounds became my responsibility. It never should have happened. I was powerless to stop it, frozen in my own skin. I couldn’t flee or hide or fight or stand or move or feel or be me. I have always been strong – I did the best my body could. I survived how I was taught and resisted with my defensive parts. I protected traces of me you could never erase. I’m imperfect and I’m worthy. I have the power to make a choice now. I can put down the blame laid on me and let go of the blame I claimed. I can unwind the anger from my DNA and release my shame from guarding me. I am okay. People are okay. The world is okay. I can trust in healing communities to bring light and peace. I can love and be loved. I am free. I hope you’re sorry. I forgive you.