We’re wronged. Betrayed. Lied to or about. Cheated on. Abused—you name it. And the first thing others tell us to do is forgive them.
That’s of course the last thing we want to do. We more naturally think of revenge, of hurting someone who’s hurt us. We think of getting back, getting even—in some way punishing the person who has caused us pain. We don’t do it, can’t bring ourselves to inflict pain on another—we know too well how it feels and the thought of making someone else, even a slimy slug who hurt us, go through that at our hands…? No. We’re better than that. We’re above it.
Yet we have all this pain and we’re suffering. We need to do something to stop seeing red and emotionally bleeding. But what?
Well, we work through the clutter, assigning blame and motives and seeking understanding. We want to know why this person thought it was okay to hurt us. Why s/he chose to hurt us. We want to know what is wrong with the hurter that s/he is so messed up s/he thinks hurting anyone like this is okay. (Yes, we’re judging. Hurt people do that. They lash out.) And slowly we see a shift in ourselves from being hurt to angry.
Angry people assign motives and blame. They might or might not be the right motives or reasons for blame—and blame itself can be misplaced—but when angry, we assign it. We stretch, looking for reasons for this painful behavior to make sense. Bend scenarios where someone we respect and admire or love wasn’t a jerk, didn’t intentionally harm us—we had to have gotten it wrong. But we’re looking for someone—anyone but us—to blame.
Sometimes we think we’ve figured it all out—but even when we do, then often we later discover that we were wrong. The reasons were different. Maybe insane, but different. The bottom line is we look for a way to mitigate the hurter’s behavior in hurting us so that we don’t feel responsible for it—like the reason was our fault. We deserved it.
We don’t deserve it, of course. One who deliberately hurts another is wrong, but often our pasts come out to play with our heads and hearts. Past mistakes, old tapes that play in our heads that tell us we deserve no better. All kinds of nonsense seated in insecurities attack.
The thing is, people are messy. They do things for logical reasons but also just because. They don’t always act logically or reasonably or justly. Sometimes they have no clue why they do the things they do, and later they are stunned that they have done them. Sometimes they’re sorry, sometimes they’re not. Sometimes they feel perfectly justified in causing others pain, and on the rare occasion, the unbalanced actually feel they’re helping the person they hurt. (i.e. You made me beat you half to death to save you from yourself. You have to learn.)
Victims need to understand these things. Twisted? Yes. But it happens. Victims need to understand that they don’t deserve to be hurt. They also need to understand that the person hurting them might not have a clue why s/he did whatever s/he did to inflict injury. There isn’t always a rhyme or reason that is logical. Perhaps it’s logical to the hurter, but that logic, for whatever reason, isn’t rational and logical to others.
The victim can’t fix the person who inflicted the injury. Repairs must come from the other person, the hurter. S/he who recognizes s/he has an issue must desire help, seek it, and act on it to change. That’s possible in many cases, and in some, unfortunately, it is not. But professionals are equipped to deal with both. So focus on the victim. What can be done to ease the hurt?
You’re not going to like this…
Forgive them. To forgive doesn’t mean to allow someone to stomp you again. It doesn’t mean to put yourself in the position of more pain, injury, harm or hurt. It means to recognize that we’re all human, we all make mistakes, and sometimes we do stupid things without malice that hurt others. Sometimes people do things with malice and, while you hold them accountable and hold them responsible for their actions, you still forgive them.
Because for as long as you do not, you are a festering wound. You can’t heal. You’re carrying around the pain, hurt, anger, disbelief, distrust—all the negative emotions that you experience as a result of the injury inflicted—and it’s heavy.
You can’t move on to more constructive, more positive things until you get this negative baggage off your back. When you forgive, it’s gone.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean you forget or ignore or act like the injury never happened. That’s totally unrealistic. Forgiveness means you don’t let the injury define you or your life.
For example. Child abuse might steal your youth and your past. But it doesn’t steal your present and future unless you choose to let the abuse define you and steal your present and the future. You decide.
Bring the injury into the open, deal with it, cope with it constructively, and then move on. That’s the power in forgiveness. It’s not just for the other person that you do it. It’s for you.
Now, theologically, you might say that forgiveness is essential—and it is. We all need forgiveness so it’s just that we be forgiving. But theology or faith doesn’t require you to put yourself in harm’s way again. Actually, those who do harm are called on it, given an opportunity to repent (ask for forgiveness deeming not to injure again—this is restitution, if you will—and then the weight of the issue is removed.
We do need to forgive others. They need an opportunity to admit the wrong and attempt to right it. It’s the means through which we grow and develop as human beings. But when we forgive, though at times it is extremely difficult to do, the one who gains most is us. We gain the wisdom of the lessons in the injury, and we choose not to injure others; we know how it feels and impacts us. And we put the injury to rest, freeing ourselves to move on unencumbered by the baggage of carrying around anger, upset, hatred, and other negative feelings we relate to the injury.
Forgiveness liberates us. Frees us. Forgiveness let’s us put the past to rest and be open to a wiser, brighter and more content future.