The holidays are upon us opening doors to joy and blessings and suffering and wounds. Real forgiveness doesn’t equate to the secular quip, “Forgive and forget” which by the way is cognitively impossible unless brain trauma exists. Real forgiveness is an act of the will, an act of love not a feeling or emotion. “Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.” – Corrie ten Boom.
Psychologist believe about 90% of hurts inflicted are unintentional, leaving room for 10% of intentional wounding and maiming. But people still feel 100% of the hurts whether intentional or unintentional. When a person feels threatened (i.e., someone is about to learn something that they don’t want as public or private knowledge,) they react. As you approach a wounded dog, even with the best intentions, the dog either runs away (flight) or snaps at you (fight.) People “act out” too, in various methods and manners. Except, with our God-given intellect and cognitive capabilities, humans can be crueler and more calculated in inflicting hurt. This is where forgiveness come in.
Forgiveness acknowledges wrong-doing or bad behavior and does not excuse it. Uncover the wounds by listing “who?” and “how?” Articulate the “how,” “why,” etc. This knowledge is followed by evaluating whether your personal behavior needs to change or boundaries set in-place. Make decisions. Sometimes this step involves seeking professional counseling or pastoral care. God didn’t request us to be doormats. He did ask us to turn the other cheek, but then what?
My counselor describes: “Your friend is sitting next to you and keeps poking your eye. You shouldn’t let your friend keep poking you in the eye (if you do, that is a a deeper issue.) You have a few options. 1.) Tell your friend to STOP! and your friend stops and can remain sitting beside you. 2.) Tell you friend to STOP! but your friend still pokes occasionally. You request they move across the room from you. 3.) Tell your friend to STOP! but your friend keeps poking whether next to you or across the room from you. You need to ask your friend to leave the room, i.e. BOUNDARIES.
To achieve forgiveness you don’t need reconciliation or an apology. Why? People apologize all the time without meaning a word. A sincere apology is rare. Sometimes apologies do more harm than good. For example, a women or man who has experienced intimate partner violence does not need to reconnect with their abusive partner to gain an apology. Reconnecting could be dangerous and harmful to the wounded person. Reconciliation requires repentance. Repentance is a free-will choice, and even God can’t make a person choose reconciliation and repentance. So neither can you or I.
Embracing an attitude of forgiveness frees the wounded. And allows for healing. Forgiveness, the person it frees is yourself. Authentic forgiveness allows people, like you and I, to make a choice in a bad situation. A choice that will either free us or shackle us. To take responsibility for my sins and transgressions but to embrace mercy and compassion. To forgive myself and others as Christ forgave. We are all sinners. And God loves us all. In the end, God is the judge and juror of our lives, but he did ask, “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Amen.
*** This post was inspired by 4+ years of clinical, Catholic counseling. Don’t know where to start? Try searching for faith based, Catholic counselors @ LINK. May God bless you and keep you all.***