Forgiveness

This word and its watery concept has caused me all sorts of problems and been the root of justified abuse in my life. The religion in which I was raised insisted that I forgive others for hurting me and those who hurt me used it as a justification to hurt me further; in their minds, they could do whatever they wanted because “God would forgive them.” I still find this “forgiveness” thing as a cheap way out for people who don’t want to change or be held accountable for their behavior. I don’t see any need to “forgive” someone of their human nature. I have hurt others out of my ignorance and stupidity, and have said I was sorry, made amends, and worked to not harm another. However, I know I continue to say or do things that, when viewed by another’s perception, are harmful to them or others. (Anytime I see a cheap, useless trinket that has a tag that reads “Made in Japan” or “Made in China” or “Made in Taiwan” I feel a twinge of remorse that someone has to make such things to be able to exist and I am actually torn between buying it so that person would continue to have a job or not buying it because it serves no purpose.) I would prefer to accept us for all our humanness. But I don’t forgive anyone who purposefully harms another with knowledge and intent — that, for me, is enabling them to continue that behavior. My forgiveness in those cases consists of removing my presence from theirs. I do not have to let those people back into my life. I love me too much.

Forgiveness means to let myself off the hook of being responsible for anybody else’s behavior. My eternal presence nudges me to “let it go, let the incident go, let go your feelings to blame yourself or to seek revenge. We’ve other things to move on to.”  

It seems easier to forgive those who are truly sorry, stops what they are is doing, understands the harm they have caused, and feels remorse. I know have been guilty of behavior that has harmed others, and I need forgiveness, too. But if someone won’t or can’t acknowledge it and make amends for the harm done there is no need to offer forgiveness. In my heart, though, I will forgive because letting it go keeps me from being full of bitterness and resentment and further poisoning my life.

My eternal presence does not urge me to pray for anyone to change their energy to what I think it should be though. People are entitled to have the energy they have chosen. My preference is that they honor my boundaries and keep to themselves unless I have invited them into my life.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

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12 Responses to “Forgiveness”

  1. holessence Says:

    “In my heart, though, I will forgive because letting it go keeps me from being full of bitterness and resentment and further poisoning my life.”

    My second blog post ever in Speaking from the Heart is about forgiveness: http://holessence.wordpress.com/2010/02/23/36/

    I additionally appreciate what you had to say about boundaries: “My preference is that they honor my boundaries …” I believe that in order for other people to honor our boundaries, we not only have to establish them, but maintain them as well.

    Another great though-provoking post, Barbara — thank you!

  2. ntexas99 Says:

    barbara – this post has my brain humming. My own experience with forgiveness is very complicated. I held much anger and pain and resentment in my heart for someone that had caused me a tremendous amount of pain, and even though I had removed myself from the situation, the pain in my heart that was attached to the anger was unresolved. It burned deep scars into my heart, and seemed to leave no room for happiness or joy.

    Eventually I reached a point where I had no choice but to learn how to forgive him, because, in my case, I was unable to let go of the anger and feelings of resentment and sorrow without going through the process of forgiveness. In order to allow my heart the chance to heal, I had to completely release all the negative energy associated with that person.

    This doesn’t in any way mean that I gave them the opportunity to hurt me again. I went through the process of forgiveness, but also closed the door on allowing them access to my vulnerability. I protected myself because it was the smart thing to do, and I embraced the release that forgiveness provided because I knew, in my case, that I wouldn’t survive without releasing all the pain that was poisoning my heart. Fortunately, in this particular situation, their remorse and sorrow for having caused me pain was genuine. If that had not been the case, I’m not sure I would have been able to move completely through the process of forgiveness.

    Each of us has to find our own way through the many layers of forgiveness. I didn’t forgive because it was the Christian thing to do, or because my God demanded it, or because the other person needed to be relieved of their burden of guilt … I choose forgiveness because I was fighting to survive, and so it was about self-preservation more than anything else. If I hadn’t learned how to forive, I would continue to be broken and suffer, and I was worn out from suffering too long already.

    Softening my heart by forgiveness did make me more vulnerable in a general sense, but it also finally made room for some happiness and joy in my life. It opened another whole realm of possibilities for me, and allowed me to see life through a different set of eyes. I felt as if my heart had been clenched in a tight knot before, and now it finally was able to relax and expand again.

    What maybe caught me by surprise, (after the fact), was that attaining a state of forgiveness not only brought me an immeasurable amount of peace and a sense of calm within my heart, but it also turned out to possibly be the Christian thing to do, and was maybe what God demands of us, (depending on your personal beliefs), and it certainly brought some sense of relief of the heavy burden of guilt to the person that had harmed me. They died more peacefully, knowing they had genuinely been forgiven by someone they had horrifically harmed. It also gave me a sense of hope that my own transgressions that I had previously considered unforgivable acts might one day be forgiven as well. It opened the door to that possibility.

    In my case, in this particular instance, and in this particular set of circumstances, forgiveness was one of the most selfish things I’ve ever done, and also perhaps one of the most generous things I’ve ever done.

    I think it gave me a chance to survive the pain. It was the best gift I’ve ever given to myself, and even though it took me nearly thirty years to get there, and another ten or twenty to understand how much it impacted my life, in my case, forgiveness could almost be said to have saved my life.

    This was my experience with forgiveness, and I completely acknowledge that every person has their own path that they must travel. I recognize and respect your own journey, and am encouraged when you say ,“my preference is that they honor my boundaries”, because this is an action you can take to minimize or diffuse their negative impact on your life. I was also encouraged to read, “letting it go keeps me from being full of bitterness and resentment and further poisoning my life”, because this is also an action you can take to improve the quality of your life.

    I believe in anything that brings us closer to a peaceful existence. Thank you for sharing this thought-provoking post. Your words always stir the pot and get me thinking, and I thank you for that. Sharing the gift of your words is a generous act from a generous heart. Sorry for the long comment, but this post really got my brain cells dancing.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Nancy — you can leave as long a post as you desire! Thank you for visiting my blog. You made the idea of forgiveness a lot clearer for me. It is not that we necessarily feel or admit that the harm done to us was okay; instead, we acknowledge that we set them (and ourselves) free from having to do anything about it. We cling to our hurts, though, as a way to help protect us from further hurt until we can devise another way. Feeling bad when someone has harmed another is an indicator that we have strayed away from ourselves, disconnected from who we truly are. When we reconnect with our true presence, the knowing comes that we could have done better. And we are human and will make mistakes and hurt people even when it is not our intent.

      I very much appreciate what you have said and happy that you shared this with me.

    • Snoopykg1 Says:

      Thanks for sharing
      I mwholeheartedly agree with all your sharing. I have been there as well for decades….

      Amen

      Kim

  3. Barbara Kass Says:

    Hi, Laurie — forgiveness is such a loaded word for me and people define it differently. I struggled for years to get to a place where it meant something other than what I had been taught and believed my eternal survival depended upon. I read on your blog “offenses may scatter the pathway of our heart” and I very much understand this; offenses (real or imagined) distract us from our lives and how we want to live them. My ability to forgive allows me to be at peace with being offended and moving on.

  4. sandiwhite Says:

    Boy, I sure like this! I don’t feel that everyone who has acted in bad faith time and again deserves my forgiveness. Like you I just do it to clean MY soul of negative feelings and emotional hangovers, I don’t want their bad energy trailing around behind me. I refuse to be a “patsy” or a ‘good soul”, in other words, willing to be taken in again. Much better that our paths should never cross than that I become an enabler to someone who is simply looking for a mark. The guy that stepped on my corn at work has already been forgiven by me, the corn itself has it’s own opinion.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      I know that feeling of harboring resentment against someone who has treated me badly and feeling my energy stuck with it. Letting it go allows me to move on. However, I don’t forget. And, like you, I prefer that our paths don’t cross. I still have occasion to speak with my ex-husband (who was terribly damaging to me) because I still maintain a relationship with my step-daughter. On the surface, I am civil and respectful; beneath that, everything inside me is waving a red flag letting me know not to get sucked in again.

  5. ntexas99 Says:

    barbara – here I am again! I came back to this post because I felt like I had left something out of the equation when I talked about forgiveness in my previous comment … or maybe I mentioned it before, but after giving it more thought, realized I might have been vague or unable to appropriately express what I was trying to say. I’m feeling a little frustrated because my words won’t cooperate.

    In my case, and in my situation, I think it was really more about the sincerity of the apology and the believability of the remorse that was demonstrated by the person who had injured me so deeply. Even though I initiated the conversation, (or confrontation, whichever way you want to look at it), once they realized that I wasn’t going away without something from them that cost them something personally, they finally came around and confessed their sorrow and guilt in a way that clearly was authentic and true. You might say that I sort of backed them into a corner and demanded answers, and the only authentic and true thing they could say was that they knew they had done me wrong, and they were sorry for the heavy burden of pain that had inflicted in my life.

    The apology, and the sincerity behind it, was what empowered me to be able to move to forgiveness. I no longer wanted them to have any piece of my heart that they could break, and so I released all my feelings for them. Over time, and many years later, I would come to have some measure of love for them again, but I never once, ever again, allowed them to have an opportunity to hurt me.

    I still can’t figure out what I’m trying to say, so I hope you’ll be able to read between the lines. Maybe it’s that it’s easier for me to believe in forgiveness because I was fortunate enough to actually get a sincere apology … if one hadn’t happened, I’m not sure the other would have followed. I can only speak from my own experience.

    I’ve known others before who have tried to resolve their issues about forgiveness that never had the benfit of a sincere apology or any act of remorse from the person that caused them harm, and invariably, they are unable to move through forgiveness in the same way as my experience. Ultimately we have to find what works for us individually, and any step we take in the direction of living a more peaceful existence is a step in the right direction.

    Thanks again for this thought-provoking post. It’s got me thinking back to that time of my life when this issue became real for me, and what I remember more than anything was a feeling of empowerment, as if the world suddenly tilted at a slightly different angle, and I could feel the sun on my face again. Here’s hoping there’s plenty of sunshine touching your cheeks on a regular basis.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      I think you have something there, Nancy, when you speak about people who never receive a sincere apology from someone who has caused them harm. If someone is waiting for or requires an apology and never receives it, somehow it is more difficult to forgive and move on. My father never ever apologized in his lifetime for ignoring me and my siblings (he never acknowledged our birthdays) and for beating us on occasion when we were doing nothing more than being children. When he was dying of cancer at the end of his life, though, I was the one who my parents called upon because I was the only person in my family with an advanced degree in the health field. I was the one who secured the autopsy upon his death because I knew his cancer was abnormal (three different cancers — not metatastized to different locations). The autopsy proved that and as a result, his death was declared “war related” because he had been exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam and that was the only explanation for his cancers. My mother is entitled to receive extra money from the government because of that. During this time, he never once express any kind of love or sorrow for his actions toward me. What he did do was say how much he appreciated my helping him out during his illness. That was as close as I was going to get and every time something comes up in me that is still stuck in his abuse, I use those words as his apology. I began to realize that he was a human being, as much stuck with who he was as anyone else, and I can let go of my inner child’s need to hang on to those incidents.

  6. ntexas99 Says:

    p.s. to sandi white – I liked what you said when you said this, “The guy that stepped on my corn at work has already been forgiven by me, the corn itself has it’s own opinion.” I wish I wasn’t struggling for words right now, because I’d love to delve into how reading your words got my brain tangled up again, but in a good way.

    Injuries are not forgotten. Any injury, however deep, remains within our memory. The child that resides within my heart certainly hasn’t forgotten. The adult that I became may have reached forgiveness, but the child that was injured still remembers the pain.

    barbara – I’ve enjoyed this post, and the subsequent comments. If my brain were cooperating with my thoughts, I’d even go farther with this (such as why some people find it easier to forgive others, but are completely unable to forgive themselves). Another topic, for another day. But this has been a welcome exchange of differing opinions, or different viewpoints. Thanks for sharing opening this topic.

    • Snoopykg1 Says:

      The adult that I became may have reached forgiveness, but the child that was injured still remembers the pain.

      I resonate much with this statement…Our paths are similar in a lot of ways with this…..

      Kim

      • Barbara Kass Says:

        There is a way to connect with the child who is still stuck with the past, Kim. Find out what she needs now to heal and you make the decision as the adult whether or not you can provide the healing process, words, etc.

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