Should We Forgive?
20th August 2011
Reading another coaches view on forgiveness and why it is necessary, I put forward another perspective to them only to get an over reactive response which shows me that forgiveness is a hot topic and a volatile one at that.
It would be easy to go down the “a better man forgives” route and in the therapy and self help world, forgiving someone is apparently the best way to let go of the past and move on with your future.It sounds like good advice and is even promoted in the spiritual world as the superior way to act when something bad has happened to them. There are all sorts of metaphoric rituals designed to help forgive too which some people really do find useful.
From personal experience I know forgiveness is not always the answer and isn’t sometimes the best route to go down either. That decision is up to the individual and most importantly what happened to them too. Letting go of the past has to be taken in context and shouldn’t be generalised to suit some sort of idealism which on the surface sounds great but has a dark side too.
The people who promote forgiveness as the only way often try to make the victims feel even more guilty through suggesting they are lacking in humanity through not forgiving.
They also suggest to some people they are not spiritual or wise enough if they don’t forgive whoever has done them wrong.
It creates a false self who appears all calm, wise and understanding but in reality they have rage within them which needs to be expressed and leaks out through over reaction.
I found that going through the forgiving route just made some people suppress how they really felt as they wanted to appear to have moved on from what happened and maintain the false image of calm, wise and understanding. This is also an avoidance strategy as the mind finds it hard to cope with what happened and tries to blot it out, this doesn’t tend to work for most people either and keeps the past event wriggling around inside them and influencing negatively the way they perceive the future. The cycle of pain then continues as usually with an unconscious negative way of processing the future, bad decisions tend to get made causing more stress.
My strategy for dealing with the past is just with honesty. I know with some situations that forgiveness is not necessary, but insight into why the person hurt me can help me start to move on. Recognising I was a victim and not trying to deny that is important too especially when dealing with childhood pain. Acknowledging what someone did as wrong and how much it hurt and what the consequences are can help us face the truth of the situation and then grieve over what was lost. I have found with clients, doing this creates a great release which is painful at first as rage, guilt, shame and any other emotions are acknowledged with honesty. This creates movement in letting go and moving on authentically without suppression and there are some great techniques to help clients safely express how they really feel.
In a way the person who hurt us however it was done is a victim too and that bigger picture can help us gain insight into why it happened. We still though have to acknowledge honestly the effect it has had on our lives and whether we want to forgive or not. Not forgiving someone doesn’t mean not being able to move on. It can simply be an honest response to what some one has done and then be aware that forgiveness is a choice not a necessity. If you force yourself to forgive then you just end up suppressing how you really feel which just creates a false version of you which takes a lot of energy to maintain.
Recently another coach promoted forgiving and understanding the rioters in London. That is all very well to say from their arm chair but the reality is that those affected should not be made to feel guilty for not forgiving these people. I work with clients who have been sexually, mentally or physically abused, they had counselling and have created a false self through forgiving processes which just suppressed their rage at what happened to them. The result was anxiety, insomnia, anger, stress, illness and depression being a few of the symptoms they are suffering from due to locking away the truth of how they really felt.
If deep down you feel you are hiding, suppressing or fighting something within in favour of avoidance or an idealistic philosophy then please see a good therapist who can help support you through dealing with it honestly and with authenticity.
Life is too short not to.