Believe it or not, forgiveness is something counselors deal with on a daily basis. When most people think about counseling, they consider the consequences of their own personal behavior. They come into the office saying, “There is something wrong with me.” While our behavior often reflects internal battles, understanding forgiveness can go a long way in helping us to heal from the battle scars of life.
Forgiveness is Freeing. This goes for both the forgiver and the forgiven. The best thing I can say about human forgiveness is that it lets the forgiver off the hook. You heard me correctly. Resentment, anger, and bitterness can quickly become a prison. Forgiveness allows the person who has been offended to say this incident no longer has power over me.
Forgiveness is Future. It does not erase our pasts. Many people come into my office feeling as though forgiveness somehow spells forgetfulness. “I’ve forgiven them a million times but I still can’t forget. What’s the matter with me?” Absolutely nothing. Can you imagine if forgiving meant forgetting? We would live in a world full of individuals perpetually hurting each other, free of consequence. My core principles prevent me from seeking out my own justice. However, they do not prevent me from establishing boundaries to protect myself, and my family from unhealthy individuals. Our memories of an event can serve as warranted protection against being hurt in a similar fashion down the road. Because forgiveness is freeing, those memories and boundaries should not keep us from living our lives.
Forgiveness if Forever. Simply put, forgiveness is a process. Sometimes it is a daily one. While memories fade and wounds heal, scars stick around. Counseling and boundaries can aid us in the healing process and help us to stop the cycle or pattern of unhealthy behavior. Ultimately, there are pains we will carry with us the rest of our lives. Some pains will be easier to deal with than others. The key is not to shame yourself into thinking you haven’t forgiven. Realistically, you may have forgiven the offender seventy-seven times.
What about you? Have you struggled with forgiveness at times? What does it mean to truly forgive and have you established boundaries in your life that reflect both forgiveness and model healthy relationships?