The Problem with Forgiveness
There's been something on my mind lately that I can't seem to stop thinking about. Based on the title of the post, I'm sure you can make a safe assumption of said post topic. Anyway, yes, this post is about forgiveness. Specifically, what I have learned about forgiveness and why forgiveness doesn't always work.
At first, I was a little thrown by all of the energy I've been spending trying to figure out why I can't forgive certain things, but then I realized these thoughts aren't random at all. I've hit a crossroads where I need to learn to forgive so I can keep moving forward. The question is how?
They say, "forgive and forget" but I don't want to forget because I don't want to relive an experience that really hurt me. So I hold onto it and I don't really forgive. Or I didn't, until I was so unhappy I had to learn to let something go.
So, where do we begin?
Well, I think we have to start at the root of the problem, which is that there are mental attachments we have to the word "forgiveness" that don't coincide with what we actually meant in our heart (i.e. forgive=forget). If these two intentions did align, forgiveness would be easier to do.
How many of you guys have a hard time forgiving something? *Raises hand even though there's no one here to see me*
How many of you are holding onto something that someone said or did to you over a year ago? *sinks a little in chair and keeps hand raised*
Think of everything that has happened to you that you've needed to forgive and couldn't. It could be anything: betrayal of a friend, someone making a horrible comment to you, a terrible ex. Whatever it is that you can't get over, imagine each of those experiences as a stone.
Now, imagine that we hold onto each of those stones; we carry them on our backs as we walk through life. We carry them because we don't want to forget what happened to us. We carry them as a reminder, whether that be embarrassed, betrayed, etc. you don't want to feel that again so you hold onto that stone to remind yourself of what you've been through.
All the while you might have even said, "I forgive you" to the person for their action. But every now and then, you think about what they did, and you get mad or resentful all over again--you just can't let it go.
As you navigate through life, those stones begin to weigh on you and it starts to get really tough to carry on. Your back starts hurting, and your feet feel like pins and needles. Suddenly, you get to the base of a mountain that you need to climb. You know you can't do it with all of those stones, but you're afraid.
Fear based thoughts start to enter into your head. "I can't let go, if I let go I'll forget. What will happen if I forget? Will I let that person hurt me again?"
All the while what you desperately want in life is at the top of that mountain. You make a decision: you let go of some of the stones go. Not the big ones, just the little ones-the small things in life.
You start your journey up the mountain and things are looking up. You've never felt lighter in your life. The further you get from that pile of stones at the bottom of the mountain, the less frequently you think about them.
Then the journey gets tough and you have to release more stones. So you do. Each mile gets harder and if you're going to make it to the top, you've got to let go of all your stones. What you want is at the very top, but these stones are too big, too important. You remember what happened with your little stones and you're astonished at how little you think about them now.
You decide to leave your biggest stones on the mountain and come back for them once you've reached the top.
The next leg of the journey is hard, but you manage and when you reach the top, you claim your prize. Then it hits you: you haven't thought about your big stones. You have no idea how you're going to carry them, and your prize back down the mountain and you then realize you can only take one.
What do you do? Move forward or go back for the stones that were weighing you down?
I wrote this analogy because it's the best way I can describe what true forgiveness means. True forgiveness is letting go of those stones and continuing on your journey free of the extra weight.
True forgiveness isn't about forgetting what happened to you. It's about learning to let it go on your path and walk away. You can always return to that stone, pick it up, and ponder it. But you don't ever have to carry it with you. The stone will remain exactly where you leave it and you can move forward.
I'll repeat that because that's the most important part of this whole post: true forgiveness is learning let go, so you can move on. It is not about forgetting what happened to you or even who did it. It's about choosing to say, "you did a shitty thing, but I'm not going to hold onto this because it will weigh me down." Allow yourself to be comforted by the fact that you no longer have to forget in order to forgive, you simply have to leave the stone on your path and keep marching forward.
I'm going to do more posts on this topic because I really don't think that forgiveness is a one post type of deal, but I just wanted to put this out there first and foremost.
The problem with forgiveness isn't forgiving, it's forgetting. You don't have to forget to forgive, you simply have to let go.
Photos taken by Alli Lynn