I read an article a while back about a woman who went to the prison where the man who had murdered her daughter was serving his sentence. When he was told she was there, he said “what does she want, it’s nothing to do with me.” But he allowed the visit and as he sat slouched in his chair with a bored attitude, the woman told him she forgave him for murdering her daughter. His answer was “So what. I didn’t ask for your forgiveness. Whatever, lady”. The mother left and the prisoner asked the guard what it was about, he didn’t need to be forgiven. But the guard told him it wasn’t about him at all, it was for the woman who lost her daughter. By continuing to hate and be angry about the crime along with the loss of her daughter, she realized it was hurting her and taking away her power. The prisoner had no clue what it was all about and it just rolled off his back.
It took that mother a long time to be able to forgive the murderer of her daughter. She finally realized all that hate and anger was poisoning herself, as if she had been continually drinking caustic acid. The hate and anger gave power to the murderer because she was constantly thinking about it, it had taken over her life. Forgiving didn’t mean pretending it never happened or condoning it and all is well.
I decided to check the dictionary to see what it’s definition was. ” when you forgive, you do not gloss over or deny the seriousness of an offense against you. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses. I also checked another source that talks about how psychologists define it. (Greater Good Magazine – their website https://greatergood.berkeley.edu) They define it as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.
It is also important to know what forgiveness isn’t. When you forgive, you do not gloss over or deny the seriousness of an offense against you. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses. Though forgiveness can help repair a damaged relationship, it doesn’t obligate you to reconcile with the person who harmed you, or release them from legal accountability.
Instead, forgiveness brings the forgiver peace of mind and frees him or her from corrosive anger. While there is some debate over whether true forgiveness requires positive feelings toward the offender, experts agree that it at least involves letting go of deeply held negative feelings. In that way, it empowers you to recognize the pain you suffered without letting that pain define you, enabling you to heal and move on with your life.
That was the point the mother of the murdered daughter had reached when she went to the prison to see the murderer. How does one get to that point? That’s the $64,000 question because each person is different. Some will continue to hold on to the anger and hate, as if hugging to themselves. It uses up so much energy, but it is more important to plan revenge than to let it go.
I found a couple of quotes that say it better than I can.
Now comes the part where I am supposed to tell you the answers and how to come to forgiveness. Those 3, 6 or however many steps it takes to come to that point. Well, I am a work in progress and I have begun to understand that forgiveness comes in 2 parts – Rats, wouldn’t you know it isn’t simple and easy after all. The first part is self forgiveness, to come to terms with yourself and quit beating yourself up and hating yourself and what you did.
I am a past master of that. It’s the felling of “What was I thinking?”. I finally came to the point where I decided I did the best I could with what knowledge and experience I had at the time. I might have a made a different decision if I had had time to consult someone or just time to think about it. But those times often come and I have to decide right then. Yes, I have second guessed myself so many times, wishing I had done something different. I am a lot better at no longer beating myself up, I am still working on the self forgiveness part.
As for forgiving others, there are things I need to forgive some people because I know if I keep going over it, I have still given away my power. In my mind I can see different sides to it, but not in an I know that I know sense. I don’t have a picture in my mind that makes sense to me, how it feels, how it looks for me. However, I have come across some resources and ideas that I will share in another post that I found quite interesting.