Forgiving a transgression is one of life’s earliest challenges. Small children must be taught to forgive their brothers and sisters, and later, their playground friends. Adults can help, if they guide an apology from the transgressor. Adults can also teach children the difference between transgression and not getting their way—an important distinction! Kids learn that a sincere apology strengthens relationships on both sides of a problem.
What happens when there is no apology? We learn that some people are not going to try to make things better. They may not be invested in a genuine relationship. We may not even know the other person well. We see that some people will lie to get what they want, or use aggression without regret. Eventually, we see that we have to find friends that are trustworthy, and avoid the others.
When we are hurt by someone we trusted, or wanted to trust, forgiveness can be exceedingly difficult. A parent, sibling, spouse, or close friend may cause a much more severe type of hurt for us, because we “let them in,” revealing our strongest hopes and deepest fears. This kind of hurt is called “trauma” if the negative behavior causes lasting damage. The damage caused by those closest to us may make us less able to enjoy life, less willing to trust, and less likely to follow our dreams.
Increasing the hurt, we may never get an apology from those who caused us harm. They may not have the courage to face what they have done. They may see the world in a way that causes them to be incapable of understanding the pain they have inflicted. They may be drowning in their own pain, fear, and loneliness. They could have been abused themselves. They may be numbing themselves with drugs, alcohol, rage, or a host of other escape strategies. We may never hear the acknowledgment we have yearned to hear.
You can forgive without the other person (or people) doing anything. You can choose to see their behavior as a reflection of who they are, not who you are. You can begin to practice the art of conscious forgiveness, even if you continue to experience pain as a result of their behavior. You just decide to forgive. You share your decision with people you can trust. They will support you. Use whatever spiritual or philosophical beliefs you hold, to reinforce your decision. This doesn’t mean the hurt disappears; it means the power of the hurt begins to diminish.
This is great news! You don’t have to wait for the transgressors to apologize, in order to heal. Their power over you is removed. Your power over yourself is restored. You don’t need anyone’s permission to get better.
It may seem like the people who hurt you are “getting away with it” if you forgive them. Forgiving them doesn’t mean you ever have to see them again. It surely doesn’t mean you are fine with what they did. It means you are no longer willing to let their behavior dictate the quality of your life. It is your right and privilege to forgive them, and to determine how much involvement they will have in your life—if any.
Forgiveness is for you. Healing is for you. If you have a problem with alcohol and drugs, sobriety is for you. If you need help, never hesitate to ask for it. Sobriety Matters is here to help you recover from the things that have been hurting you. Call us at 713-904-4699. You deserve the opportunity to get better!