Many people ask me about forgiveness. What role it played when I faced the death of my father in a random theft, and my own potential destruction at home.
I have worked with many people on this for more than 15 years and here are some of my learnings.
Without forgiveness it is impossible to heal.
You can choose not to forgive, but there is a consequence. Instead of getting to move on and find closure, you get caught in a no-man’s land of anger, injustice and simmering resentment for your loss. For some people, this choice has lasted a lifetime, and costs them heavily in their physical, mental health and personal relationships. They go to war over it. Anger is a destructive emotion, especially when it boils away inside you over time. Taking the decision to forgive is a hard one, but it is the best one.
With forgiveness is it possible to heal.
Forgiveness is three-fold, yourself, others and the agressor.
1 Firstly, you have to forgive yourself.
Often this is the hardest. Usually there is some survivor guilt, and wondering if you had done more or less, whether you could have prevented the event that happened. Perhaps you could of? Should of done more? Why didn’t you do this, or that? Try this, or that? Go here, or there? These questions have no answers as they’re retrospective, and unable to be replayed. So they simply torment you until the time you can choose to forgive yourself for not doing what it is you thought you could.
Understand that forgiving yourself is the greatest gift you can give yourself.
It allows all of the negative emotion a legitimate place and right to be, the loss, the grief, but it also allows it to pass. We place such impossibly high standards on ourselves, that at times like these are simply not realistic. Death has a way of proving mortality. We are not superman or superwoman. Imperfection is a fact of life. At times like these, allowing yourself to be less than perfect and forgiving yourself for your imperfection and failings is the first step on the way to healing.
2 Secondly, you have to forgive others.
Those who you feel could have done more, should have done more to prevent it. Friends, family, authorities such as police or governments. This does not mean you condone their inability to change it, it simply means that you understand that at the time the interventions/alternatives failed, and that something will need to done to change that, and prevent this in future. You can help to do that.
3 Thirdly, you forgive the aggressor.
This is not so much for their sake (as they may still feel no remorse and be a danger to society), but for your sake. Forgiveness is strength of character on your part, and a lancing of the seething negative emotions. He/she/they may have destroyed you or someone you love at the time, but by forgiving them you free yourself of their capacity to keep destroying you. You break their hold on you. The fear, the horror, the shock, and you allow the destructive thoughts and emotions to pass through you, and make way for acceptance and more constructive spaces and experiences. Forgiving them allows you the freedom and the space to live again.
Forgiveness is a choice, it takes a moment, a huge moment, but the immediate and long term effect is priceless, and will give you back yourself.
So, to answer the question, yes - forgive!