Many of us have a misunderstanding about what forgiveness is, so the thought of letting go of the wrongs done to us sounds awful, even painful. However, it’s important to know that when we talk about not holding onto offense, we are not pretending that nothing ever happened. I talked to my mentor (who’s also a therapist), Bill Gaultiere, about this years ago, and he shared with me three things that forgiveness is not. I think it’s important to understand these before we talk about what forgiveness really is.
First of all, forgiveness is not excusing. Being merciful doesn’t mean that you look for a way to let the other person out of the wrong they have done. It’s not saying, “well, they did the best that they could” or “they just really weren’t well at the time.”
Secondly, forgiveness is not overlooking. It’s not saying, “Oh, I’ll just pretend this isn’t happening right now” or “it will make things easier if I look the other way.”
Thirdly, and this is the most important, forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgetting is one of the worst things you can do when you’ve been hurt. When you try to forget something bad that was done to you, you end up putting it in an unconscious part of your body and mind where it has the potential to cause you great harm. In fact, the biggest part of forgiving is remembering — remembering how badly you were hurt and how harsh and unfairly you were treated. It’s important to write those things down, meditate on the pain they caused you, and then choose to forgive. Stare the wrong straight in the eye, acknowledge it, and let it go.
Remember, you can’t heal what you don’t feel, so admit the wrongs that were done to you, and deal with the pain as you walk toward complete restoration.