“Forgiveness is to set a prisoner free, and to discover that prisoner was you” – Lewis B. Smedes.
One of the burdens people carry is the inability to forgive those who have hurt them, there are three ways people react to this;
The first is the Reactor; this is the obvious relationship break down, there is no communication and the betrayed is clearly angry and makes the betrayer aware of their wrong doing any chance they get. They feel their anger is justified and they want this person to suffer.
The second is the Faker; this person pretends like they’re over it, even acting as though it never happened and seemingly continues their relationship with the betrayer, but deep down harbours resentment towards them; talking negatively of them behind their back, secretly revelling in their hardships, perhaps organising friendship gatherings and ‘forgetting’ to mention it to them. Like the Reactor, the Faker feels their resentment is justified. The resentment gradually builds up, causing an inevitable explosive rift, resulting in more pain and conflict than had the original act of betrayal just been acknowledged.
Third is the Wise Man; this person recognizes that the Reactor and the Faker are only causing themselves more pain, and has a genuine desire to forgive the betrayer and to move on. Not for the benefit of the betrayer but for their own sanity. Sometimes the Reactor and the Faker get to this point, as they mature, they become more aware & recognise that their un-forgiveness is as punishing to themselves as it is to the betrayer, if not more so; it becomes a burden they do not want to carry anymore. This is a really important first step; to love yourself enough to want to forgive those who have hurt you. But more often than not, we find that forgiveness does not come when we simply decide we want to forgive, and that brings with it another challenge “why can’t I forgive them”. In this case, we must be so careful not to develop guilt and self-blame, “I must be a bad person because I can’t forgive”. With this new found awareness & empathy, we may especially feel bad if the betrayer is genuinely trying to make amends. It is equally as wrong to continue to remind someone of their past mistakes when they are trying to better themselves, whether that be directly as the Reactor or indirectly as the Faker.
Acceptance is the key to healing in any circumstance, and therefore you can say “I don’t forgive them, and that’s ok”. This doesn’t mean you continue to feel angry or resentful, it means when those feelings arise, you allow them to be, but you do not react outwardly or inwardly as a reaction would feed the emotion and therefore encourage it to manifest and to grow. When you begin to allow an emotion to be, but to not define you, you allow the natural flow of energy, (that is to feel and to release; energy is not supposed to hang around for more than a moment) feel, allow/accept, release, there is no should or shouldn’t about it. So when you begin to accept your un-forgiveness as it is and not as you expect it to be, you find that forgiveness naturally follows suit. Some find that forgiveness enables them to rebuild the relationship better and stronger than before, but of course, forgiveness does not mean you must allow someone back in to your life; it means you have finally let them go.