Years ago I sat in a supervision group with a group of collages in which we discussed various cases. We were all new at this counseling thing, and frequently brought our “worst” cases to the group for any sort of help we could get. One particular day someone brought up a couple they were counseling, and reported they were at a horrible impasse. The therapist had tried communication skills, Cognitive Restructuring, Family Sculpting……. I think you get the idea. The couple just hated each other.
Our supervisor asked the group for any suggestions. The group remained silent. It was everyone’s worst nightmare. A client comes to you for help, and you don’t know how to help them. After a few moments of silence, the supervisor began to share with us something he said we wouldn’t find in our text books. Following is what he told us:
The ingredients of Forgiveness:
1) Your feelings are legitimate. It is silly to pretend that someone did not hurt you when in fact, they did. Even if it was unintentional, pretending it didn’t hurt is being dishonest with yourself. You know that it really did hurt, and you may spend a lot of time trying to convince yourself of something that you know not to be true. Perhaps you were too sensitive, but this stage is not the place to begin telling yourself to get over it.
2) There is no such thing as revenge. It simply does not exist. You can hurt someone, even worse than they hurt you, yet it will never, “even the score.” There is a saying, “Acid does more damage to the vessel it is stored in than to what it is poured on.”
3) Forgiveness is not what you feel. It is what you do with those feelings. If someone runs over a loved one with a car, it is going to take awhile for me to get over the anger. Yet, I can forgive the person more quickly. How? Because the action part of forgiveness is the “laying down of weapons.” What are weapons? Getting even, yelling, name calling, being passive aggressive, and the like. Anything I do to purposely hurt someone is a weapon. I may have to lay down my weapons 10 times in 10 minutes. It is something I am in control of, as opposed to controlling the way I feel. You cannot always control your feelings, but you can control your actions.
4) Forgiveness is not the same as trust. Most people believe that to forgive someone means I have no ill feelings towards them. However, it takes time for feelings to change. Trust always takes time. Time to see if the person is in fact trustworthy. To trust someone before they have proven to be trustworthy is foolish. Those who try to trust too quickly confuse forgiveness with condoning. Condoning means to simply pretend something never occurred. This is the quality that makes Grandparents so loveable. They simply smile, and ignore it. While we should forgive someone, to continue to trust them if the behavior continues, will only reinforce and/or encourage the behavior to continue.
5) Forgiveness means to Grieve. It is acknowledging that we have been hurt. Whatever was done to you, you let it go. Let it die. There is no way to get even, it will only haunt you. Let yourself grieve whatever was done to you, that you might be free of that injury. Forgiving them will enable you to be free. By letting it go that simply means you choose to not get even, either through thought or deed. Once you are able to do this, you will cease to be haunted by what was done to you.
Copyright by Bob Grant, L.P.C. 2004 All rights reserved. No part of this article may be used or reproduced in any manner without written permission from the author.
Bob Grant is the author of "The Woman Men Adore..and Never Want to Leave," featured at www.relationshipheadquarters.com. He has been a life coach working with women and couples for 15 years and he and his wife are the proud parents of a new baby girl.