Forgiving: A Path for Healing
by Tita Subercaseaux
Forgiveness is not a popular concept in this culture where perfection is over-valued. Our self-esteem is too often measured by how perfect and admired we feel we are. When we find ourselves on either side of the equation -- having hurt someone or having been hurt, we face the human reality of our not being perfect. It is hard to accept that there is no possibility of going through life without making mistakes. Yet, it is through acknowledging our mistakes and our vulnerability that we grow deeper in our relationships.
When we ask someone for forgiveness, we become vulnerable. When we acknowledge that we’ve hurt somebody, even without intending to, we are accepting that we are not perfect. It is a risk to do so, because we know we could feel humiliated, rejected or we could lose that person’s love and respect.
The fear of not being loved can prevent us from acknowledging the pain we have caused someone else, but not taking responsibility for that person’s pain does not means it doesn’t exist. When we don’t take that responsibility, we risk damaging or losing the relationship altogether. For example, your spouse’s pain will continue to be there whether you acknowledge your part in it or not. He or she can doubt your love and wonder if their feelings matter to you. While your spouse might try to forgive your hurtful behavior in order to keep peace, resentments could build. I invite you to reflect on these questions: Remember a time when you hurt somebody. What did you tell yourself about that?
What did you do?
Remember a time when you were hurt by somebody close to you.
What were your feelings and what did you do?
Humans are emotional beings. When we avoid or hide our emotions, it drains and restricts our capacity to feel a variety of emotions. For example, if I’m filled with anger, it becomes difficult to experience happiness. When we hold on to resentment, we decrease our emotional flexibility. But we can choose to free ourselves by asking for forgiveness or by forgiving those who have hurt us. Forgiveness doesn’t happen quickly. It is a healing process. These are the steps in that process:
Recognize you are hurt and recall the details of the event.
Explore the feelings under the anger
(fear, hurt of being abandoned, unloved, etc.).
Ask yourself what the hurt meant to you (i.e. what did I tell myself?).
Ask yourself, “What do I need now?” Is what you need attainable?
Choose to let go of your anger and move toward forgiveness.
Ask God to help you through this process. He wants us to be free.
Let Him intercede and invite him to heal you.
© Samaritan Center of Puget Sound