Can we forgive people who’ve deceived, betrayed, hurt us, or even made us experience grief? Would forgiveness help our tired self?
We often forgive others’ deeds or words. However, sometimes, it’s very difficult to forgive a person who has deeply hurt us. Cruel parents, a robber who attacked us, a driver who hit a close person…Forgiving these people requires immense inner work, which is a long and hard way. For somebody, this is a courageous deed while others consider forgiveness a sign of weakness since they would prefer revenge.
In any case, forgiving those who made us suffer and grieve is an ambiguous question. Yet, all people who’ve managed to forgive their offenders admit that this step made them free and imbued their life with new energy. Forgiveness really releases us from suffering, pain, anger, disdain, and venom. Yet, even if we want very much to forgive an offender, we may simply fail. Therefore, let’s see how psychoanalysts Gabrielle Rubin and Nicole Fabre define the main stages on the way to forgiveness.
How to forgive?
Dare stop suffering
As long as an offender keeps hurting us, it’s impossible to step on the path of forgiving. How can we stop it? First of all, you should consciously decide to stop suffering, stop experiencing pain, offense, injustice. Sometimes, for this, we need to break up or distance from a person who hurts us. It happens so since we feel weak when an offender (a mother who has been ignoring us for years, a boss who has broken his promise) is close to us. Suffering simply paralyzes us.
In special cases, when our physical or psychological health is endangered, the only way to go through the first stage and make an offender answer for their deed is to sue them.
Forgiving a person who has been rude to us and appealing to the court or police aren’t contradictory notions. As a French writer and philosopher Simona Weil mentioned, “we may forgive only things one can be punished for.” While the court may define an offender’s fault and punish them only a victim can forgive them.
Admit that we’ve been mistreated
The past doesn’t disappear. It’s useless to try to forget an offense. Due to mechanisms of psychological defense, suffering, hate, and grief are being pushed out into our sub-conscience, where they continue functioning even more destructively.
We need to admit an offender’s fault. It’s necessary to be able to move forward. As Gabriel Ruben explains, it gives us a possibility to “return guilt to an offender, i.e. to restore a relationship with ourselves.” Besides, it will let you avoid the risk of psychosomatic illnesses or models of behavior that lead to recurrent failures at work or in a relationship.
Express your anger
Feel the anger and even hatred towards your predator; in other words, admit and pour out your suffering. Aggression is even useful at the initial stage: it proves that you are a psychologically healthy person who doesn’t reject a situation and project others’ fault on yourself.
Gabriel Ruben underlines that “hatred is a very powerful feeling which can’t be made to disappear. If we don’t direct it at an offender, we will inevitably direct it at ourselves risking launching a process of self-destruction.”
We rarely have such an opportunity to directly express our anger and reproach an offender: they may not consider themselves guilty or be too powerful for us to withstand them. Yet, we can do this work ourselves. Write down everything you feel and tell about your sufferings a person you trust. Should a situation be very painful, consult a professional.
Stop feeling guilty
It may sound as a paradox, but the majority of those who’ve suffered feel guilty about the thing that’s happened to them. An attempt to clarify what part of our ego has suffered the most will help to subdue the feeling of offense. What was hurt – our pride, reputation, honesty, physical boundaries?
As Nicole Fabre clarifies, “Answering this question will help us to get rid of the feeling of guilt, i.e., to realize that we aren’t responsible for what’s happened to us.” We should reject our ideal “Me,” this fairy image of ourselves, and get rid of clingy statements like “I can’t be forgiven for not having found another way to act.”
Understand a person who has hurt us
Hatred and anger help to overcome aggression, but experiencing these emotions for a long time leads to self-destruction. To avoid this, it’s useful to put oneself in the offender’s shoes. Understanding their motives doesn’t mean forgiving them. Our task is to spot their weaknesses, to comprehend a deed that hurt us. To some extent, it will help us to accept this action. The point is that a human isn’t a sum of their deeds no matter how weird they may be.
Don’t be in a hurry
To forgive doesn’t mean to forget. You won’t be relieved if you forgive too quickly. Don’t hurry, “let some time pass preserving an active attitude to forgiveness,” advises Nicole Fabre. Should you forgive an offender too quickly, they may consider it a redemption. Yet, it will become a trap for a victim who is still experiencing anger and grief even without recognizing it. An illusion of forgiveness will only hurt you, so take as much time as you really need to forgive.
Become the master of your life
How can we understand that we have genuinely forgiven an offender? Provided that we feel neither anger nor rage for a person who’s made us suffer, and “if the feeling of our own guilt has disappeared,” Gabriel Ruben adds, we can believe we’ve forgiven. Another typical feature of forgiving, according to Nicole Fabre, is “a shift to action, which means that our active attitude to life is back.”
Very often, forgiveness is an act of becoming free, in which pain is being dissolved. It helps a person to become the master of their life again, stop enduring and suffering, or even become stronger. As Nicole Fabre claims, “to forgive means to become more mature, let another person in your life. A true way of becoming free is to make a step that allows us to forgive and move forward.”
Forgiving we care about our own health
Forgiveness implies the healing of our soul and body. Researches have proved that there are stable psychological differences between the states of forgiving and not forgiving. At the very thought of an offender, all the examinees’ cardiovascular system didn’t function properly, with these changes becoming detrimental when they thought about revenge.
Should I wait until an offender asks me to forgive them?
Many people hope that a person who’s hurt us will realize their guilt and come to ask us for forgiveness. But what should we do if offenders aren’t going to apologize?
Gabriel Ruben asserts that “it’s impossible to forgive if we aren’t asked for an apology. However, if an offender doesn’t realize their guilt, we can’t talk about forgiveness.” On the contrary, other experts believe that if we are waiting for forgiveness request, we are tying ourselves to an offender and become their prisoner. Thus, what should we do? If you feel that you are getting physically and mentally exhausted, it’s better to forgive without waiting for being asked to. Otherwise, you risk falling a victim to depression or mental breakdown.