Jo Sea­gar

When some­one wrongs you, should you just for­give and for­get? Jo Sea­gar of­fers some ad­vice for how to make peace with your foes.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

on for­giv­ing and for­get­ting

For­give and re­mem­ber – that has al­ways been my fam­ily’s motto. I know “for­give and for­get” is the tra­di­tion­ally pre­scribed way to run, but I just don’t get that. Of course, I un­der­stand the the­ory, but in prac­tice I’m not so sure.

Af­ter the ini­tial wave of emo­tion has passed (and this may take some time), you face the chal­lenge of whether you can for­give the per­son for what they’ve done. Through for­give­ness, you let go of your grievances and your judge­ment of the sit­u­a­tion and con­se­quently al­low your­self to heal. Great the­ory, right? But how do you ac­tu­ally achieve it?

For me, un­der­stand­ing came when I re­alised that for­give­ness isn’t some­thing you do for the other per­son, but some­thing you do for your­self. It doesn’t mean you’re par­don­ing or ex­cus­ing the other per­son’s behaviour – you don’t even have to tell them they’re for­given. Nor do you have to for­get what hap­pened or how you feel about the sit­u­a­tion. And it doesn’t mean it’s all okay in the re­la­tion­ship – maybe you don’t even need that per­son in your life any more. But by for­giv­ing them, you ac­cept the re­al­ity of what hap­pened and find a way to live with it and move for­ward.

It’s a pow­er­ful feel­ing when you choose to for­give. For­give­ness al­lows you to take com­mand of the sit­u­a­tion – it means you stop let­ting this per­son have so much ef­fect on you. By be­ing in con­trol you ac­tu­ally take away their power.

You know for­give­ness has be­gun when you think of those who hurt you and are able to wish them well. It’s cer­tainly not an easy shift and it doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily hap­pen overnight. My the­ory on for­give­ness and other life pro­cesses – grief, for ex­am­ple – is that it takes the same time as from con­cep­tion to birth. It takes me about nine months, and that’s not to get over it, but to start to cope through it.

Ini­tially when some­one has wronged you, you’re filled with thoughts of get­ting even – re­venge and ret­ri­bu­tion. You’re hold­ing a big grudge and I think you’re al­lowed to wal­low in that a bit. You cer­tainly need to ac­knowl­edge and ex­plore your anger. Feel free to adopt my “nine months” ap­proach – a cer­tain amount of time needs to pass be­fore you start to think about step two.

That’s when you’re faced with the big ques­tion: “Do I want to for­give?” This is the tricky bit – you do have to be will­ing for for­give­ness to work.

Per­haps writ­ing it all down in a let­ter to your­self or a let­ter that never needs to be sent is a help­ful process.

It is some­times the word for­give­ness you get stuck on – it can sound a bit ther­a­pist­s­peak – but if you re­de­fine it as “pro­cess­ing the emo­tional trauma” it sim­ply means let­ting go of the hurt and your judge­ment of the other per­son.

For­give­ness puts the fi­nal seal on what hap­pened. You don’t need to for­get, and you’re cer­tainly not let­ting them off easy, but you are no longer de­fined and bound by their ac­tion. By for­giv­ing some­one, you lessen their grip, and it helps you find spir­i­tual and psy­cho­log­i­cal well­be­ing. For­give­ness is a won­der­ful way to hon­our your­self and it af­firms that you de­serve to be happy and you de­serve the best.

So on that note, while you’re celebrating the for­give­ness with a glass of Cham­pagne, here’s a recipe for a tasty lit­tle nib­ble to ac­com­pany it.

For­give­ness isn’t some­thing you do for the other per­son, but some­thing you do for your­self.

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