There has always been a lot of talk about how forgiving others for doing you wrong is one of the best things you can do for yourself. I, however, feel very differently. You are in no way obligated to forgive someone who has hurt you, especially if the act of forgiving is more draining that the initial hurt. In fact, this so called “forgiveness” you may claim is more than likely a lie. A lie you tell others, and a lie you tell yourself. Like when someone asks how you are doing and you say “fine”, but really you feel like your life is in shambles. This “forgiveness” is just a denial of justifiable anger.
We’ve been taught our whole lives, especially women and Black people, to turn the other cheek and forgive others so that our anger doesn’t eat away at us. But if you’re lying to yourself about having forgiven someone, that lie eventually eats away at your psyche and can negatively effect other relationships. We are human and not only do we have the right to be angry, but it is a natural, normal, and healthy emotion.
Now, in no way am I saying that you should stew in your anger or hurt. That is far from productive or healthy. I am saying that you should acknowledge your anger, but you have no obligation to forgive anyone that has caused it if that is not what is truly in your heart. Acknowledge your anger, learn from your pain, and keep moving on throughout your life. Keyword here is “your.” When folks tell you to “forgive and forget” or even “forgive but never forget”, it often times comes from their need for comfort. They don’t want to have to put in the effort to understand your hurt or anger and would rather you hide it beneath the cloak of “forgiveness.”
Regarding the title of this post. The one person that actually DESERVES forgiveness from you is yourself. We often time hold grudges against ourselves greater than that of our worst enemy. We ruminate on past mistakes we’ve made and judge ourselves for it. This can prevent us from moving forward in life and reaching our full potential. If you don’t forgive someone else because you really don’t want to, that’s fine, your life still moves on. However, if you don’t forgive yourself, you stay stuck in a cycle of self doubt, low self esteem, self sabotage, and a myriad of other negative thoughts and behaviors.
Unfortunately, forgiving yourself is difficult. Forgiving yourself cannot be hidden under a cloak of forgiveness. You can’t hide your feelings about yourself, from yourself. I cannot give a specific foolproof method to forgiving yourself that works for everyone, but I can give you some tips that have worked for me.
1. Really delve into why you did what you did that has you so angry with yourself. You will often find that the reasoning behind some of the decisions you regret were for self preservation purposes. Although the decision you made may not have been the most comfortable or “morally acceptable”, you did it because you felt that it was what was best for you.
2. Remember where you were in life. How old were you, what else was taking place at the same time, were you in healthy mental state, etc..? Many of the grudges we hold against ourselves stem from a time when we were less self aware. Mistakes we made as teens or in early adulthood. Mistakes we made when we were depressed, manic, or in any other mental state that leaves us out of touch with reality. You have grown from then. Even if you still experience mental health crises, you may respond to them differently.
3. Knowing and accepting that you are not the only one. You may feel that you are a terrible person for doing what you have done, but know this, you are not the first and you won’t be the last to make the same decision.
4. As long as you learn from what you have done and do what you can to avoid doing it again, you have put in the effort that deserves forgiveness from yourself.
And that folks is my message on forgiveness.