Before we approach the topic of gratitude for Thanksgiving next week, I want to address an important prerequisite that will allow you to make room for gratitude in your life: the often-misunderstood concept of forgiveness.
We often feel like forgiveness is an act of relinquishing personal power, when in reality, it is actually claiming liberty and personal power. It is a choice to move forward with your life and focus on yourself rather than let the person who wronged you continue to fill your thoughts and define your actions.
Contrary to popular opinion, forgiveness is not:
- Repressing (stuffing it down and pretending it didn’t happen)
Repressing leads to resentment, unexpressed anger, and often over time, stress-related health conditions
- Forgetting (I’m going to put it out of my mind)
Let’s be honest - does this ever work? The more we try to forget about something, the more it seems to crowd our thoughts.
- Letting the offender off the hook (making excuses for the offender or saying what happened was okay)
This can lead to mistrust of your own intuition and a compromised sense of self
- Trusting the offender again (the assumption that forgiveness means going back to the way things were)
This can lead to repeat offenses
Forgiveness usually requires anger at the wrong committed against you. Anger is a natural, healthy, and necessary response to being wronged or betrayed. The question is whether you allow the anger to dictate your life, or whether you use it to set good boundaries for yourself with the person who wronged you and move on with your life.
There are different ways of releasing the feelings you have, whether they have been repressed or are ever-present. These include writing a letter you do not send or using the “empty-chair” technique to find an assertive and empowered voice against the offender. Sometimes you need a friend or counselor to help you through this process. Once you have processed and released the power these feelings have over you, you can start to sever the negative emotional tie you have with the offender and experience the freedom of forgiveness.
In short, forgiveness is actually:
- Feeling and processing your reaction to the offense (not rehashing and re-living it over and over, but working through it)
- Releasing the negative emotional tie that has kept you connected to the offender, so that you can move forward with your life
- Viewing the offender accurately, which involves setting appropriate limits and boundaries to prevent repeat offenses
- Reclaiming a healthy and accurate view of yourself if this has been compromised
Forgiveness can happen both in small steps and huge breakthroughs. Each person’s process of forgiveness will be different. Forgiveness is for your benefit and it is in your power to claim it.