Is forgiveness a process, a feeling, or a choice?
The truth about real forgiveness
I used to jump to “forgiveness” before I really felt it, because all the “gurus” and teachers I was plugged in to were waving wands from spiritual pedestals and proclaiming “Choose to forgive so you can set yourself free.”
But I noticed that the simple mindset shift or decision to engage in forgiveness, never miraculously took the emotional juice away.
Forgiveness is a process and a feeling, not a choice, which takes time through intentional healing, processing, and releasing.
Soundbite spirituality and self-help often portray forgiveness as a choice to “set yourself free” or even worse, something that you “already are.” But what most self-help and spiritual axioms are talking about when they speak of forgiveness, is actually releasing.
True forgiveness is a process of acceptance, love, and even gratitude for the transgression, either perpetrated by another or by ourselves.
Therefore, forgiveness is not a thought or an idea that we can just implement because we decide to; because we decide we want to “free ourselves,” or because we want to move on.
Forgiveness is a process of healing whereby we honor, acknowledge, and release all the emotions, feelings, and beliefs brought up in the present moment that have more to do with stored grief material, and wounding from our conditioning (think childhood).
Forgiveness is a “greater understanding” that does not occur instantaneously. It is the end result of a choice to NOT be held hostage by self-judgment, or resentment towards another, and to begin a healing process so we can transcend lessons and grow.
True forgiveness, therefore, requires intention, attention, and time.
Just like the other high-minded spiritual ideals: “you are already love, compassion, peace, and abundance. . . don’t you get it?” these concepts are true on a high-level, but the way in which they are presented is oversimplified, reductive, and does not represent the whole, complicated, messy, multidimensional truth of the human experience.
Humans are relational beings.
Like it or not the conditional, limited, dual-reality of our being here, gifts us with the vehicle to experience the experience of our eternal, love-based Self. Therefore, if we are wounded (we all are) the wounding is on the relational level, and as a result must be addressed and healed within relationship, primarily with ourselves.
The problem with this kind of language, is it dismisses the fact that the person sincerely wanting to create more fulfilling and peaceful lives, has an unconscious map of their world that prevents them from connecting to the compassionate, love-based, “eternal truths” of their nature so they can forgive, understand, and move on easily.
Blindly accessing love or forgiveness, or even simply engaging in a new belief without first reconnecting to and releasing the un-grieved debris or trauma that is festering in the current situation, has a consequence: the spiritual intellectual gets jammed up into his head further, dissociates more, and compartmentalizes away another layer of trauma only to relive the pain over and over again.
The unconscious patterns of recreation show up in our lives when we learn how to take the spiritual “high road,” before we learn how to truly address the core wound or belief.
Without first taking the time to honor, understand and build a bridge back to the fractured, wounded, hurt parts of our humanity, the genuine seeker will at best be muscling his way into feeling what he “thinks” he should believe, and eventually he will be confronted by his own shame, and sense of loneliness from the spiritual self-abandonment inherent in “choosing forgiveness.”
Important side-note, postscript, codicil: I say all of this as someone who forgave a person who I once thought was “unforgivable” and deeply believe that the restorative powers we are all looking for reside not in choosing forgiveness, but in the healing process of self-exploration and self-connection we take to get to forgiveness. For what most deeply lies beneath all of our resentments, hurts, wounds and traumas is essentially shame, therefore the person who is in most need of your forgiveness and compassion is YOU.
Megyn Blanchard is a truth teller, spiritual myth buster, and inner relationship coach on a mission to break down overly simplistic, reductive, self-help and empowerment topics so they are implementable and accessible in our everyday lives.