FORGIVENESS Getting past the pain and moving forward BY: Troy Murphy | June 2016
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“To forgive someone you believe has hurt, harmed, or violated you is no easy feat. However, doing so is a spiritual mandate for your healing, learning, and growth." Iyanla Vanzant
The concept of forgiveness makes perfect sense; the act of forgiving is the challenge. When we are wronged, we feel angry, sad or afraid. We feel the experience. When we attribute the wrong to a person or group of people, we form a grudge. Thoughts of this person (or group), generates bad feelings. Memories are an evolutionary protection system, warning of possible danger. We were wronged; we store implicit and explicit memories of the event. These memories protect us from reoccurrences. Being wronged is a complex event, more than someone bad did something wrong that hurt us. Embracing the complexity of experience, we expand our understanding which assists us with forgiveness.
Expectations, biases, and personal meanings intertwine to generate a feeling reaction, knocking us off kilter. We know something is wrong and we seek explanations. If we know a cause, we can address it. But we tend to simplify the cause while minimizing our role. We even seek support of our limited assessment by rallying friends and family. We may gently probe others, “She was wrong, right?” or “I don’t think he should’ve acted that way?” Other times we abandon caution and blindly assume our perceptions are correct and publically attack with viciousness, presenting a demonizing portrayal of the accused and a sanitized portrayal of the victimized (our self). Friends and family eager to please join the destructive frenzy, duped by our structuring of the events, they defend.
We need others; connections pay significant dividends. Relationship skills provide survival benefits. Relationships involve emotions, pushing actions to gain acceptance, recognition, and status. Within reason these drives serve us well. When out of balance, they become destructive. Because of the important connection between relationships survival and well-being, our brains strenuously attend to conflicts. We pine over hurts and develop theories. Gossip and judgment swells in the competitive world of connections. When a relationship momentarily stings, we interpret the event, projecting the moment into more meaningful implications. We can shamefully accept inaptitude for relationships or brazenly affix blame to the other. To escape responsibility and fear of ineptness, we tend focus on the wrongfulness of the other, justifying the pain; they, we reason, rightfully deserve our condemnation. To forgive requires interrupting this process of justification.
Forgiving doesn’t require dismissing natural consequences. When a partner carelessly violates trust, we naturally erect protective walls to limit future vulnerability. Rebuilding trust only occurs from consistent expressions of sincere change.
So what is forgiveness?
Forgiveness requires delving deeper into complexity, skeptically examining motives, challenging preconceived meanings, and acknowledging personal biases. We discover the fogginess of cause lies beyond our finite understanding. Most collisions involve two moving objects that misjudge each other. Without the need to simplify judgment to a single identifying cause, we accept the unknown, inviting forgiveness of the known. When we forgive, painful emotions soften.
We can’t blindly move forward after hurt, continuing into vulnerability. We need protection; but protection doesn’t require punishing revenge. A cheating spouse may be forgiven but still divorced. We accept their human imperfection. We understand the complexity of unknown factors. We may choose to help them, or completely vanish from their lives, either way, our ill feelings relax, embracing compassionate acceptance of human frailty. We learn wisdom by examining the emotions triggered with curiosity—not animosity.
Forgiveness can’t be forced. Depending on the magnitude of the offense, and personal sensitivity, healthy efforts to understand, broadening acceptance of complexity and increasing compassion slowly heal the deep wounds, instill greater wisdom, while we still remain capable of employing protective precautions to prevent further victimization from an unrepentant offender.
We work towards forgiveness. We can’t just forgive because we know its healthy. The body doesn’t work this way. We engage in growth activities that prepare our minds and bodies to naturally forgive. Forgiveness may not be immediately available—we don’t just say, “I forgive” to magically diminish feelings. Negative emotions are a biological response to hurt; it’ part of a self-protection system. Some master the art of forgiveness and reap rich rewards. Carrying hate is costly—hate leads to a conflicted and chaotic life. Others, like myself, work towards forgiveness.
Knowledge, wisdom and compassion refine emotions, soften grudges, and expand our joys. As we grow spiritually, we naturally begin to forgive the imperfect people. ~Troy Murphy