This I Believe
I believe in forgiveness. In fact, I think that without it, I cannot maintain either self respect or good relationships–Because no one is perfect, we will inevitably hurt each other.
I’ve come to this belief from two directions: First, in my personal journey I’ve weathered deep hurts in childhood, a divorce, and profound disappointments with siblings in caring for our Mother in her last years. Second, in my profession as a psychotherapist, it is heartbreaking for me to see families disrupted unnecessarily by one or both spouses coming to the position of “I just don’t love him or her anymore.” Invariably what has happened is that in the heat of marital intimacy something has been uncovered about self or spouse that is considered unacceptable. That might be, for example, “I’m too needy”, or “he’s just too self-centered.” Instead of facing and forgiving, the person gets stuck in anger or hopelessness and decides that the marriage is the problem. Ridding himself/herself of the spouse “solves the problem”–until the heat is turned up in the next relationship.
In both my personal life and my profession I have learned that the ability to forgive does not come easily. At first I went through mistaken thinking, such as, maybe I shouldn’t have felt hurt in the first place; or somehow what was done to me was justified; or if I really believed that forgiveness was important, I could just decide to do it. To the contrary, I have come to think that injustices were done to me and that there are things about myself that need forgiveness. In fact, it is the things about myself that are the hardest to forgive. Also, the best reason to forgive has not been what I’ve been taught by my Church or anyone else, but what I’ve come to understand is that staying stuck in the past keeps me from having a positive attitude. But in order to get there, I don’t have to deny anything about the negative experiences of the past. I’ts only through a process of going through the emotions and the confused thinking that goes with those emotions–that I can come out on the other side. Finishing this process– for the things that hurt me the most– has taken a long time.
But I finally got there..and now I believe that the ability to forgive myself and others is absolutely essential in order to live optimistically about myself and those I love.
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