Forgiveness. I have often struggled with how this word is used.
It is a word that is often pushed upon victims as something they "have to do," "a process" they "must go through", "a stage", that until they do the will "never truly heal." There is an obsession with forgiveness.
Then I found these definitions:
a : to give up resentment of or claim to requital
: to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) : source
Forgiveness is typically defined as the process of concluding resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, difference or mistake, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution. ( wikipedia)
The Oxford English Dictionary defines forgiveness as 'to grant free pardon and to give up all claim on account of an offense or debt'.
So if forgiveness is the act of letting go of reprisal? This obviously varies in it's degree of difficulty.... forgiving someone for breaking a wine glass? Easy... forgiving someone for hitting your dog with their car? Maybe not as easy. Forgiving someone for perpetrating a violent crime against you? Difficult.
So how do people do that? How do victims of violent crimes forgive the perpetrator? How do people do this and still remain empowered? How do you forgive and still feel like you haven't "given in"? How do you do this and still demand court proceedings and charges?
I often get asked this at work, and for a long time I struggled with it. Why should you not demand punishment? It is your right to have the perpetrator charged. It is your right to feel safe.... so how do you forgive someone and continue to send the message that it is not ok?
I think it is difficult but possible. It is mixture of assertiveness, and support. It is saying what you did is wrong but rather than being fuelled by anger being empowered by assertiveness and strength? So is forgiveness, in this context, saying this is wrong because you did it to me and I deserve better? In my mind that is how I see it. You are still allowed to be angry about it, but not fuelled by it, rather fuelled by strength.
On the flip side of forgiveness is the dismissive "Get over it".The language we ( as a society) use can be so harsh. To me when someone says "get over it" what they mean is "I cannot understand or cope with your feelings".
I think it is much more useful to go through it rather than "over" it. Going through involves immersing yourself in it, wading in its horribleness and thinking about it, looking at it, searching, feeling, crying, screaming... wondering, concluding and wading out the other side. "Get over it" implies something done quickly which usually means just try to forget about it.
I spend my work days dealing with people trying to "forget it". They have spent years pushing things down with large amounts of alcohol and drugs, basically trying to "get over it", to forget it. Obviously this is not working and I often wonder about the amount of energy used to push things down and how that energy and skill could be traits used to go through it. Painful and heart wrenching short term- absolutely. Like a huge weight lifted off your shoulders in the long term- almost always.
what do you think forgiveness means? I would love to hear your thoughts.