What forgiveness is and what isn't
Forgiveness is considered by many as the redemption of a burden: the one that someone carries when he has been betrayed by a significant other, or when he has been cheated, mistaken, or abandoned.
Many times we choose forgiveness for social reasons, because "we have to". We wear the mask of "it's OK for me, as long as you are OK." But by acting this way, we skip the healthy process of "recovery" from our trauma. We go through all the “allowed” stages of emotional reactions and never express our anger, but lock it somewhere deep inside us.
Yet, it is normal to be angry, to hate, to be disappointed by someone, and to allow ourselves to express all these feelings in a healthy way. We have an abundance of time at our disposal to process the loss, to experience sorrow, to live with our wound. And this has nothing to do with revenge. It is simply the acceptance we need, not the oppression, a true emotional and painful process.
There is no time limit within which one must pass through all the stages of grief, anger and achieve forgiveness. Friends, relatives, or even a counsellor can support us throughout this process. If someone is rushed to "close the case" by going directly to forgiveness, then they most probably will suppress their true feelings, or even deny their existence and their importance. But the fact that these feelings are skipped doesn't mean that they disappear. They're there, they live and breathe and wait for the next opportunity to re-surface. And then, either they take the form of a psychosomatic symptom, or they appear as anxiety, depression, panic attacks, or as aggressive behaviour.
How To Forgive Others or Yourself
But how can you forgive the person who treated you in such a bad way? How can you overcome the shock, the terror, and ultimately this strong desire for revenge? When it comes to forgiveness, the question is: what purpose does it serve?
Forgiveness is not a feeling which suddenly turns up, nor the fast and safe way to inner peace and happiness. Forgiveness has nothing to do with the person who hurt us but has everything to do with ourselves. Forgiveness begins with the decision to forgive, but it does not end there. It is a process that takes time and requires our commitment to a life full of experiences, but without repressed emotions.
To insist on hatred and revenge is like holding a piece of burning charcoal with the intention to throw it at the person we hate: we are the first to be burned! Forgiveness means that we have decided to leave the hatred behind so as to give ourselves a chance of befriending our past and of moving towards an amending and more fulfilling future. What they did to us was very bad indeed, but what we do to ourselves by not moving on with our lives may be even worse.
How Forgiveness will set you free
Going through grief and anger are prerequisites to further proceed to the decision to forgive. The decision of forgiveness is based on the realization that in this way the one who forgives gains from it, (even if there is no effect to the one who is forgiven), while hate hurts the one who seeks for revenge (and may not have any effect on the one that is hated).
Therefore, it doesn't matter why the other person acted in such a detrimental way towards us (hatred, selfishness, indifference, or other reason).
The decision of forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person, but all to do with ourselves.
How to forgive
First of all don't rush into putting the lid onto whatever you might be feeling.
If you are not ready to forgive them and to let it go yet, then so be it. Give it time. Going through the feelings, understanding the reasons, figuring out the patterns, healing from any trauma caused is a long process. Every day is a new step and there is no "should" and "must" that defines where you ought to be or what to feel.
Separate the person from the behaviour.
There is a chance that the overall experience you had with a person was a positive one. Or at least, there was some good moments in it. Keep those close to your heart, because you were also part of them. If it was the behaviour that made you hurt, then blame this instead of the whole relationship or experience with the person you were with.
Protect yourself from extra pain.
If holding on to your anger, makes you lose your sleep, be constantly frustrated, ruminate over what happened but without getting anywhere, or hurts any new relationships that you are trying to make, then you are paying a high price for not allowing yourself to forgive and move on. It's as if you are allowing them to hurt you for a second time.
Now, you take care of yourself and you make sure that your mental health is not burdened with any past leftovers. Healing and moving on free and light is the new plan.
YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHERS.