This is one of the more difficult aspects of forgiveness. Some people ask me if it is acceptable to just forget about forgiveness altogether under these circumstances. I think it is all the more imperative to keep on persevering in forgiving both for the relationship (if you think it is a good idea to keep it) and for your own well-being. With that said, I recommend that you keep working on the knowledge that the peers possess inherent (built-in) worth regardless of their behavior. This kind of thought is not meant to excuse the behavior but instead to understand the truth that all people are special, unique, and irreplaceable. Struggling to keep this idea in front of you is a first step in keeping the love and compassion in your heart.
To wish someone well does not necessarily mean using language directly toward that person. You can wish people well by hoping that they are not hit by a bus. You can wish people well by thoughts that you hope they make good political decisions or grow as a persons or find happiness in this life.
Editor’s Note: Well+Good, a website launched in 2010, bills itself as “the premier lifestyle and news publication devoted to the wellness scene.” Here are excerpts from its March 12, 2018 article on how to forgive yourself, let go of the past, and create a more meaningful feature.
You messed up big-time. You feel awful and you want to make things right with the person you’ve hurt. You’ve finally worked up the courage to say, from the bottom of your heart, that you’re deeply sorry. But—surprise!—they don’t want to hear it. For them, the damage is done and their anger towards you is too strong for any kind of forgiveness.
It can be devastating for an apology to be denied, but another person’s forgiveness of you and your actions doesn’t have to determine how you continue to treat others—and, ultimately, yourself. Of course, that’s no easy task for many, considering we’re infinitely harder on ourselves than anyone else.
“I forgive” really is one of the most powerful phrases in the English language. Aly Semigran, Well+Good
“When we break our own standards, a lot of times we won’t let ourselves ‘off the hook,’ so to speak,” says Robert Enright, PhD, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute and author of Forgiveness Is a Choice. “Self-forgiveness is not a free pass to keep up the nonsense. It’s to restore your humanity to yourself, as you correct [the damage you’ve done].”
Okay, but how?
Apologize without expectations
Even if you don’t think the hurt party will forgive you, Enright says that apologizing is the right thing to do, and it’s an important step in the process of self-forgiveness. “Seeking forgiveness and forgiving yourself go hand in hand,” proclaims Enright.
Make an effort to right your wrongs
You should also make an effort to right your wrongs—for instance, paying your roommate back if you’ve been sneaking money from her wallet. “You can set yourself free knowing you’ve done the best you can,” says Enright. “You can get rid of the resentment towards yourself, understanding that you are a human being, and try to see you’re a person beyond what you’ve done. You’re more than that action.”
Dive deep into your emotions with a therapist, friend, or journaling
The cycle of guilt and self-loathing is far too easy a place to get stuck, sometimes for a very long time. And it can have a serious impact on your health—when you stay trapped in a shame loop, it can lead to issues such as sleeplessness, depression, self-medication, and lack of proper nutrition and/or exercise. (Not to mention it’s a blow to your gut health.)
Enright suggests those on a journey of self-forgiveness try things such as going to a respected therapist, seeking out a friend or confidante, trying meditation or mindfulness, or journaling to deal with ongoing emotions and thoughts.
Don’t get attached to the outcome
While you’re working to forgive yourself, it’s important not to get stuck on the other person’s reaction to you. “Your forgiving yourself should never be [contingent on] what the other person does or says,” Enright says. “It’s the same thing with forgiving another: If I want to forgive another, but I have to wait for their apology, then I’m still trapped in that resentment.”
You don’t have to sabotage your own happiness when you do something terrible. Learn to forgive yourself.
Read the entire article: How to Forgive Yourself for a Big Mistake
Read other forgiveness articles on Well+Good:
- THE TWO MOST-EMPOWERING WORDS YOU CAN ADD TO YOUR VOCABULARY
- HOW PRACTICING FORGIVENESS À LA TAYLOR SWIFT AND KATY PERRY CAN BENEFIT YOUR WELL-BEING
- TO SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS, PRACTICE THE F-WORD: FORGIVENESS
I think there are three possible explanations here:
- Your friend has not yet forgiven and her proclamation of forgiveness is a psychological defense mechanism, possibly a reaction formation (responding in a way opposite of what one is truly feeling as a protection against anxiety). If this is true, then her anger likely will surface once she is in a psychologically safe place to feel that anger.
- She really has forgiven easily. This could be the case if your friend is someone who is well-practiced at the virtue of forgiveness. Do you know her well enough to know if she practices forgiveness toward others, in essence leading a life of forgiveness? If so, then getting to the end of forgiveness in this case could be easy for her because of all the accumulated practice in forgiving.
- As you say, she could have been doing some subtle work on forgiving as the marriage struggles were present and continuing. If this is the case, she probably will be able to recall instances in which she tried to see the inherent worth of her husband as the conflicts were occurring. This would be an indication of her doing the forgiveness work, perhaps over a long period of time, so that there was not a sudden and easy emergence of forgiving.
It never is too late to forgive. If the parents have modeled anger and unforgiveness, then it may be harder for the children to learn to put the anger aside and to forgive. This does not imply that the children’s learning to forgive will be impossible. It does mean that the parents first need to gain insight that their own behaviors have led the children into anger and possibly revenge-seeking. Further, the parents may have to work harder at the forgiveness lessons and, at the same time, change their own behaviors so that they become models of forgiveness for the children. The moral virtues are not set in stone for any given person. We all can grow in those virtues with both support from others (in this case, the parents) and practice.