We're often advised that forgiving the wrong doing of others lightens our own emotional burden, and shifts our energy from anger and blame into understanding and compassion.
But what if the 'turning the other cheek' way of responding is just naïve, passive and even unhelpful to the other person's potential self-awareness and insight.
What would they do with that other cheek if they haven't yet realised the impact of their earlier behaviour and felt genuine shame and remorse, and tried their best to make it right?
Are we saying that something as devastating as child abuse should be forgiven and forgotten?
Maybe what happened can't be forgotten by the victim because it resulted in emotional and physical scars, in the loss of innocence, and a childhood irrevokably changed by the unrestrained desires of someone's underdeveloped adult mind.
Forgiveness is a matter of choice. It's important not to be pushed or cajoled – or guilt-tripped by family or religion - into premature forgiveness. We must live with our decisions, so they must surely be of our own making.
Forgiveness doesn't take away the other person's responsibility for what happened. Instead it's a statement of emotional detachment from the impact of it – but only if and when the time feels right for us to forgive.
A good place to start exercising forgiveness is to:
Forgive the minor slips ups that you and others make - when it's not a big deal.
Forgive yourself for anything you've done that harmed you. You had your reasons, although they might not have been clear to you at the time.
Forgive people who genuinely didn't know any better, and couldn't reasonably have been expected to behave differently due to their family conditioning or mental ill-health.
Forgiveness doesn't always have to involve forgetting. Remembering an event can help us to filter out what and whom we'll allow into our lives in future. This also helps us to set our boundaries and to be clear about how we deserve to be treated.
We become empowered when we choose not to allow the wrong doing of others to shape our adult character, personalities and future growth... whether or not we forgive them.
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy) MIND HEALER & MENTOR
www.maxineharleymentoring.com - Therapeutic self-development helping women to understand and manage their emotions, boundaries and behaviours, and to stop the past from messing up the future!
www.the-ripple-effect.co.uk- 10 online self-help workshops - Psycho-Emotional-Education - to help you to help yourself to understand and manage anxiety, stress, depression, anger, self-esteem and confidence, mindful living, body image and weight management, how to be happier, understanding yourself, and understanding relationships
www.qpp.uk.com - a 'new paradigm in therapy' which reveals and edits unhelpful sub-conscious beliefs - or your S.C.R.I.P.T. (c) Sub-Conscious-Rules-Influencing-Present-Time