Forgiveness is Not Necessary

Forgiveness is one of the most confusing and difficult qualities for people to master.  Some believe you either have it or you don’t.  Others believe its vital to life, while still others believe its not necessary at all.  I imagine that if you are reading this, you wonder if this will really be anything new.  This is a valid thought!  There is a lot written on this subject.  If you found yourself here, I assume (1) you feel like you’ve forgiven but you can’t forget, (2) you want to forgive but feel like it will let the other person “off the hook”, (3) you are still not sure how to forgive. Sometimes, we need to continue to read on subjects we already know because that is how we continue to heal and grow.

Forgiveness or the ability to let go of pain, is something we all struggle with. It honestly doesn’t matter how old you are, how many painful experiences you’ve endured (**see below, if this describes you**) forgiving others is hard to do. Ruth Graham Bell is quoted as saying, “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” The truth is, this does not just apply to marriage; it apply’s to all relationships. Part of the struggle with this topic is that there are many experts who believe forgiveness is not necessary, and they would be correct. Forgiveness is not necessary. Life will continue if you choose to not forgive. It’s not a primal need to survive or get through life. Forgiveness is only necessary for those who choose to thrive in life.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that when we forgive someone we are letting the other person off the hook of responsibility or excusing what happened. Consequences still exist when you choose to forgive someone. Boundaries still exist when you choose to forgive someone. Forgiveness does not equal reconciliation, forgiveness paves the way towards reconciliation. True, the deeper the wound, the harder it is to forgive. It does not mean that the offense or hurt did not happen. It is not minimizing someone’s hurt or pain. It has nothing to do with the other person…. We do not forgive someone because they deserve it. We forgive others because we want to thrive. Forgiveness is not a magic pill that once we take it, the pain we are experiencing is over.

What Forgiveness Is

What makes this quality so difficult is that it encompasses both the thinking and feeling part of our brains. The left side (or thinking part) of our brain needs to take all our thoughts captive. The right side (or feeling part) of our brain needs to understand and learn from our emotions. Healthy forgiveness is an intentional activity where we are willing to work on both of these parts at the same time. This is no small feat. This is an Everest size task that can only, truly be done in stages and because you believe that YOU are worth it…..did you catch that? YOU are worth forgiving those who have hurt, wounded, destroyed a piece of you. Forgiveness is a process that helps us strengthen and develop our character in immeasurable ways. The deeper the wound, the more often we may be triggered back into bitterness instead of forgiveness. The process of forgiving weaves us through life, allowing us to heal a little piece at a time. Within the context of healing, the moments of forgiveness, while they may feel huge, are actually small. It’s the courage to take these moment-by-moment steps….that’s how a climber summit’s Everest. Not in one large leap, but in several small moments.

The Anatomy of True Forgiveness

  • Recognize that this is a process. Meaning, you may go through this a few times before you have completed it. That’s ok…in fact, it’s good! It’s better to heal slowly than quickly. True, authentic healing occurs slowly.
  • Boundaries help define who we are and who we are not. When someone has been hurt, it takes insight into the self to see whether a boundary needs to be established or whether a boundary has been violated.
  • Being real, heartfelt, earnest, genuine is being sincere. While not complicated, being sincere is often harder than being flippant or counterfeit or insincere. The level of vulnerability that comes with being sincere can make this trait seem difficult to master (just as a quick side note on vulnerability, we often avoid this out of fear of criticism and judgement, so if you want to master being sincere, first, look at whether fear keeps you from being vulnerable).
  • Probably the most important foundation of true forgiveness is our ability to (1) become more self-aware and (2) become more compassionate with ourself. Self-awareness is our own ability to look inside our self, evaluate (sincerely) our own thoughts, behaviors and feelings and make the appropriate adjustments. In order to do this, we need to be compassionate as well. Our natural instincts kick in when we are self-critical and will keep us from feeling beat-up. When we are compassionate with our self and become more aware of our self (our thoughts, feelings, behaviors), we are able to set appropriate boundaries and work through the hurt in our lives.

 

Maybe, as you read this, you realize that the person you need to forgive the most is yourself. It does not matter what you did or how you got to where you are at. YOU deserve to be forgiven!

 

**For those who have endured years of painful experiences or trauma, forgiveness is something all~together difficult. The difficulty does not come in a different process but by recognizing the impact past events play in your present life. If you have worked and struggled with forgiveness and feel as if you are completely stuck, please locate a therapist in your community to talk through each situation. Therapy is an investment in your self….& one you deserve to make! Here are a few websites where you can look for therapist in your local area:

Therapist Locator through the American Association of Marriage & Family Therapist 

Counseling Referrals through Focus on the Family

Therapist through Good Therapy

Christian Counselors through the American Association of Christian Counselors

Therapist trained in the Gottman Method of Therapy

The Truth About Adventure

Remember that scene from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast where Belle sings, “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere, I want it more than I can tell”?  Instantly, some shout, “YES!” excited by possibilities that lie ahead, what they get to explore, the new experiences that await them. Not everyone desires or yearns for such a great adventure. Some prefer to adventure their own yard and then back into their home. We all have a well-defined radius that is comfortable for us to adventure in. For some, that radius is bigger, than for others.

Recently, my family moved half way across the country. It is no easy feat to move a family of 5 into a new house, let alone to a new state. Having a kid in a different season of life (elementary, junior high and high school), there were some valid reservations about a big move. Questions upon questions were evaluated. Budgets were made, numbers were looked at, conversations were had. Friends prayed. Other’s questioned us. My husband and I spent many, many evenings walking around our Northern Indiana subdivision talking while our kids rode their bikes. The debates seemed endless. But the end of each conversation there sat one question: Is the risk of moving worth the potential gain of the move? 

Like everyone else who makes a decision, the benefit seemed to outweigh the cost.  We just need to be willing to risk….and more importantly, we need to be willing to risk failure.

In every adventure lies a guarantee that there is no guarantee of the outcome.

Some personalities are more open and willing to jump into the fun experience part of the adventure while others only see’s the potential cost and risk associated with the adventure. What’s critical is to be able to see both. We all need to be willing to see the big picture of the adventure: The fun, exciting journey ahead, the unanswered questions, the uncertainty of the outcome, the challenges, the joy’s.

A friend of mine is in the throes of adopting a 13 yr old girl from a different country who is getting ready to age-out of the foster home. She has scrambled around filling out papers and all that comes from an international adoption. Yet, the decision wasn’t made overnight. It came from a similar process. See, the process that leads us towards making a decision is just as important as the decision itself. That’s step 1 of an any true adventure: Making a decision. For some, Step 1 may take a day or a week, for others (like us) it can take years.

Making the Decision

As we grow older, we realize life is less about events and more about the journey.

Events occur in a single-minded fashion, while a process is a series of small steps we diligently take to lead us somewhere….and in this case, a decision. Below are a few tips in beginning the process of decision making. Of course, like most things in life, this is meant as a guideline, not an all-encompassing, black & white list.(1) The beginning usually comes from an awareness of discomfort or feeling uncomfortable with where you are at. For my husband and I, we had the uneasy tension about where we were in life. There were many factors that played into that: family, friends, career’s, kids, and although least important but still visible, our dislike of extreme cold (i.e. we lived in a major snow belt of Northern Indiana that was “in winter” more than it was out).

(2) The more we become aware of the discomfort/tension, the larger it grows in our hearts and minds (i.e. our awareness), the more we feel pushed towards making a decision. For my friend, her discomfort went ignored until an illness (the flu) gave her insight into this pain she had been living with, yet not aware of. She would even credit the flu for making her so uncomfortable that she was either going to acknowledge the tension growing inside her or consciously ignore it. The only relief she found came from a real and honest dialogue with her husband about what was (literally) eating her up inside. Our bodies have a way of communicating to us, even when we want to ignore it.

(3) Beginning to have conversations with your closest friends, loved ones who will speak truth and wisdom into your life. This isn’t fun. It’s not meant to be. It is meant to help move you forward towards the moment where the decision is made. It is meant to be deliberate and slow. It is meant to make us breathe long and slow, so our minds can wrap around the intake of information we are receiving. It is meant for us to be able to see from a different perspective, keeping our vision open to potential hazards or challenges up the road. It is the unwise that skip this step. It is those who regret their decisions, that do not surround themselves with loving and wise people who is willing to speak into them.

(4) Evaluating risk is the next and one of the scariest steps in this process. The hardest part is that we are not sure what we are truly opening ourselves up to until the decision is made and/or we have moved into the full on adventure. Our sight is limited and we typically only see what is right out in front of us. Let’s take a quick moment and go a little deeper on this one.

-When I fear risk, what am I really afraid of? Is it failure? Is it becoming vulnerable? The fear that people will see through me? That they will see I don’t have it all together or I am not always a happy-fun loving gal? Maybe it is something deeper. Maybe the fear of risk taps into a wound you forgot you had. Maybe it brings back a memory of when you did risk or was vulnerable and the result was horrible, scary, uncomfortable, disappointing. If there is a fear or an unwanted memory that is holding you back or keeping you stuck. Name it. It’s power over you is only as great as you allow it to be. After all, you are an adult. Too often, we forget this incredibly important piece (“I am an adult”) and collapse into the part of us that was wounded as a child or adolescent. This is a powerful quote from the researcher, Brené Brown on vulnerability:

“Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.”
― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

Many would argue that Step One is the only step that matters. Others might say that it is just a step into a million more and that’s where the adventure truly lies. Here’s the bottom line: Life is an adventure. It is filled with moments and decisions needing to be made. You do not need to move your family across the country or adopt internationally to find adventure. It is waiting for you, where you are at, today. It takes a willingness to risk and be vulnerable. It takes an awareness of myself and what keeps me hindered or stuck. And it takes having people in our lives that will speak truth in love.

 

Let’s chat! Tell me what you think your adventure is? Where are you headed?

Continue reading “The Truth About Adventure”