Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Lately forgiveness has been in my mind quite a bit. So, let’s explore this concept a bit today.
Throughout your life, people have wronged you. Some more seriously than others, some in serious ways and some ways were more menial. While we’re at it, you’ve wronged yourself from time to time as well. You’ve acted in ways that you were not proud of or done things that you regret as well.
I know a lot about the wrongs in my life. The injustices done to me and the mistakes I’ve made circle my mind, especially in the dead quiet of the night when there is nothing to drown them out. They keep me awake as I go over them again and again, thinking of what I should have said or done in a given situation, how I would act if I saw those people again, and losing too much sleep in the endless process that I know I should have let go of many years ago.
To start this discussion, I think it is worth considering for whom one should forgive people. Let’s be honest, it is exceptionally rare that we actually reach out to the people we are forgiving, or that we wish to atone for because of some mistake we made many years ago. So, when we forgive somebody, it’s not for their benefit.
Yes, this is quite the revelation for someone who has not considered it in the past. The primary person who benefits from being forgiven is the person actually doing the forgiving.
When you forgive those who have wronged us, we give ourselves permission to let go of that baggage. We no longer have to remember it and spend mind power on it. It helps to unclutter our memory, and removes the stress associated with that wrong on ourselves. And less stress in our lives is a good thing.
It is worth noting, though, that with forgiveness, trust doesn’t necessarily return. My regular readers have heard my side (and I hope they realize that it is only my side) of the story of my marriage and realize how much she hurt me. But I’ve tried hard to forgive her for her betrayals and the myriad of other manners in which she hurt me, and I would like to think that I’ve been successful in that forgiveness. I can tell you that the thoughts that keep me up at night rarely have anything to do with her or the marriage, so there seems to be at least some levels of success in these efforts. But, even if I have forgiven her, that doesn’t mean that I trust her. There’s a chance that I may run into her again. She’s living in an area where I have many loved ones residing. If I were to see her, I would like to think I would be cordial, but I would never trust her to let her back into my life in any meaningful way.
Beyond not letting her back into my life, I know that I also have a slew of new psychological defensive walls up as a result of her. These are rather more difficult to deal with, and frankly, I should be back in therapy to try to deal with them. I know that this is one major blockade in my personal life and may be part of the reason that I’m still alone. These defensive walls, which are often buried deep enough in our psyche that we are not even aware they exist, take more than forgiveness. I think this is what I am dealing with now, not the forgiveness part but the scars left behind. I need to find a way to open myself back up again, to be vulnerable enough to give others the opportunity to “get in”.
I believe that these walls, the scars, require other people to overcome and heal. Whether or not they can ever be erased is a question for somebody far more intelligent than I, but I know it’s difficult and probably impossible to deal with on your own. I do believe in therapy, and a therapist might be a great start, but I also know that while this is a step in the right direction, it’s not the entire journey. Once wounded, it’s important to learn that not everybody will hurt you in the same way.
Regardless of what additional steps may be necessary, healing cannot truly begin before forgiveness. When you maintain your anger towards those who wronged you, you are giving the power of moving on in their hands. They have the power. By forgiving them, you take that power back, and once you have the power, you can use it to move on.