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Understanding Forgiveness

 

by Joy Campbell

 
“No human act is more difficult than forgiveness.”
Dr D.G. Benner.

Imagine, a friend borrowed $15,000 from you, they told you the money was desperately needed for an operation in a private hospital. They had been told they were on a 2 year waiting list in the public system and couldn’t bear waiting anymore.

You believed them.

You agreed to give them the money, even though it was hard earned savings; money, that you had been putting aside for a deposit to buy your first home. For the past two years you had been saving hard, giving up espresso coffee, meals out, non-essential clothes and you had taken all your holidays at home or with family.

You found out shortly after, when this friend declared bankruptcy, they had lied to you about the surgery. Instead, they had used your money to gamble and they could not pay it back.

You were outraged and hurt. Your goal of purchasing your first home was still more years from being achieved. The debt was outstanding and the friend would probably never pay you back. How could a friend be so selfish? What kind of friend does that? How are you supposed to get over this?

Forgiveness is not the first step to finding your own recovery, from the hurt cause by your friend’s lies and their loss of your $15,000. Quick forgiveness supresses the outrage you feel at the hurt you have experienced. It can cause the pain to go underground until sometime later. Forgiveness driven by obligation or haste, can delay the process you need to make sense of what has occurred.
When you choose forgiveness it does not mean the hurt is forgotten. It is a decision you make to let go of resentment. Forgiveness is most effective, after you understand the full impact of the hurt you have received.

I recommend that a process towards forgiveness starts by acknowledging the damage. This can involve assessing in detail with a trusted friend or professional, the impact of the hurt on every part of your life.

This process allows you to feel your hurt and express your anger. It gives you time to gain understanding of how the injury continues to impact your life today. The beliefs formed as a result of the experience e.g. ‘friends can’t be trusted’ or ‘I’m stupid to believe people’. It provides the opportunity to also understand the ‘bankruptcy’ of the person who hurt you.

To forgive after undertaking such a process, is primarily a decision to let go of any hope or expectation, that a ‘bankrupt’ person can repay the outstanding debt. It is a decision to end the cycle of resentment, which is having a negative effect on your day to day living. Forgiveness creates space for Life, the Universe and/or God to bring about healing and restoration. You may be surprised by what occurs after you have chosen to forgive.

When you forgive it does not mean you choose to trust again. Rebuilding trust is only possible, when the person who caused the hurt demonstrates honesty, regret, and a willingness to takes steps to earn your trust again.
 

References

For further reading a book which informs my understanding of forgiveness is: Healing Emotional Wounds by Dr David G. Benner.

 

Article posted 23 March 2017

 
Joy Campbell  understanding forgiveness wellington counsellor
Joy Campbell is a professional counsellor with a private practice in Wellington
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