Healing Your Past and Learning to Forgive

What is forgiveness?  

Forgiveness is a way to release the hurt from your past and heal your present and future. To forgive is to find the strength in yourself to move forward with resilience and perseverance to be the best version of yourself. As Nelson Mandela stated in his autobiography the Long Walk To Freedom,

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

Forgiveness is a gift that you can give yourself.

Forgiving yourself first.

To find forgiveness sometimes, we have to forgive ourselves first. Maintaining and creating this awareness of yourself and understanding that we are all human and imperfect. It can be helpful to journal and begin assessing and processing what forgiving yourself means, what this would look like, and discerning this in prayer or meditation. The mantra, “I forgive myself. I am worthy of forgiveness,” may be helpful.

Forgiving the other person.

Forgiving a person who has caused hurt in your life no matter the instance can be challenging. One passage that I like to think of when discerning forgiveness of another is when Jesus asked God for the ultimate forgiveness for those who persecuted him, ‘Forgive them, Father! They don’t know what they are doing.‘ (Luke 23:34).

But how do you reach forgiveness for this other person?

To Forgive and Forget

To forgive and forget is a concept for those who can trust that the wrongdoings made can be repaired and growth in the relationship with the other person can occur. Also, knowing that you can discuss what has been and the both of you can collaboratively work together to achieve a healthier relationship.

Forgiving and Not Forgetting

Forgiving and not forgetting can be for the times when you can forgive but will not allow yourself to forget the situation due to a lack of trust, respect, or harm. At times, maintaining those red flags can be a good precautionary measure to maintain your self-respect, safety, and security. Addressing trust may be the best first step before working to forgive this person.

Gaining Closure from Both Sides

If this person is safe and trustworthy, gaining closure from discussing past hurts can be beneficial. Before having this conversation with the other person you can think through your expectations of how processing this with the other person may go and how the conversation will be received. You can call up a trusted friend or family member and practice how you want to reconcile with this person.

Forgiving and Leaving the Relationship

At times it may not be beneficial to maintain or restore a relationship. Depending on the situation and if safety and trust are concerns, this is when leaving the relationship but forgiving the person is an option. You can choose to forgive someone because of the good that they do or have done for you or another person. For example, this person may have wronged you but they prove to be a person of great character with another person. You can choose to forgive this person knowing that the relationship that you have may not change but that the relationship that this person has with others is redeemable.

If this hurt is immense, considering stopping communication with this person (even family members and close individuals) may be the best safety measure you can provide for yourself. For instance, if you know that this relationship is toxic and no matter what closure you receive this relationship will likely cause harm in the future, it’s okay to say “no” to maintaining this relationship. If this is a family member or someone close they may not understand but maintaining safe boundaries for yourself can be healing.

Forgiving and Restoring the Relationship

Similar to the passage, ‘Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16) there are times to forgive and restore relationships. Forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to release the burdens is to be free of harm received.

There are many ways to forgive and work towards healing your past and creating the future you want. Healing your past takes time, effort, and forgiveness. If you are seeking professional help to heal your past and take the journey of forgiveness, you can seek guidance from a counselor to help navigate releasing burdens and creating your future.

written by Nadine Vitenas, SI




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