Forgiveness has been a topic I have been thinking about lately in my own personal journey. Whenever we are faced with heartbreak or betrayal – the first piece of advice we come across is to forgive the other person. Forgiveness feels graceful. It feels like a natural requirement to healing. How can I be healed if I haven’t forgiven? Lately, I have found myself torturing myself over the fact that I wasn’t able to forgive a person that hurt me deeply. I felt “lesser” because I hadn’t forgiven them and I felt resentful. I found myself confiding to my therapist about this guilt I felt over not forgiving . I told her I felt like a horrible person because, I wasn’t able to forgive. I felt resentful and angry still and all I wanted to was forgive….and let go. She paused and encouraged me to think about what forgiveness would provide me in this journey. She asked me why is it that forgiveness is so important to me and asked me to understand where this need was coming from?
When I asked myself these questions, I realized that I wanted to forgive because it felt like the right thing to do. I have always been understanding and empathetic I told her and all I wanted was to empathize with the other person. After all, how can I be this empathetic person if I felt resentful? Staying with my feeling of hurt and resentment felt ugly and messy. It would be so much more graceful to forgive…. It would make me feel above all the “negative” feelings that I feeling. I didn’t want to feel resentful so, I thought that saying I have forgiven this person would make me feel better… someone above the feeling of resentment.
But, bypassing these negative feelings and jumping to “forgiveness” did nothing for me. I had to sit with each negative feeling I felt: pain, rejection, hurt, anger, resentment, self-loathing and more anger. Sitting with these feelings and being true to emotions allowed me to understand that I hadn’t completely healed. This all made me realize one big thing: Healing is a prerequisite to forgiveness. We cannot forgive unless we have healed. It isn’t the other way around that once we forgive, we heal. Once you have healed, forgiveness is the natural next step. Once you have made peace with your pain, there is nothing else left to do but, forgive the other person…. it comes by itself without force or torture.
I tell my friends and myself that forgiveness is not a requirement to healing. Healing is a prerequisite to forgiveness. You cannot have one without the other but, forgiveness does not come first. Bypassing negative feeling by forcing yourself to forgive will only suppress these emotions internally. Be truthful and honest with yourself even when it is difficult. Let yourself be angry and in pain for a moment… let these emotions ring true and let them work themselves out without being suppressed. Once you can make peace with yourself – forgiveness will show up where you need it to be.
The goal isn’t a Band-Aid solution to pain. It isn’t spiritual bypass through difficult emotions. It is to be authentic in all our feelings and emotions.
Heal first then, you will forgive.