Since my last post, I have received a lot of encouraging feedback. Thank you all very much! I found one comment from a friend on Facebook to be quite challenging. The comment highlighted that the feelings of forgiveness often follow the act of forgiveness. My friend’s comment reminded me that addressing topics as significant as forgiveness will require more than one pass. Last week’s comments noted that quickly offering forgiveness can deprive one of exploring and experiencing the true depth and impact of the actions of others. But it doesn’t have to. I am aware that quickly forgiving someone can also be deeply sincere and rewarding. Regardless of the length of time, I encourage people to take sufficient time to engage in the healing process (as described last week), whether that’s takes a few minutes or a few years.
I’d like to address two things today, repeated forgiveness and reconciliation. Whether quickly forgiving someone is a sincere attempt to follow deeply help beliefs, a strategy for moving forward or a way to release someone from the guilt of their actions, in my experience, if the hurt is deep, one will be invited to forgive over and over again. While repeated invitations to forgive, brought about by reminders of the offence or a deeper awareness of the impact of the offence are unpleasant and sometimes painful, they are helpful. However, in my opinion, repeated invitations to offer forgiveness to the same person for the same or similar offences are to be addressed in a different way.
The number of times one offers forgiveness can be limitless. However, it is important to recognize the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. One can offer forgiveness without the offender accepting responsibility, however, reconciliation (re-engaging in a close and improved relationship) requires the offending party to undergo a similar process that you went through in order to deeply forgive. As mentioned last week, forgiveness with a deep awareness of the impact we sustained changes us. If the person you forgive doesn’t change in a similar way then you will likely experience the same or similar hurts in that relationship again. If that person is not aware of the impact, then he/she can’t take responsibility. Without taking responsibility one can’t commit to the changes necessary for the offence not to occur again. If he/she can’t commit then there will be no evidence of that commitment which leads to significant change. “I am sorry” is not good enough. One aspect of my workshop called “The Art of Apology” addresses the reality that people can commit to and demonstrate change. Healthy relationships require it! If people are not ready to do so, then they are not ready for reconciliation.
I was estranged from my father for several years. Although I was a teen and not responsible for his choices, I was made aware of my unkind words and actions toward him. Addressing my behavior and choosing to forgive him paved the way for my own healing and our reconciliation. Years later, I continue to enjoy a wonderfully supportive relationship with my father because he also demonstrated a commitment to change.
I hope you experience great healing and growth as you forgive and I encourage you to be aware of the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation as your pursue healthy relationships.
Have a great day!