However, as I often said this to my clients, forgiveness is not to forgive the perpetrator but yourself off the hook.
Why is this? Most of the time, we are angry and bitter or unable to forgive because we believed that someone wrong us. However, the underlying thought often is: “how could I have allowed this to happen?” Many people went through the traumatic experiences over and over again to try to find an answer to explain why this would happen and to analyze what he/she did wrong to “cause” the trauma to happen.
It is very normal to want to know “why” to “prevent” it from happening again. The reality is, we probably will never know why. The self-blaming talk of “I should have….” only led to more negative feelings because there is nothing you can do to change those “should haves”. We know those “should haves” because we knew the outcome now. However, at the time during those situations, we couldn’t have known better!
So, this is the number 1 reason that forgiveness is to forgive yourself, not the person who hurt you. Stop asking yourself those “why” but this: “if I know the answers to my questions, how would this help me?”
Now, I know you are going to ask me “why should I forgive that person and how to let myself off the hook?” Remember, it is really not about the person who hurt you anymore. It is about you. You don’t have to forgive that person who hurt you. However, by staying angry, resentful, sad, or frustrated inside you, how is that going to punish the person who hurt you? Instead, you are paying the price for that person.
So, how to help yourself let go the bitterness and anger? Try this. Close your eyes and ask yourself these questions:
“What was the worst part of the experience?”
“How did I feel during those worst moment?”
Do you have an answer now? What are the emotions?
Then, close your eyes again. and look at yourself in that memory, and tell yourself this:
“I know, I know, you feel……….and you think……….”
For example, it might be: “I know, I know, you feel scared, shocked, frozen, and confused. You think: there must be something wrong with me.”
Then, you tell yourself this: “It’s OK. It’s not you. It’s xxxxx. You did the best you can at the time based on what you know. It’s OK. You can let it go now. It’s not you.”
When you found yourself experiences these feelings or saw these memories again, you might need to help yourself going through this process again. If it is too hard to do it on your own, which is often the case for most of the people, get a therapist whom you can trust and have the therapist help you with this process.
Last week, someone asked me “how can I let go of this anger and bitterness?” I told this client, you need to turn it into something constructive for your life in the future. We can’t change the past and we can’t change the memory and the experiences. However, we still have the power to do something for our future. We can become the victims of these traumatic experiences or we can rise above and persevere. What is your choice?