I don’t know if you read my post on forgiveness the other day, but if you haven’t, you totally should. In that post, I reject the idea that forgiveness releases negative emotions and sets the prisoner free. I challenge the assumption that forgiving people is the logical route to emotional health and happiness.
Image source: Pinterest
I say that, because for a long time, I subscribed to that view. I believed in forgiveness and its merit as the moral high ground that we must all aspire to. Only there was a small big problem. The process didn’t make me happier. Forgiving people didn’t make me feel any sense of relief I’d been promised.
Suggested read: Why we need to change the way we look at forgiveness
I had a lot of to-be-forgiven things bumping inside my head- often bruising me, hurting me, making me bleed inside- but continuing to stay, even after I had put up the white flag and declared peace. It took me a long time to understand that I was trying to fit a round peg into a square hole and that forgiveness, as a verbatim declaration, isn’t what gets you peace.
I would decide to forgive, make the declaration and then, move on to the bigger task of working through the residual pain left by the offender. If I worked hard enough, I’d be able to clear out the emotional junk they left behind but the stain would stay. The spot would never be as clean as it used to be- and that troubled me. I felt more victimized than empowered by my ‘rinse and repeat’ model of forgiveness.
Image source: Pinterest
It seemed like ill-placed work. Why did I have to work for something that caused me pain? Why was the offender on the finish line of a race I was supposed to run, as punishment for a crime I never committed? And why, on earth, would he be at the finish line waiting to claim the trophy like he’d earned it when in reality, he’d only hurt me, to keep me from feeling ‘good?’
I am not questioning whether it was deliberate or not- only why do I have to participate in his absolution?
Isn’t self-care my only goal in processing my emotional baggage?
Suggested read: Closure is a lie
And it took me a while to figure there is no salvation in forgiveness. Now, if forgiveness floats your boat, by all means, go ahead and forgive but as for me, getting past that bookmark- that reminder of pain- without recalling everything that passed is an impossibility.
If I let go of the anger, the resentment, the pain, the hurt- if I throw away the bookmark that marks that betrayal in my life- I allow for time to wash away the memory of what that chapter brought unto my life. I let go, not just of what passed but also of what it made me learn, of who it made me become. And with that, I allow myself to forget to remember to protect myself against such instances in future.
And for that, I am not ready.
Image source: Pinterest
Many people question my reasons or intent or even my character for holding on to such negativity- and I do not have answers. None that will satisfy them, anyway. But if you are willing to brave the brutal truth, here it is- to let go of feelings I feel within seems like a betrayal of myself. If I succeed in killing the places or people those place-markers hold, mourn their loss, grieve for what passed and let go, wouldn’t I leave myself wide open to the possibility that the person would hurt me again? Or that others like him shall try too?
I am not saying I am interested in looking down my nose at those who have hurt me. But I am saying that they play no part in my healing process. Their absolution has no place in my journey toward feeling at peace with myself. My emotional work is my own and my offenders, definitely, do not get a role in it.
Suggested read: Strong women aren’t difficult to love, nobody is
The fact that they triggered the journey is enough- they cannot and should not be allowed to be a fellow passenger en route. Yes, I feel no compulsion to forgive and be the bigger person, no obligation to be a moral giant- there’s no happiness in that. Forgiving isn’t about the absolution of the one who offends, it is about becoming free- and forgiving, sure, didn’t set me free. It felt weak, co-dependent even- like I was being forced to care for someone who had hurt me!
Can’t you see how twisted that is?
I cannot forgive you.
I am not going to forgive you.
I will not forgive you.
Sure, it sounds difficult, unpopular or even wrong. Most will say.
But it’s a hard-won victory I am not letting go.
I cannot ask everyone (even those I love and care for) to go against what they believe is right for me- but equally believe in my right to earn the same liberty. My higher power vests in directing my emotional abundance toward being at peace with myself and not being chained to those who are wounding me. So what if my truth is that the pain may remain, in some dusty corner of my heart, covered in cob-webs and seemingly insignificant. I know it is there, so anytime someone comes even remotely close to installing a clone-like wound in the same corner, I can be ready to flee!
Featured image source: Pinterest