Approximately 90% of the time, the people who hurt us will never apologize. Let's say five percent of the time, they do apologize, but it's incredibly awkward and falls short. So we basically only receive a healing amends about five percent of the time. We must learn forgiving is independent of apologizing.
What Forgiveness Isn't
Forgiveness isn't a reconciliation. Nor is it an invitation to let your offender waltz back into your life. Forgiving does NOTHING to change the person you're forgiving, and it won't take your pain away. This quote, which has circled the web via social media, says it best:
"Forgiving you means I no longer dwell on what an a$$ho!e you are. It doesn't mean you're no longer an a$$ho!e." - Unknown
New Ways To Think About Forgiving
Let's look at Kathleen and her mother Sandra. When Kathleen was a teenager, Sandra left the family. She moved out of state and hasn't been in touch for fifteen years. Thanks to social media, Sandra decided to find Kathleen and reconnect.
Kathleen is a mess of emotions. How can she forgive her Mom? Or ever trust her again? Kathleen is bitter and angry. Because Sandra left, Kathleen has life-long fears of abandonment and history of difficult breakups. Should Kathleen forgive her mom?
Sandra will never be able to undo the past. She'll probably never be the Mom Kathleen dreams about. Even if Sandra could be that Mom, chances are Kathleen wouldn't choose to cast Sandra in that role. Many times forgiving is so difficult because we can't separate fantasy from reality.
Forgiveness Is Only The Beginning
Instead of ending a conflict, forgiveness is the beginning of another process. Forgiving someone else simply means you no longer expect them to change how they hurt you in the past.
Accepting reality is the first step to forgiving. The reality is Sandra left. If Kathleen says, "I forgive you for leaving," it doesn't make everything OK. It only releases Kathleen from collecting an outstanding debt. It's more like saying, "I no longer expect you to pay for that mistake." It doesn't erase the mistake.
Expecting someone to pay for a mistake keeps us stalled in the past.
Once she forgives, Kathleen can move on to grieving the loss. That's where Kathleen's healing can begin.
Two Overlooked Keys To Forgiving
If we get stuck in forgiving or the hurt keeps replaying in our minds, one of two things are likely happening. Many times, we need to forgive ourselves for falling victim to the pain. We're often harder on ourselves than we are on the one who hurt us. We think, "We should've known better. Or we should've done ___________________." We deserve the same forgiveness everyone else does.
Second, obsessing and thinking stinking are common side effects of grief and pain. Just because we forgive with our heart doesn't mean our brain will quit yapping about it. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that we've already dealt with that issue. Recovery is a renewing of the mind and teaches us how to move. Programs like Al-anon, ACA, Nar-Anon, and Celebrate Recovery help the entire family learn to forgive and heal from addiction, abuse, and dysfunction.