Forgiveness is something we do for ourselves. Forgiving ourselves, first of all, and then others if we choose to, allows us to set aside the weight of hurt, anger, resentment and shame that weighs us down when we have felt hurt or wronged in some way. We can even build up resentment by not taking care of our own emotional needs. When this happens, we usually resent the person(s) whose needs we are putting first. When we are hurt, we often give way to anger and begin to blame others. We criticize and judge the other person.
Rose Mary Boerboom, MA, LP, in her Self-Mastery Workshop, teaches that forgiveness is often misunderstood, making it difficult for us to do when we feel wronged. She clarifies about forgiveness:
- Forgiveness is something I do for myself, not for the other person (since I am the one who is generally being damaged by carrying the resentment)
- Forgiveness never condones bad behavior or says it was OK that I was hurt
- Forgiveness does not mean that I have to confront or talk to the person who hurt me
- I forgive myself first and then if I want to, I can forgive the other
- I forgive myself for being hurt, for what I thought their action meant about me, and for any behaviors I engaged in as a result of my resentment that I know were wrong—for how I was not my “best self” in what occurred
- I forgive myself to be free from the negative power of other people, events, and the past so that I have room in my heart and life for the good that is possible
Boerboom also notes that “Relationships are the best way to learn about ourselves … when we use our experiences as a way to learn something about ourselves, we will be able to use that knowledge to make better choices in the future.” Gaining this kind of awareness about ourselves will keep us from being stuck in patterns that don’t work for us, whereas if we blame others, we will continue to be stuck in those patterns. One example might be “Am I doing this because I want to, or am I doing it so others will approve of me?” If the latter is true, then I am likely to be hurt and resentful if the approval is lacking or others don’t seem to appreciate what I’m doing.
Self-awareness can help us make sound choices in the present and future. To be free of the past and free to move forward, forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves!