Ever wondered why forgiveness is important in a relationship? Do I have to forgive AND forget? Recent studies show that Americans crave forgiveness but are not very forgiving. A study in 2011 found that, in relationships, a lack of forgiveness makes resolving conflict much less likely. Another study in 2011 found that when we don’t forgive someone we stir up negative emotions inside ourselves which lead to more conflict.
We here at Fit, Wealthy, & Wise recently had the opportunity to sit down with Faith Roland. Now you are probably wondering who Faith Roland is. Ms. Roland is in her last year at Lamar University. She is a communication major who intends to pursue a career in corporate marketing.
Ms. Roland recently took a class about forgiveness and we thought we’d sit down with her and see what new insights we could learn about forgiveness. So let’s find out why forgiveness is important in our relationships!
I think forgiving a stranger is easy but forgiving someone who is close to you, like a family member or close friend, is really hard. What steps can I take to really forgive someone who is close to me?
Maybe I look at the world in a funny way but there is something really important to understand first. Each person lives in his or her own separate reality. If you can completely accept and understand that then forgiveness, and any communication for that matter, is a lot easier.
People mess up. We mess up. It’s just who we are. People suck sometimes and they can hurt in really bad ways, but they are still people. You have to be able to grasp that to forgive completely. You have to know and understand that person. This becomes especially important with people really close to you, like a spouse, mother, father, or sibling. Would Alicia hurt you intentionally (Alicia is the interviewer’s wife)? The answer is probably no. So that is something you need to keep in mind before you start the forgiveness process.
Here are the steps I would recommend to a healthy forgiveness process:
- First, think about the situation Always think before any actions are taken, forgiveness included. Answer questions like: “did they mean to do that?” Why would they do that to me? Was their intention to hurt me?” Then you can ask yourselves harder questions like “Am I ready to forgive them? Do I want to mend that relationship?” Really work through your emotions so that your feelings and thoughts are clear before you go on to the next step.
- Communicate. This step really is optional depending on the extent of the issue. Plan to talk to the person who hurt you. Don’t be afraid to tell them how their actions affected you. Ask any questions that you have. Clear the air. MOST IMPORTANTLY, let them explain (you would want someone to give you that chance if it were the other way around)
- Choose forgiveness. Decide that YOU want to forgive. Healing comes with forgiveness. It’s like sewing up wounds. You’re the one who bleeds out if you won’t forgive.
- Forgive. Say “I forgive you” or “it’s okay.” Make sure these words match your heart.
- Move forward. Heal and move forward. You could also come to a resolution in this step if necessary. You could use this step to set boundaries or some other sort of resolution.
It’s so important to make sure your heart is right in all of this. You have to forgive because you want to, not because you feel like you have to. Do you want to hurt anymore? Of course not! So chose forgiveness because it’s the only way to alleviate any pain.
I understand that this step-by-step process won’t work for every circumstance. I know there are plenty of situations where there was no way to communicate or move on. But I set my heart right and forgave in my heart. I encourage anyone to focus on his or her heart anyway forgiveness is done.
People always use the phrase, “forgive and forget,” how important is forgetting in the process of forgiveness, and if it is, how can I accomplish that?
I’m sure some scholar somewhere will stone me for saying this, but I don’t believe that forgetting is something you SHOULD do. You will notice I didn’t include it in my steps and this is why.
Many people unknowingly hold grudges and blame that on “not forgetting” but it’s really just because they didn’t properly forgive. When we are forgiving someone (or even forgiving ourselves) there is usually some lesson to learn and forgetting or pretending something didn’t happen will prevent the learning part.
Sometimes we assume that if we forgive someone that also means that we will trust them again or that we condone their actions, but those are completely different things. If you forgive someone because they hurt you, it’s not the same thing as you saying that it’s okay that they hurt you! You are saying that it’s okay to move on despite that.
I have a dear friend of 5 years whom I love her very much; she’s hurt me in very seriously devastating ways. I did truly forgive her for what see did and we openly expressed how the situation made us feel. We followed every step and moved on in a very healthy and loving way. Unfortunately, it was sort of a one-way street and no matter how many times we went through it, she kept intentionally hurting me in the same fashion. I had to decide that, yes I did forgive her, but I needed to learn something here. I had to change my friendship with her in a way that would guard my heart. So I won’t forget what she did, I let it transform something. I do love her just the same, though. There is no grudge there, no desire for revenge, just a transformation.
So bottom-line, decipher the difference between forgetting, revenge, and grudges. Our natural instinct is to seek revenge. Revenge is only a short-term fix, but forgiveness can be permanent.
I have a patient who told me that several years ago she would drink and drive with her young children in the backseat of her car and she has never been able to forgive herself for doing this. How important is forgiving yourself, and if it is, how can I make sure that I successfully do it?
It is the MOST important. If you can’t forgive yourself you will constantly be at battle with yourself, and that is a battle you can’t win. A lot of us struggle with this because we are the hardest on ourselves. Like I mentioned before the key is that you learn something. You can almost use the same steps I mentioned before but in a different way.
I suggest writing it out. Keep a journal and use that to converse with yourself. Write out what you did to get if off your chest and on the paper. It makes burdens a little lighter for sure. If you have someone you trust, talk it out with him or her. It might help to have someone else tell you, “It’s okay.” The best step I could give you is if you’re a religious person, give it to God and trust that. Trust that He will take care of it. You can’t half give something to God, so be willing to let Him have it.
You might have to do a lot of those things multiple times until you succeed at forgiving yourself, but it will be worth it.
Another thing is that YOU have to be willing to say, “Please forgive me?”
Saying that is just as important as giving someone forgiveness. Your patient really might need to seek forgiveness from her children for doing that. That might bring proper healing. If someone else is involved in the reason you can’t forgive yourself, maybe it’s because what you really need is his or her forgiveness.
Is there ever a situation where I’m not obligated to forgive someone? For example, if I’m in a verbally or physically abusive relationship and they promise that they are going to change but I never see it, do I have to forgive them?
It’s about learning. In that type of situation specifically, it’s important to transform. You probably won’t be able to forgive them immediately and that’s okay. It’s better to forgive late when you’re ready, than to forgive early and do it improperly because you aren’t ready. Of course, there is something to learn here, that maybe that relationship needs to be re-evaluated and transformed, but I know that’s easier said than done.
One good example of this is in a book I read called ‘Sunflower.’ It was about the journey of a man who was placed in a concentration camp. Years after his liberation, he got to face one of his Nazi captors on their deathbed. The former Nazi pleaded with the man to forgive him for all of the things that he had done. The man simply told him that he did not have the authority to forgive him of all of his wrong doings. He said that the things he could forgive him for, he wouldn’t! I was quite disturbed by this at first, but it’s a little clearer to me now.
We are simply people. I am thankful that we have a God who loves and forgives us, but sometimes we, as humans, are not that graceful. It’s okay to not forgive right away. You need to heal and you need questions answered and that is OKAY! You deserve that. Take your time with forgiveness, but know that it will help your heart heal when you are ready.
Is forgiving someone a sign of weakness?
Absolutely, 100%, no. One of the most attractive things my boyfriend can do is forgive me when I’ve utterly screwed up. I think it’s such a healthy and sincere sign of love. When someone can look at you when you mess up and still love you anyway, it’s a beautiful thing.
I think forgiveness is a sign of a healthy and strong heart, not a weak one. It takes a lot of strength and courage to forgive someone. It takes even more strength and courage to mend and move on.
I approach the world from a Christian worldview and I always think of God in these circumstances. He died FOR our sins. He loved us, so He died, so we could be forgiven. What a beautiful thing!
Thank you Ms. Roland for sitting down with Fit, Wealthy, & Wise, we really appreciate the insight that you provided to our audience.
Have any questions? Let us know about them in the comments section.