Why is it important to forgive? Should we forgive? Can we forgive but not forget? I often speak with people about the wrongs that have happened in their lives, and more specifically how other people have wronged them, upset them, caused them to feel unwanted or unimportant. There are many things to explore in this sort of dynamic and experience.
For one, it is useful to explore the feelings, of course, as it always is. Another thing is exploring the other person’s perspective – to look at what might have caused them to behave in that way. Shifting the perspective to another’s perspective often gives a sense of compassion and understanding. But still there is sometimes a lingering feeling that does not go away, even once the feelings have been explored and they have put themselves in another’s shoes.
What seems to remain is a conscious effort to forgive. We are not taught how to forgive. We are told, often, that we should forgive. Or, in some instances to forget. But forgiveness is not easy or straightforward. And interestingly, it is not for the other person’s sake that we should forgive. Of course, that’s an honourable thing to do.
But I advocate for forgiveness as a means of self-care, and a way of allowing yourself to move forward into the next chapter. It is through forgiveness that we can allow the chains of the past to fall away, to let the emotions that tie us to the past to dissipate.
It is a lovely thought if we all forgave each other, but it is more important, for our own sake, to forgive those that have hurt us. To hold on to the past, and the experience of trauma or distress, is to prevent a new beginning from happening. There is something so primal about wanting to hold on to the anger, but it is not rational, nor is it helpful. What is better, for all, is the practice of forgiving.
What counselling can offer is a space to process the feelings of hurt, disappointment, rejection, betrayal… to explore reasons that the other person did what they did… and most importantly counselling is a space to practice the sometimes difficult task of forgiving others, of letting go of those feelings that weigh so heavily on our journey.
We need to consciously move in to the next phase, and let go of all the things that keep us living in the past, of re-experiencing the hurt. It is always a good time to learn the art of forgiveness.