To forgive is to heal
June 24th was a difficult day for a lot of women in America. And when I was asked that day to write about Global Forgiveness Day, my first thought (and even my text response) was, “Man, this is a hard day to ask me to write about forgiveness.”
There is a lot right now to be upset and even angry about. But anger is corrosive and I’ve worked hard to regulate it within myself. With the part of me that knows therapy is my vocation, I reminded myself that this is probably the best time to write about forgiveness.
Those who meet me for therapy are used to receiving the assignment to allow themselves more space, more quietude. Many times, we find the mental static that is difficult to clear relates to a need for forgiveness. This can be forgiveness of self or forgiveness of others. Predictably there are benefits from outward forgiveness, toward others due to wrongs committed against us; forgiving inward, allowing ourselves grace for our actions, also confers great emotional rewards.
Allow forgiveness while keeping boundaries
I caution that we do not have to lose our boundaries in the process; I do not advise to forgive AND forget. That would be short sighted, and I believe would cut us off from learning the lessons of life. Forgiveness does not mean we have to compromise boundaries that we set to keep ourselves safe. It does not mean we have to agree with or condone. We can retain necessary internal or external boundaries while still seeking the relief of forgiveness.
Forgiveness and its partner, acceptance, can liberate us from the heavy weight of resentment regardless of what we decide to do later, after we have found a level of forgiveness inside of our body and mind. When we forgive, it does not require or presuppose that we are then going to reconnect or spend more time with those whom we are forgiving outwardly. As we find forgiveness, even as we may need an emotional or physical boundary, we benefit from having a level of forgiveness in order to liberate ourselves and our minds from the gnawing of that resentment and pain. Try as we might, we cannot outrun ourselves, so forgiveness of self is essential for wellbeing.
Slow down, give yourself space
It is a common experience for people to have a feeling of not being enough or being too much. The modern world is full of ways to avoid, with screens and with moving quickly through life. This facilitates more chaotic and harried thinking instead of allowing for space to consider what is next. Slowing down can allow us the opportunity to take stock and when we are in a centered place, look at the thoughts we are having with a higher perspective and a clearer view. The keys to forgiveness live here.
Author and clinical social worker Brené Brown, who has become quite the pop culture icon for a qualitative researcher, wrote in Atlas of the Heart (2021) about a surprise she found in her research on emotions. Happiness and joy, which are held up as the pinnacle of the feeling states, are actually not the feelings from which the people she studied found the greatest pleasure; she learned that what people crave is contentment.
I encourage you to seek ease and contentment. Despite the mellow tone of this writing, know that seeking and finding contentment also provides understanding and clarity; within these lie power. Fuel for the other actions we may want to take, moves we want to make that we could not have found without the easeful times. Take care of you; you deserve contentment.
Kim Warden, LCSW, CCDP-D, is trained and experienced as a licensed clinical social worker and a substance use disorder counselor specializing in trauma. You can contact her at 314-737-6848 or firstname.lastname@example.org.