Then there are the ones who are downright vicious.
Not even most people, but some are.
And we need to forgive all of them because none of what they do to us is actually about us, it's about them. It's hard to believe, I know. You see somehow or other they have been damaged and the way that they know how to deal with that is by lashing out at someone else, and you happened to be their convenient target,
None of this is fair. None of this is your fault. what you choose to do with it is the only thing that you have control over and this is where it gets tricky. You are justified in feeling your hurt and your pain and your anger and it is healthy for you to feel those emotions...... for a while.
The trouble is some of us get hooked into feeling that this event, this wounding defines who we are. It doesn't.
You are not a rape survivor or a domestic violence survivor or a ( insert your own particular form of hell) survivor. Yes, you survived and that is worth celebrating but it is not the sum total of who you are. None of this is to diminish what you have been through ( or are going through) rather I am saying, in my opinion, there is so much more to who you are that cannot be summed up in the blanket "survivor" terminology.
I recently had a blog post picked up and published on The Good Men Project which was very gratifying. I did get the shock of my life when I saw myself described as a "domestic violence survivor" because I have never identified myself as such - ever.
All of that happened to me but I don't identify with it and I have worked, hard, to heal forgive and move on.
Forgiveness is not a one time, quick fix and move on type of deal. It takes time and compassion and most of all a firm belief that you are doing it for you not for them... all the thems.
So how do you forgive the unforgivable?
Here's what's worked for me:
(1) Realize that they just don't know any better.
Years ago I was doing a course in community social work and the guest speaker was a social worker who dealt with domestic violence and child abuse cases. I asked him how he managed to do the work day in day out and remain the cheerful person that he was. His reply was this "I realize that they just don't know any better and when they know better they do better."
This was reiterated for me when I read the "Conversations With God" books by Neale Donald Walsch in which he says in any given moment there is what serves you and was does not. We are all doing whatever our Soul needs for it's conscious evolution. ( this can take some getting your head around and I strongly recommend reading these books).
When I looked back at my childhood I realized that my Dad didn't know any different. His own father was probably also a bully. Watch any Billy Connolly video and you will see that this was common place in Glasgow, where my father grew up and where I was born. Does that make it acceptable? No. But he didn't know any better. It was all he saw, heard and had instilled in him. could he have chosen differently? Absolutely.
(2) Understanding and Compassion.
We all make choices. I choose to live in a world of understanding and compassion. I chose to be different from my father, that was a conscious choice and has lead me down a very different path to my father and most of my family. I choose to work in the field of personal development, healing and spiritual awareness. That is my choice and I am happy to live with it.
It also gives me the perspective to stand back and have compassion for all those that suffer, including those that have hurt me. It wasn't about me . It was about them trying to deal with their own demons and thinking that was a solution. And for that I feel compassion for them.
(3) Choose happiness
There is a saying "do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?" I choose happiness. And you can too. Choose to feel happy about where you are now in your life. It might sound simplistic but embrace all the good that you have in your life now
Not right away.
Not as a knee jerk reaction.
But at some point be grateful for what has taken place because it has made you resilient and strong and capable and an advocate for others who are still struggling to cope ..
Be grateful that you don't live in the head of the person who hurt you because that must be a very scary, lonely place to be.
Be grateful for the choice you made to survive and thrive and be happy and to make better choices than the ones your perpetrator did.
Be grateful that they showed you all the ways you did not want to be. Sure you may have found easier ways to learn that lesson but this is what life dealt you
(5) Forgive yourself
Forgive yourself for carrying the pain for years. Forgive yourself for not wanting to forgive them. Forgive yourself for everything.
Often, forgiving ourselves is even harder than forgiving them. Do it anyway.
(6) Love yourself
Practice loving yourself. They are never going to love you they way you wanted them too. They are never going to love you how you felt you should be loved so get to work realizing that you are worth loving. Fill yourself up with your own love and work on letting the little child inside you know that she/he is loved too. No conditions. Nothing to prove. You always were lovable.
(7) Take your time
Be gentle with yourself and give your self plenty of time. Others might think that "you should be over that by now" but it's not their journey. It is yours and you can take as long as you need to forgive and heal.
(8)It's not about them
Forgiveness is not about them. You forgive to set yourself free not to absolve them of their wrongdoing. Holding on to the anger and pain hurts you. It hurts your body and makes you bitter. Forgiveness is like a balm for the soul, it makes you feel lighter and happier and free.
Start with a small thing to forgive and work your way up, just like building a muscle. Do it for you.
(9) Just because you have forgiven them doesn't mean you have to hang out with them
Because you don't.
Forgiveness does not mean that all that happened in the past is now okay and that you are now going to be best friends or resume anything resembling a normal parent child relationship. Sure, you can if you want to. It is purely your choice.
Sometimes we just need to love people from a distance.