I was told by a woman recently that she was unable to forgive those who have hurt her in her life. It was as though even bring up the idea of forgiveness was a foreign idea to her. And perhaps it was.
It took me many years of struggling with this concept to truly understand why I should forgive those who had hurt me. It wasn't a justification of their actions against me or a validation of their behaviors. It wasn't an act of me surrendering. In saying "I forgive you", it wasn't about them at all. It was about me and me alone.
In taking that one step, I was finally able to start healing myself in ways I simply couldn't conceive of before. This is because I clung so tightly to the past, in what had been done to me, and the emotions that rose out of those moments of suffering, that for me....they still existed in the now.
In other words, they weren't the past at all because I kept reliving them over and over again in my life, every time I got close to someone or felt like they were anything like my perpetrators. It was like acting out the emotions that I couldn't express during those moments of suffering, because I was to young or to naive at the time, in a cycle that repeated itself over and over again. And it left me feeling out of control and wondering why life was dealing me such a blow after having suffered so much already.
It reached a point where the people who were like my abuser, pedophiles to be exact, appeared subhuman to me. It gave me an excuse to hate, while feeling love and forgiveness for all other kinds of people. And on the one hand, one could say I deserved to hate them for what was done to me. Who wouldn't, right?
It took a monumental effort on my part to consciously forgive them, which I might add did not justify their actions toward me or anyone else or make me any less empathetic toward other victims. But in doing it, it released the chains that bound me to a past that I could not change and had no control over, because I was so young.
That was my journey, though. And for others, sometimes the important thing isn't to consciously forgive those who hurt them. Sometimes, by merely continuing to live their lives the best way they can, the pain finally ebbs ~ slowly lessening over time until the person wakes up one morning and realizes it does not control them or bind them as it used to.
This is because the traumatic emotions of that time hold less weight in the light of this person's new life, which they forged for themselves despite what bound them to the past. This too is forgiveness in its own way, because this person wakes up one day and realizes they are free....free to live, love, and simply feel. And this is also a feat of monumental strength.
But it doesn't mean either of these paths is right for you, individually. We all process and deal with our suffering and our traumas differently. And that's okay. Do what works best for you, without shame or regret, because there is no right or wrong way to go on living....there is simply your way, which is what works best for you.
So even if you are not able to say out loud something like, "I forgive you", to those who have hurt you, its okay. Even if, at this moment, you can't even imagine ever forgiving those who hurt you, its okay. We all go through a process, where in we deal with those chains that bind us. And you are not alone...you are never alone...in this process, no matter how you might feel to the contrary, as though no one understands what your going through or how much pain you feel.