Life is messy. People are messy. Life is never perfect because people aren’t perfect. People get hurt or hurt others, intentionally or unintentionally. Either way, in the process we and others are hurt.
A great many people spend a lot of their time in the past. Reviewing the past, wondering why better decisions weren’t made, chastising themselves for decisions, and for not saying or doing what they determined to be the right thing that would have changed everything. And those who were hurt wonder what they did to deserve it. Why do we put ourselves through it? Does it change anything? The simple answer is no, it does not. And all the while we are stuck in the past, life marches on and we miss the present. Getting unstuck means grieving the past and then forgiving ourselves and others.
Before forgiving ourselves or others, we must mourn the past as if a loved one has died. We cannot skip over the grieving process. When we cause pain to others, our grief must center around what was lost. We may need to grieve for the lost relationship, time lost due to estrangement, words that were said or left unsaid, or actions taken or not taken that damaged others and our relationships with them. Acknowledging the part we played, and taking ownership of the damage we caused are necessary steps on the journey to forgiving ourselves.
What if we were the ones hurt? Stories always have three sides – the perceived realities of the parties involved and the actual reality which is usually somewhere in the middle of the perceived realities. We still need to grieve what was lost.
The grieving process is meant to give perspective to the past. We review the past and chastise ourselves because we are looking through the lenses of the people we are now – not as the people we were then. What about those who were hurt? We are looking through the lenses of vulnerability. Vulnerability is frightening, it is willingly or unwillingly giving power away. When we feel like we have some control over a situation, we don’t feel as vulnerable. Looking back at our vulnerability from the perspective of the people we are now, we can mourn from a position of power. In either case, we are no longer the people we were in the past. Recognizing and acknowledging that is key.
Grieving is never over, however. Grief merely changes as we change. Losses are always with us. We need to figure out how we can live in the present and future with the reality of our losses. And this is where forgiveness becomes possible.
Forgiveness of self or others does not mean we forget. Forgiveness is possible because we grow through losses. We can view situations that led to losses with new insight. We are very different people today than we were then. Does it mean relationships will be restored to the days before the hurt occurred? No, because we are different people. But, the people we are today can forge new relationships with those we hurt or were hurt and leave the past where it belongs…..