These days it seems that almost everyone adheres to the belief that forgiveness holds the key to redemption and peace in one’s life. After all it seems logical to agree that forgiveness is an important part of living a spiritual life of no regrets. After all, how can it be healthy to go around holding grudges?
However, I contend it may be necessary to take each circumstance on a case by case basis as to the appropriateness of the need to forgive someone in your life. Obviously for someone who is recovering from child abuse it will have a longer history of being held in the body and memory than a recent injury to our ego or feelings from someone who may have slighted us accidentally or purposely in our adult lives.
Unlike many therapeutic and religious views, I believe the decision to forgive or not to forgive is a personal one. I know there are those who will disagree that there is only one “right” thing to do, and that it always is correct to forgive unconditionally without question. After almost thirty years of working with clients in my practice who have suffered from varying degrees of child abuse and molestation I have come to the conclusion that it is never ”right” to push a person beyond their comfort level at whatever stage of their process they may be in at any given moment.
In fact I have many clients who come to me as they are recovering from the judgments and belief systems that have been pushed on them by the agenda of well-meaning friends and therapists. When they hear me agree with their gut feeling that they are not ready to forgive their perpetrator or perceived enemy yet for whatever abuse they sustained, I can feel them audibly sigh as they let go of the armor they were ready to put up against another therapist’s objection to their own inner knowing.
In the Alchemical work I do, we believe that forgiveness should spring forth as a natural result of having cleared a trauma and having made that part of you that was wronged (often the Inner Child) feel completely safe and rescued from that situation. In fact the word “Alchemy” is synonymous with “transformation” and that is literally what we do with the memory – it is transformed to the point that the pain associated with it is gone from the body and mind. The memory of the event is still present, but the charge associated with it is gone. In other words the things that used to trigger it will not have the same effect on us any longer. At that point it is natural to forgive the person who hurt us, because it is not forced since the pain is gone.
The way that Colin Tipping puts it in his work of Radical Forgiveness is that we can now see that other person who hurt us as our “healing angel.” Of course we were in their life for the same purpose. Since we were both just playing out our roles in the dance of life, there is theoretically, no victim and nothing to forgive. When we see things in that way, we can see that to hold onto the grudge we’ve been carrying against them is only causing us to lug around some heavy baggage and it is time to let go and lighten our load.
I helped Colin create the self-growth board game called Satori: The Game of Radical Forgiveness to teach people to do this easily for themselves as they play, the same way he teaches participants in his workshops. The game gives you a chance to feel your feelings around your pain by making you walk up the levels to finally reaching bliss or “Satori” by starting in Vicitmland. While you are there you can blame people to your heart’s content and you better not try to cop out by doing a “spiritual bypass” around your feelings or you may get sent back to start.
In the first personal growth board game I created called Clarity: The Game of Your Life, which helps people ”play through their issues” in the manner that we help our clients with Alchemical Hypnotherapy, there is a landing space of ”Forgiveness” on the board. Over the ten years I’ve been playing with hundreds of players I found that people have a tendency to be very flippant and judgmental in their forgiveness of others.
I have concluded that it is easy to pay lip service to the idea of forgiving, but the act itself is best done in its truest spirit or not at all – certainly not simply because it is the “right” thing to do. Therefore I would like to see people less ready to be obliging to forgive others and see them instead put the onus on themselves to apologize for things they actually did to hurt or harm another. If more people would take responsibility and apologize for their wrong-doings, there would automatically be more forgiveness to go around in the world.