A friend who read my post on forgiveness raised a few questions about the process of forgiving. Specifically, when you feel someone whom you considered a friend has betrayed you, how do you forgive them and move on with the friendship? Especially if the so-called friend doesn’t even acknowledge that they hurt you.
Let me just clarify that the act of forgiveness, as I see it, is quite a stand-alone process. It doesn’t make the behaviour that was exhibited acceptable or okay. Nor does it have any bearing on what happens to the relationship you have with the person you are forgiving.
When you forgive, you are not saying “I’m okay with what happened to me and I will go back to being treated that way by that person”. Quite the opposite.
You forgive so that the pain and anger within you is released. But you acknowledge that what happened was hurtful and distressing and unacceptable. In some instances it’s an opportunity to promise yourself you will never let yourself be put in that situation again (which is what I did when I forgave the boss who bullied me).
There is no obligation to resume any kind of relationship with the person you are forgiving: that’s totally up to you and it’s only dependent on whether you want the person to be in your life. Similarly, you don’t need to confront the person who has hurt you to tell them what you have gone through because of them and what pain they caused you.
When we’re hurt we often have a little vindication fantasy where we confront the person who has hurt us and they confess their guilt, acknowledge our pain, and apologise. The danger is that despite how you’ve played the scenario out in your head, the person may not react at all like you expect and you may feel doubly hurt as a result.
Often it’s helpful to understand why the person who hurt us behaved as they did. What was their motivation? Did they realise they were hurting us?
You don’t actually need to understand the behaviour, though, to forgive the person exhibiting it. Nor does understanding it make it okay and acceptable. What understanding will help with is working through the issues with the person if you choose to keep them in your life.
Forgiveness is about you. It’s not about the other person. You can forgive, and move on. Whether you choose to keep the person in your life and how you go about achieving that, is a totally different matter. Importantly though, it is a choice.