You need to forgive in order to move forward
By Michele Provenzano, Staff Writer
Forgiveness is about you—the one doing the forgiving. It does not say anything about the person you forgive. It does not mean what they did was okay or acceptable. It does not mean you welcome them back into your life or that you’d like to be on friendly terms again. To me, forgiving is something you need to do to move forward.
Forgiveness is not sacrificing your strength. It is simply making a promise to yourself to no longer ruminate on the pain of the past, which is an incredibly healthy decision to make.
Research shows that being forgiving of others makes you happier and generally healthier. It improves physical health by reducing the negative effects of stress on the body. In terms of mental health, incorporating a focus on forgiveness into therapy can improve a person’s experience with depression and anxiety and increase a sense of hope.
A psychological definition of forgiveness is a choice one makes to let go of negative feelings toward a person who has harmed you, regardless if they are truly deserving of forgiveness or not. This process entirely concerns the forgiver; the forgivee is of little relevance.
Some may be reluctant to grant others forgiveness. For people who feel like they’ve been too forgiving, too lenient, and have let people walk over them in the past, forgiveness can be scary. Once you decide to work on improving your boundary-setting and standing up for yourself more often, the thought of forgiving someone who mistreated you can seem like it would be taking a step backwards.
But forgiving someone and standing up for yourself are not mutually exclusive. It doesn’t strip you of your power, make you weak, or let the other person “win” like some people may think. It doesn’t mean anything about the other person. They’re not involved. Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily have to leave your realm and touch theirs; you can forgive someone without letting them know. You are not responsible for alleviating another of the guilt they feel for the way they mistreated you. Perhaps you feel they don’t deserve to be notified of your forgiveness, which is perfectly valid.
Forgiveness is your choice—it is something you can hold within yourself. You can choose to share it with the one being forgiven if you’d like, and doing so would be going above and beyond in an extension of kindness. However, you are not required to do good deeds for people who have harmed you.
An apology does not require a response of “it’s okay” if it’s not. Likewise, it does not require an “apology accepted” or an “I forgive you.” Forgiveness is not something you owe the other person. I think it is something you owe yourself if you want to keep moving forward.
To me, forgiveness means refusing to dwell on pent-up anger, resentment, and grudges—and instead letting those feelings dissolve. It’s hard, but it isn’t one-size-fits-all. It’s customizable and can mean whatever you’d like it to. You’re allowed to forgive for you, and you only.