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By heatherferreiracole, Jun 5 2014 09:38AM

I think for many years I misunderstood the idea of forgiveness thinking it was something that you voluntarily signed up for. ‘Today, I choose to forgive so-in-so’. A bit like ‘Today, I am going to wear a red top’.

It was a strange concept, in my world, because it never really felt internally honest or true.

Don’t get me wrong, I would certainly say I forgave someone and outwardly acted inline with what I thought that would look like, but on the inside all that seemed to happen was a build up of resentment which would then seep out of me in the form of angry outbursts, or incessant chocolate eating. It wasn’t intentional at all; it was actually much more through an absolute lack of knowledge of another way of being.

It has only really been lately that I have started to truly understand forgiveness – I think! And I now find it quite strange that the concept has actually been given a word. When I watch my daughters in full flow disagreement, forgiveness doesn’t actually play a part in their world at all.

It simply is or it isn’t.

It is ok - or it isn’t ok.

If it is ok, it isn’t pretending, it really is ok,

If it isn’t ok, then it really isn’t ok, up until it is ok again.

I can’t help but wonder as children, if we all – or maybe just me - got a bit confused around the process of ‘ouch!’, ‘say sorry’, ‘ok, sorry’, and then we all move on. Because did it ever really feel ok?

Yet, even now when I consciously realize that it wasn’t a really fulfilling experience I still find myself going through the motions with my children over an over again because, quite simply, I am yet to learn another way.

But might we be insinuating in that process that the word sorry should be enough for us to move into forgiveness, when often it doesn’t even come close?

I think as an adult I have found that really hard to accept. Why, when someone says sorry, isn’t it feeling as good as it should? Why am I not suddenly blissed out in this feeling of compassionate love for all human kind – especially the one standing in front of me?

I have worked out, on a personal level that the apology actually stands for only maybe 10% of the overall forgiveness process. The large majority of the work actually resides in the processing of the hurt. And maybe that 10% occurs purely because it might make us feel slightly more inclined to process the hurt, rather than wallow around in our own anger, bitterness and regret at the way we have been treated.

But where I think forgiveness is completely misunderstood is in that it involves another person. Yes, the action first involved another, but the resolving of the matter really has nothing to do with anyone else at all. All the work needs to be done internally. Someone may have come along and thrown a bucket of mud over your internal system and then may or may not have said sorry, but the mud is still there and will stay there until you choose when, how and with what you are going to clean it up. Nobody can reach inside and do that for us, it is physically and emotionally impossible.

I believe that when you have fully processed all of the emotions created by that event or set of events, that is when forgiveness happens. Really happens, and actually it won’t feel like forgiveness at all in that moment, it may just feel like a void of negative feelings. A space. So maybe a truer version of ‘I have forgiven’ would be to say, ‘I have released’.

So it is not something that happens to me, but actually something that I have no choice but to accept. When I release something, I also forgive with it, but not because I chose to do so, but more as a direct result of processing all the emotions involved in that event.

I found a lovely section in a book I would like to leave you with:

“When I was a small child, my grandmother used a significant, repetitive phrase with me. If I ever attempted to say anything bad about anyone, she would sit me on her lap and gently tell me, “If you look hard enough, you can always find the gold in people”. I have certainly found this to be true.

(Karly McBride – Will I Ever Be Good Enough – Page 201)

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