How do you forgive, how do you heal?
This is a question that I not only have asked myself many times over in my life but people ask me on a regular basis. Forgiveness and healing are often at the root of why people turn to or against faith. I had a beautiful morning with a dear friend and this topics was discussed between us. Here are some thoughts I have.
I cannot heal myself, neither can you heal me. The power of forgiveness and then the healing that comes from it can only be extended by God. Yes, you give into the healing power, but only God can actually do the healing and forgiving. This of course begins with prayer, various forms of prayer and time. This is not to make you feel helpless, this is just a reality. I am a smart woman, and I have a large ego, but there are some things I cannot will into existence. I cannot command myself to forgive. I may go to therapy, talk to every person I know, do every exercise possible, but until I understand that healing and forgiveness cannot be achieved on my own, I will be stuck. (This is a lesson I have to relearn on a regular basis, by the way…)
Time is essential. I was once told that I knew I had forgiven someone when I could think about the person or situation without negative feelings arising. At the time I truly thought that was impossible. Years later, I can begin to see that is true. Time does not heal all wounds, but over time this “thing that just happen to me” shaped who I am. Hopefully for the better, and that integration can be healing and should not be rushed.
Accept that you are changed. There are things that just happen to you. Shit happens, it doesn’t always have a purpose or a meaning, sometimes it’s just shit. However, it changes us, each and every experience we have changes us. Accept this, incorporate it into your life, learn from it, grow from it, or express it. Don’t hide, let the secret out, don’t be ashamed, it just is, even if “it” is something you did wrong or are embarrassed about. Talk, write, sing, jump, kick it out. Bottling these feelings of shame or joy will only eat you alive. Curse at God, love yourself through it. Know that you are different physically, emotionally, and spiritually from every relationship you have. Ones that are good and ones that cause harm.
Stay in relationship This is the hardest of all. If possible- let me repeat that- IF POSSIBLE stay in relationship with the person or people. Healing comes through relationships. There is a reason why atoning for ones sins is in the 12 step program. The person may never know or understand how they have harmed you and that can be almost as, if not more, painful then the act or acts that took place. This is not possible with everyone. Some sins are harmful to your person and you need to break the relationship off. Then do it. This harm could be physical or emotional. Or the person may have died, or you don’t even know who they are. This happens, healing can come from it, but in my experience it is harder. I hate that it is, but it is. Life may be “easier” by not being in relationship with them but at what cost? You have to decide this for yourself, is the weight of holding the hurt larger or smaller than the weight of being in relationship? This is not an easy question to answer and may take multiple trials and error.
Essentially there is no easy answer (and I certainly don’t have them), healing is complicated, because it comes through love, the love of God. Forgiveness is an extension of mercy and again, only comes from God. So if there is something you are in need of healing from or for, let yourself off the hook to “fix it” as soon as possible, and open yourself up to the healing powers of grace. May it be so for you and for me…