Hi, Lynn Barrette here, licensed clinical therapist and spiritual counselor.
I want to talk with you today about forgiveness. Forgiveness can be a heavy topic sometimes, so this is going to be a several part series to help us break down this concept and make it palatable and accessible, because if we can’t forgive, we get stuck, and we don’t want to do that, right? So we’re going to take some time on this one.
Anytime I bring up forgiveness with clients or in workshops or classes, I always like to clarify what forgiveness means because there are so many ideas and misconceptions about what forgiveness is.
When I help someone define forgiveness, I start with what forgiveness is not. And that is what this video is about: What forgiveness is not.
First of all, forgiveness does not mean “forgive and forget”. Our brains aren’t made up to forget things unless we get a severe head injury or some other brain trauma, like a stroke. We are simply not biologically wired to forget things. We have beautiful memories, and whether you are more spiritually-minded or more scientific, we are created like this for a reason: those memories are there to ensure that we learn from our experiences and evolve as a species and in consciousness. So how can we be expected to forgive and forget when we’re not wired to do so?
Forgiveness does NOT mean “forgive and forget!” It means that we learn and grow.
Another misconception that comes up is that forgiveness means everyone gets a fresh start, even the person who did wrong, and we pretend like nothing happened. That’s not it either. If we are learning from our experiences, we take our new understanding with us every moment, and apply that new understanding moving forward. If someone hurts me, I have learned something: Sometimes this person is hurtful, and she certainly has been hurtful to me in this situation, so I need to adjust my mental, emotional, and sometimes physical behavior so that I can either deal with being around her, or make sure I am not around her anymore!
Forgiveness does not mean to pretend like nothing happened. It means adjust your internal and external behavior to support yourself, your safety.
A final myth I often hear about forgiveness is that if we forgive, we’ll be letting the other person get by with something. That’s not it either. Once we have taken care of our part of an interaction with someone—either by confronting them, adjusting ourselves internally and externally, or staying the heck away from them—our part is done.
There is a law that is scientific both in our physical and spiritual realm that states that whatever energy we put out comes back to us. And that is true at the physical, emotional, and mental levels of our existence. This doesn’t mean we turn that into some kind of superstitious curse on another person, as we often hear that “Karma will get them”! If we are saying that about someone, our forgiveness is not done! When we forgive, we are releasing ourselves from having to be a part of this person learning what they need to be learning. We don’t have to be responsible for seeing that “they get theirs”; we are only responsible for our own behavior, and what we are putting out at those physical, mental, and emotional levels. That’s a big job in itself, isn’t it?!
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that anyone gets by with anything; but it does mean we don’t have to worry about it.
So if all that is what forgiveness is NOT; what is forgiveness? That will be in my next video for you, so hold tight, it’s coming!
Thanks for watching!
Lynn Barrette, LCSW