Tag: forgiveness

Healing through Forgiveness

Taking back your life from those who sought to destroy it

To a trauma survivor, forgiveness can seem like a dirty word. Like something another person, maybe even their perpetrator, throws in their face to invalidate what they are experiencing. It is often used by well-meaning or ignorant people or churches, to “fix” the relationship instead of addressing the sin. It is often used by perpetrators to attempt to control their victims as well.

These immoral and traumatizing lies and behaviors from those who should know better, can create an intense resistance to forgiveness. Extending forgiveness to the people who have hurt us deeply is rarely something we want to do. There is a part of our minds that can convince us that forgiveness means that our pain will be forgotten. That if we forgive, we are letting those that hurt us “off the hook.” We can believe that if we choose to forgive, those that caused us pain won’t get what they deserve.

The Lies

The sheer number of lies that are associated with the concept of forgiveness keeps many survivors in chains. I first want to address what forgiveness is NOT.

  1. Forgiveness is not a feeling. If you are waiting until you feel like forgiving someone, you will be waiting forever. Feelings are fleeting, unreliable, and are not facts. You can feel one way and think and respond in another. Our feelings can and will change in a moment, so relying on your emotions to tell you when you are “ready” to forgive someone, will keep you holding on to unforgiveness.
  2. Forgiveness is not excusing the perpetrator or relieving them of the responsibility and consequences for their behavior. There are always natural consequences for the things we choose to do or not do. Your decision to forgive someone that hurt you, does not mean they can or should escape the consequences of their behavior.
  3. Forgiveness does not mean you can or should trust the person again. Trust is something that is earned based on another’s ability to demonstrate that they are safe. You can forgive another completely and also never trust them again. You can forgive them completely and still withhold your trust until they have earned it again. Choosing to automatically trust someone that has hurt you, can also have very devastating consequences to you.
  4. Forgiveness does not mean reconciliation. Forgiving a person for causing you pain does not also require you to reconcile that relationship. In fact, believing that you have to stay in relationship with the person who has harmed you, can keep you from forgiving them. Toxic people, those who are unrepentant and continually dangerous for you, are not people you have to be around. You can forgive your parent and still not have to ever have contact with them again. You can forgive someone who hurt you and not also have to visit them in prison as they serve out one of their consequences. You can forgive your spouse and still choose to divorce them because that is the healthy and safe thing for you to do. You can forgive and not have anything to do with that person again.
  5. Forgiveness is not tolerating the behavior that caused the pain. You can forgive your abuser and also leave the relationship. You can forgive them and also set strict boundaries within that relationship that will have consequences should they violate those boundaries.
  6. Forgiveness does not mean you have to be ok. Is is possible to forgive someone and still struggle with the pain and trauma that they’ve caused. Forgiving does not mean you have to pretend that you are ok, that you are no longer bleeding from the wound they’ve caused, or that you have to be ok when they want you to be.
  7. Forgiveness does not mean that you or your pain are forgotten. It does not mean that your suffering, your pain, is not valid. You and the consequences in your life because of their actions, will not disappear or become meaningless because you choose to let them go.

The Truth

Now I want to help you understand what forgiveness is. This is where you can find true healing. For me, I was not able to start healing from Columbine until I chose to forgive those people who created the pain. Today, choosing to forgive those who are hurting me, allows me to be who I need to be.

  1. Forgiveness is a choice you make every day to consciously let go of punishing those who have hurt you. When you are in the process of forgiving someone who has caused immeasurable pain and suffering in your life, this is something that you have to chose repeatedly until it no longer infiltrates your mind.
  2. Forgiveness is letting go of the person or persons who have hurt you. It is releasing them to God and allowing Him to deal with them. It is saying, I no longer choose to allow you to take up space in my mind, body, and soul.
  3. Forgiveness is freeing up space in your mind that those who have hurt you have been controlling since the trauma. I often think of it as evicting squatters. Evicting the people, thoughts, and behaviors that are involved in the trauma, so that you can have your whole self back again.
  4. Forgiveness is giving yourself permission to heal and leave them behind. It is saying that those people no longer get to have any part of your life, that they are not longer welcome in your existence.
  5. Forgiveness gives you peace, clarity, and hope. When you remove those people and the negative thoughts and beliefs they’ve forced on you, you are able to fully experience life again.
  6. Forgiveness is saying that you will no longer harbor bitterness and resentment towards that person or people. That you will no longer think of them, allow them to control you present. You are saying to yourself and to them, that they no longer matter to you and that you are going to live your life fully without the poison of their existence running through your veins.
  7. Forgiveness sets you free.

Living without the toxicity of bitterness

Holding on to unforgiveness, harboring anger, resentment, bitterness, and a desire for revenge, does nothing to your perpetrator. Let me say that again. Choosing not to forgive someone and holding onto the pain, does not hurt the ones who hurt you. The truth is that they rarely care about how you feel. It never crosses their minds. That is why they were able to cause so much pain in the first place. Thinking that if you just stay mad then they will see the damage they’ve done, is a lie. It does nothing for them.

The only one that is wounded when you hold on to unforgiveness, is you. You are allowing the poison from their actions to consume your life. You are living in the past, in the present. They will never feel your pain just because you keep living in that pain. Your anger and hurt is absolutely justified. However, choosing to stay there instead of moving forward in forgiveness and healing, will keep you bound to those people.

The unholy bondage of trauma

When someone perpetrates evil, a spiritual, emotional, and physical bond is created. Those who have caused harm have linked themselves to their victims in many ways. This is one of the reasons why people who have been hurt, continue to return to the person that hurt them, or why children do not tell someone what is happening. This bond is forged through the trauma and reinforced through the threats, lies, and relationship between the perpetrator and their victim.

Regardless of where the perpetrator is now, choosing to hold on to unforgiveness, reinforces the bondage, the chains, they forced on you. It keeps you silent. It makes you question your own memories of what happened. It makes you think you’re the crazy one, the one who is wrong. The more you choose to stay angry, hateful, bitter, and vengeful, the stronger you are making those chains.

Breaking free

If you truly want to break free, to remove them from your life, you have to choose forgiveness. Your life will continue regardless of what you choose, but your choice to forgive or not, will determine HOW your life moves forward. Those who have chosen not to forgive and let go, suffer more than they need to. They have chosen to allow the full impact of their trauma to dictate their life. They have chosen to remain stuck.

When you choose forgiveness, you are choosing to live. You are allowing the pain from your past to remain in your past. You are choosing daily to walk in your life without allowing those things to control your present or your future. Forgiving those who have hurt you, will let you breathe free for the first time since the trauma. It will allow you to embrace your life with the truth of your pain, the person you are now, without being overwhelmed by your past.

Forgiveness is a process that you move towards. It is a conscious decision to let go. One that you may have to make daily, sometimes hourly, when you first make that step towards freedom. You may not even feel like you want to let go, but choosing to forgive anyway, will sever the hold they have on you. Choosing freedom, choosing to permanently sever the trauma bonds that have been formed, will never make things worse than they have been.

If you want to forgive and be free, then begin to ask God to help you. Begin to speak out loud, “I don’t feel like forgiving (that person), but I am choosing to do so anyway.” The more you practice forgiving that person, the more you’ll realize that you are forgiving them. You are able to see what life can be like without them in your consciousness. When you can see what freedom looks like, then forgiveness becomes easier.

Choose freedom today. Let the past stay in the past. Take back your life and live in defiant abundance and freedom.

The Poison that Destroys

Harboring the chains of our hurt

When we have been wronged we rightly feel pain. The damage inflicted on us by the evil and selfish behaviors of others is real. It’s palpable and raw. Confusing and disorienting. This is how we are supposed to respond instinctively when we have been threatened and hurt. Our minds, bodies, and souls were created with the ability to respond to pain, emotional or physical, in a way that allows us to process and heal as quickly as possible. This system is often hijacked by a lack of support, validation, and numerous other external and internal factors. But the fact remains, that we are still programmed to respond and move on, not get stuck. But so often, we come out of trauma stuck as a victim and not living as a conqueror.

Stuck

One of the things that keeps us from being able to move forward in our lives, is how we tend to hold on to the hurt. I’m not talking about the expected scars and other damage that comes from surviving trauma, but of the way our minds adapt in an effort to “protect” us. When we have been hurt in such a way that the damage goes deeper than we can imagine, our minds want to do whatever it can to keep us alert so that we don’t ever experience that pain again. Unimaginable and gut-wrenching pain is not so easily processed and healed. But we can add layers to that already difficult process by choosing to identify with or replay the trauma, and holding on to the past.

I think that in part, we do this because we want justice. We want to see that the person that has hurt us will eventually feel the same pain that they have caused. In short, we want revenge on those who have destroyed our lives as we knew them. In the same way that we have been forced to reconcile who we were before to who we are now, we want them to suffer so it’s not just us. It is incredibly unfair that the people that cause us the most pain, often never experience the reality of that pain themselves. That we are the ones left picking up the pieces of our lives trying to heal, while they move on, in most cases, completely unaffected by their sin. In that accurate sense of it being unfair, we naturally want to right that wrong done to us. The problem is we go about doing that in a way that causes no damage to the perpetrators but immense damage to ourselves.

The Poison of Holding On

Romans 14:12 tells us, on the day of judgement, we will ALL have to give an account of ourselves to God. What does this mean for survivors of trauma? It means that we are responsible for our own actions, not those of others. We will never be held accountable before God because of what others did to us. That those who have hurt us will ALL have to come before God and try and explain the pain they’ve caused to us. But further, they will also be judged and punished for the evil that was done. I don’t know about you, but the idea of standing before the God of the universe, the sovereign over all, and trying to rationalize why they hurt us, kind of makes me feel better. However, in the same way, so will we have to explain our choices and responses to the evils we experience.

When we have been wronged, no matter how horrific the trauma and pain is, we all have to choose what to do with that pain. We have basically two choices in this. We can choose to forgive and let them go, or we can choose to obsess over them and the damage they’ve done. Let me explain.

One of the most deadly chains that keep us bound, is the powerful chain that weaves unforgiveness, hatred, bitterness, and resentment together. While we are absolutely justified in feeling anger, betrayal, and hurt when we are traumatized, we don’t need to stay there. The reason anger is part of grief, is because it’s a step, not an encampment. When we choose to harbor and cling to our “right” to feel that way, we are doing nothing to the person who caused the harm. They don’t care, usually. While we can be angry and hurt by what happened, we shouldn’t stay that way. The poison of harboring these destructive emotions causes immense damage to our own mind, body, and soul. In addition to what was done to us.

Alternately, we can choose to be free. Choosing forgiveness, allowing ourselves to let go of the anger and pain we rightly feel in response, cleanses us from that poison. Here is where most people get stuck. In the misguided belief that to forgive those who have hurt us means that they “got away” with whatever they did. We can convince ourselves that if we aren’t angry or hurt all the time, then we and everyone else will forget the harm that was done to us. That if we just hold onto the anger, hatred, bitterness, and resentment, then we are somehow holding them accountable for their sin.

But this isn’t what forgiveness is. At all. Forgiveness is letting yourself let them go. Meaning that, when you choose to forgive, you are no longer letting them control you today. You are not allowing your past hurts to dictate how you live in the present. You are taking away the valuable space in your mind, body, and soul, from the evil that shattered you, and giving it back to yourself to fill up with life again. When we hold on and refuse to forgive those who have hurt us to the depths of our souls, we are giving them permission to stay in our lives. Forgiveness kicks them out of our lives, and allows us to be free from their strangle hold.

Freedom or Control

Ultimately, we have to decide how we want to live our lives. Do we want to be chained to the people and events that traumatized us, or do we want to be free from them? Do we allow these people, their evil choices, and the destruction they caused to take up residence in our lives, or do we evict them permanently? We aren’t always meant to completely remove from our lives those who have hurt us (family, friends, relationships, etc.). But sometimes we are. The only way we can get to the place where we are making choices that will lead us to freedom and the life we are supposed to live, is to forgive those who have hurt us and let God deal with them. This frees our minds to move us to where we need to be, instead of keeping us tethered to a past we were never meant to live.

Will you choose the courage to forgive those who have hurt you and break free from their control over you? Or will you choose to harbor the “right” to feel angry, bitter, hate, and resentment because of what they’ve done to you? The choice is yours, but personally, I prefer life to death. I choose to remove their control over my life today so that I can be who I want and who I am meant to be. This is a daily, sometimes hourly if I’m honest, decision to consciously forgive. It doesn’t mean that what happened isn’t important and that you are not still struggling to heal from the wounds they’ve inflicted. But it does mean that when you pursue true healing, you will find yourself able to live without them being in your mind turning you back to the darkness.

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