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Did someone hurt your feelings? Here's something you should know about forgiveness

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In the end, life is a battle field. People will hurt you and you will hurt people. You will forgive and be forgiven. It's the forgiving I would like to discuss here and now.

If you are the one who has been hurt, people around you tend to think you should be moving on - quicker than you do, yourself - and thus, should forgive the other one, as a 'gift to yourself' and 'for closure'. No one, I repeat, no one (not even your spiritual coach, your therapist, your mom or your best friend) is allowed to tell you that you need to forgive someone, or when. You are the only one who can decide to do that, or not (yet).

Two steps back

Forgiving people too quickly, just because you want to be a nice person, means taking two steps back. Every time you feel anger or resentment popping up inside you, you feel like you're a hypocrite, because you already Forgave them, right? It gets in the way of truly processing (which also includes anger). It slows this process down, because now, you've added a dose of self judgement to your plate. Forgiving, to me, doesn't mean giving yourself a gift. Simply deciding not to waste any more energy on feelings of hatred, and forgiving the person you would like to behead immediately - is that true forgiving, from the heart, or is it self-imposed numbness, just to get it over with?

Finished story

When the time comes you're really ready to forgive, then there's a finished story. You've processed it, perhaps you've come to understand why they did what they did, time has passed. The emotional charge has disappeared. You're able to see the other person with kindness and compassion, able to move on without being bothered by the past. Mind you: the other person doesn't have to be there when you forgive them. Maybe they haven't asked for it, maybe they haven't shown a shred of regret - all of that doesn't matter. You don't even have to tell them you forgave them. As a matter of fact: as long as you still care about how they feel about your forgiveness, your motives aren't fully pure yet.

Hidden agenda

You're doing this from the heart, without a hidden agenda ('And now I'd like you to forgive me too, that's only fair, right?') or without any other purpose ('See how much I've grown!'). You're giving forgiveness as a present you want to gift. Whether the other person likes it, doesn't even notice it's there, or goes to the store to return it, is of zero importance. What counts, is that you know. In the end, you're the one who benefits from the quiet, space and peace that forgiveness brings you. And you deserve nothing less.

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Amy Treasure

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