Basics of Forgiveness (Part 3)--Do I have right to resentment?
I want to take a deeper look at what forgiveness is (and is not) to help us better understand how and why to forgive.
Let's start with the definition Dr. Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute, uses in his book, "Forgiveness is a Choice: A Step-by-Step Process for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope."
"When unjustly hurt by another, we forgive when we overcome the resentment toward the offender, not by denying our right to the resentment, but instead by trying to offer the wrongdoer compassion, benevolence, and love; as we give these, we as forgivers realize that the offender does not necessarily have a right to such gifts."
. . . not by denying our right to the resentment, . . .
One of my stumbling blocks to forgiveness (yes it was/is hard for me), was acknowledging a "right to resentment". This "right" went against my spiritual beliefs (or so I thought) and my self beliefs.
My spiritual background included the idea that we are all imperfect and need a higher power. Not a problem. It included the idea of "suffering" and "turning the other cheek". Add to that a strong component of the need to forgive others because I have been forgiven. I believed that because everyone was imperfect and I was called to forgive everyone, then there must be something wrong with me if I can't forgive. Something wrong with me if I am "hurt" by an imperfect person. Shouldn't I know and understand they can't help themselves? I should just turn it all over to God. I would absolve people who hurt me and blame myself for the pain. This is not a correct interpretation of "spiritual suffering".
My self beliefs managed to grow into an intense dislike for myself. I knew others made mistakes, but I wasn't allowed to make mistakes. My mistakes hurt people. I wasn't supposed to hurt people, Because I hurt people, I did not deserve to be free from pain. Others hurting me, myself hurting myself, was just punishment for my crimes against humanity.
What have I learned?
By the grace of God, by people continuing to love me, by learning about and practicing forgiveness, I have learned that no matter who I believe I am--that belief does not give people the right to hurt me. And if I am unfairly hurt, then I have a right to an emotional/physical/spiritual reaction to that pain.
If you have been hurt by another, you have a right to a reaction to that pain--even a resentment. But we come to a point in our lives where we have to look at how much we were hurt by that person versus how much holding onto that resentment is now hurting us. You, and I, are special, unique and irreplaceable. We do make mistakes, but those mistakes do not mean others may mistreat us, abuse us, hurt us. Other people make mistakes, but that does not give them the right to mistreat us, abuse us. hurt us. We have hurt other people, but that does not give us the right to mistreat ourselves, abuse ourselves or hurt ourselves.
What is forgiveness?
Forgiveness includes admitting I have been hurt by another. It includes admitting that I have been dealing with this pain in a way that is no longer working. The resentment is now bigger than the hurt and I can't deal with it. Forgiveness tells us we matter so much that we don't need to carry around this resentment. We matter so much that it is not okay for others to hurt us. We matter. I matter. YOU matter.
A Little Something Extra
If you are looking for a place to dig into forgiveness, ask Dr. Enright a question, become part of the "Drive For Others' Lives" campaign, read a cool blog, or see what books Dr. Enright has written, please check out the International Forgiveness Institute at https://internationalforgiveness.com/.
If you would like to subscribe to the Forgiveness Factor Community and receive a weekly Forgiveness Boost, please go to https://mailchi.mp/b441e8770b36/forgivenessfactorcommunity