The Winding Road to Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a tricky bitch sometimes. The bigger the offense, the longer forgiveness often takes. It’s hard because a lot of times we’re told that the best path to healing is to forgive. You know the drill: forgiveness is more for you than the person who hurt you; forgiveness is what makes everything less burdensome; forgiveness is the only way to move on. Forgiveness is frequently touted as a magic bullet to getting your life back if you’ve been deeply hurt in any way. We want to race to it as fast as we can to get the pain to stop. And if forgiveness comes quickly, then great! Mostly, though, it doesn’t.

I think that before you can really forgive, you need to feel any anger you may have for being slighted. If you’ve been hurt, and you skip the anger part of that hurt, the anger part just sits there waiting to be felt. I’ve been in such a rush to forgive in the past that I just swallowed all the rage I had at being wronged and tried to get right to the peace that comes from trying to make everything better. Guess what? It didn’t work. Anger doesn’t go away until you really feel it and acknowledge it.

I’ve been so angry I felt legitimate hatred. Even though I had been severely wounded, I felt bad about that hatred. I felt like it was in direct contrast to who I am on a fundamental level. I felt like that anger was changing me into some unrecognizable shrew. I pushed it down for a while and put a smile on my face and did all the things someone who has an open and forgiving heart does. And then I waited for that magic moment of clarity where my heart felt lighter, the angels sang, I felt reborn, and forest animals cleaned my house.

I waited.

And waited.

I’m still waiting.

Every time I get close, I feel the rage bubble up in resistance to the forgiveness. It’s like two bulls butting heads – equally strong, equally stubborn, neither making any headway at all. What the hell am I doing wrong? Why can’t I forgive? I’m angry, and I’m frustrated at myself for being angry. It’s a vicious cycle.

But it occurs to me that maybe I’m just not ready. Maybe I have other lessons to learn before I get there. And holy shit – maybe, just MAYBE, I’m never going to get there. Maybe some things aren’t forgive-able. Maybe sometimes the wounds are so deep and so life-altering that forgiveness becomes impossible. How will I feel if I never forgive? Can I forgive MYSELF for not forgiving? Another vicious cycle.

My anger, rage, and hatred are valid. My ability to forgive certain people and situations will work when and if it’s ready to. I’m ok with the feelings and processes that are all part of my life experience. I often sit in a space of extremely uncomfortable acceptance of the dark parts of myself. I do this with full understanding and gratitude that my desire to release the dark proves there is light too. That acknowledgement and acceptance of both of those parts – those fighting bulls – grants me the patience to just take things as they come and to stop pushing myself to do something I’m not ready to do.

I think if forgiveness comes, it will come slowly and softly. Not some magic moment, but a quiet recognition that the anger has subsided and been replaced with the tender knowledge that wounds heal with time, acceptance, and self-care. I’m ok with that.

But I still wish forest animals would come clean my house.



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