Over at SuzLyfe she talks about how sometimes the best part of a post is the comments. My comment is that I *always* ‘subscribe to comments’ because … well, because pretty much EVERY blog I read is because of something interesting they said in a comment on another blog I read.
The other day I had saved some messages in my inbox, and saw a blog comment from Running Bear that I saved to check out later, and strangely I thought it was from Cynthia’s ‘It’s Not OK to Grab Me’ post, when in fact it was from Ange’s ‘What I’ve Learned in 30’ years post.
Here is the line he cited:
#7 Forgiveness does not mean it is OK.
Since I was thinking in the context of my ‘morons in bloom’ post, I assumed I had just missed part of the ‘Not OK to grab’ story – and that might actually have made sense. But it made even more sense in the context of the actual post it came from. Here is the full quote:
7. Forgiveness doesn’t mean “it’s okay”
This is something I’ve been wrestling with until just a few weeks ago. I’ve been harbouring resentment towards people and a situation and it was just getting.me.down. I really resisted forgiving because I didn’t want it to mean that I was okay with what happened. I wasn’t. But I realized that by hanging on to the past, I wasn’t allowing myself to move forward, so I needed to let it go.
That is a pretty important concept – that forgiving someone doesn’t mean telling them that what happened is OK.
There was a saying as a slogan for a major initiative at my old job ‘Silence is Approval’. The thought was that as part of this initiative everyone would be given the chance to comment and was required to attend sessions, so failure to engage meant you approved of things. However, many on the team found that when their comments would have resulted in changes or delays or other uncomfortable situations, they were not received well, and some who pushed the matter (as they were led to believe they were empowered to do) were removed from the team.
In that case Silence was NOT necessarily Approval … it could have meant Fear, or Insecurity, or Acquiescence, or merely Acceptance. The result was a process that got few comments and the roll-out was an unmitigated disaster that spawned ANOTHER project to fix all of the mistakes – many that had been brought up from the start.
My point is that when we are silent there is no direct context – but when we SPEAK, then WE can provide that context. We can say that our words have a certain meaning. But we can’t always say it to the person who needs to HEAR those words … so we need to accept that hearing ourselves say them is enough.
So if Forgiveness does NOT mean approval … what DOES it mean?
Forgiveness means letting go of hate and anger
In the comments on my ‘morons in bloom’ post, people brought up specific instances and examples – some were clearly ‘in the past’, others were still troubling.
When something random happens it is hard to frame it in the context of forgiveness, because there is no one to really forgive directly. But all of those feelings are trapped inside of you, so allowing yourself to forgive them will allow you to remove those poison thoughts and anger from inside, which will then set you free.
Forgiveness means moving on with your life
Sometimes a situation is not resolved, which causes a continued sense of discomfort and emotional turmoil. Sometimes you know that the other person cannot or will not change, so there is no way to really move forward together. Forgiveness can allow you to say ‘I no longer hold anger at your past actions’. But implied there is that in the future things need to change in order for the relationship to progress.
The context I see for this is mostly relationships, and in the situation where one person has grown and changes have made the current state untenable. Forgiving the other person for trying to stop you from growing allows you to free yourself of the responsibility of fulfilling a certain role.
Forgiveness means forcing the other person to move on
When someone has directly wronged us and they KNOW they were in the wrong, it creates a bond – even if we don’t want one. Resolution of the incident is required for both parties to move on, so by forgiving the other person – even if they haven’t apologized – you are working to sever that bond, which can allow you to move on and also lets the other person stop dealing with the specifics of the situation and instead to address the underlying issues.
But by severing the ties, by accepting that Forgiveness means it is no longer your problem, it also means that you are not responsible for helping the other person deal with the outcomes of the mess they created.
Forgiveness means close one door, but not necessarily opening another
Most of us have lives littered with all sorts of relationships in a variety of states. The sad reality is that over our lifetime most of us have had thousands of bad, broken or hurtful relationships – sometimes through intent, sometimes loaded with regret.
I talked about how many people with ‘complicated’ relationships with my alma mater and fraternity I talked to or heard about during my reunion last month. Forgiveness can mean many things in this context – ultimately it is all about accepting that we all make mistakes … and that sometimes the best way to deal with them is just to say “I forgive you, but will never talk to or see you again, because THAT is what is best for ME.”
Forgiveness doesn’t absolve YOU of all responsibility
While there are many times when one person wrongs another, there are also many times when a situation arises based on a conflict owned by two or more people. You might be upset, and the other person apologizes, you forgive them and you move on … right?
Not so fast … one common topic with many bloggers is being ‘over apologetic’. I know of at least four people who are very likely apologizing to someone right now for something that isn’t really their fault. (and I’m sure they’re sorry for THAT!).
Apologizing can seem to assign a hierarchy of blame and responsibility, but often that blame is not in line with reality. So what can we do? Again, look inside of yourself – if you are unsettled with the outcome, chances are they are unresolved issues. If you are too quick to accept an apology and offer forgiveness, perhaps you have created another situation that needs to be resolved.
Forgiveness means giving yourself the closeure you deserve
Ultimately forgiveness is about YOU. You are releasing feelings, releasing anger, moving on, letting go, taking control, or some combination of those.
Forgiveness is incredibly powerful – but much harder than it seems. We’ve all gotten apologies that were not genuine; similarly unless we are really ready to offer forgiveness, it is just words.
But when an apology is genuine, and forgiveness is also genuine, the possibility of find a clear path to emotional freedom is there … and when you find yourself free from an emotionally smothering situation – it is cause to rejoice.
And for those who still think that forgiveness means it is okay, chat with disapproving otter:
So what situations have you needed to forgive someone or be forgiven?