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What if I don't want to forgive?

TW: Physical/Sexual Abuse

Forgiveness is a huge part of my practice, professionally and personally. It is the key to moving forward with any transformation or healing. But what happens if we don't want to forgive a wrong that was done to us?

A client working through healing from an abusive relationship once asked me, "Don't you think he deserves my anger? He shouldn't get away with any of it. How can I forgive him for what he has done to me and to my family?"

Good question. Forgiveness is not easy, especially in situations where great wrongs have occurred. Forgiving a rapist, an assault on an innocent child, years of emotional trauma, theft, racial indignities and injustice, can feel like a "giving in."

We have all heard that forgiveness is gift we give ourselves as a way to move on, but what if we don't WANT to let someone off the hook!? Some things are unforgivable, aren't they?

If your anger is still serving you in some way, keep it. Anger can be a great catalyst and I am still working with my own relationship with this emotion (especially as a woman...more on this another time). I would lovingly suggest, however, taking a deep breath or three and considering the following:

1. What if we think of the unforgivable thing as an act and not a person? Is there any way you can look at the incident as separate from the individual? This exercise is powerful in and of itself. If you are able to put even the smallest amount of space between the wrongdoing and the person--you are moving forward.

2. What advantage does your anger give you? Write it/them down. On a separate paper, list each "advantage" and see if you can come up with at least one other way to achieve that same feeling. This is a healing practice. Here's one of my own as an example. "I feel like my anger keeps me out of depression. I feel more energized by anger." --- "I feel energized by Zumba and disco music."

3. We can make a slight shift in our perspective by removing the link between "forgiveness" and "accountability." The act can be inexcusable. The act can be heinous. We never have to approve of the transgression and we can hold the person accountable for their behavior. Just because we forgive a person doesn't mean that person isn't responsible for their actions! How do you feel when you take this viewpoint into perspective. Just notice what it does in your body or what comes up for you. Allowing the smallest shift in your thinking is powerful magic.

These are just a few ways to begin loosening the grip our trauma can hold on us. If you've read this far, you have already started working on healing and that's a big deal. I support you fully.

What do you think? I always welcome discussion around these topics.

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