“Hate suits him better than forgiveness. Immersed in hate he doesn’t have to do anything; he can be paralyzed, and the rigidity of hatred makes a kind of shelter for him.” ~ John Updike, Rabbit, Run

Time does not heal all wounds. It cannot. Often, time needs help from you. Time may soften the blow, erase some of the scars, and even cloud your memory of the hurt, but without your active participation, time cannot, and will not, heal the wounds of betrayal.

Making Peace With The Past

Perhaps the only thing harder than accepting that betrayal happened and healing from that betrayal is finding the courage to forgive others (or yourself) and move on. Moving on is impossible without making peace–peace with the person who betrayed you, peace with yourself, peace with the circumstance that led to the act, and peace with time. Your self-esteem is dependent on your ability to forgive or accept and to let go.

There is an old saying that you probably have heard for years and years, “Forgive and Forget.” For many people, it works better to apply the principle of “accept and move on.” We don’t want to forget, because the past, including the pain of the past, is part of our history, It would be like tearing out pages in a history book because we didn’t like what those pages said. We don’t want to forget; we do want to be able to move on.

The most wonderful thing about the past is that you can leave it at any instant of your choosing. You are allowed a fresh start right now, and can begin moving toward forgiveness at any moment. You don’t have to wait until the first of the year, or next Monday, or tomorrow morning; you can begin letting go immediately. You have that freedom; you have that power.

Making Peace With Those You’ve Hurt

“I’ve never hurt anyone,” you might be saying right now It may be true that you have never intentionally hurt anyone. But we are in this life to make mistakes, and many of those have to do with harming others. Sometimes we don’t know we have harmed someone. Sometimes we may be too wrapped up in ourselves to think how another interpreted our look, behavior, words, or silence. Human relationships are exceptionally delicate, and often other people in your life are hurt by your small actions and inadvertent neglect rather than by large, obvious means.

Think back to the last time that someone hurt you, What was the source of the pain or betrayal? Was it a major and planned attack by the other party, or was it a small act? Did the other person consider it significant? Did that person even know she hurt you? Now, turn the tables. Have you ever done the same thing to another person?

Making Peace With Those Who Hurt You

Some people say that the pain of hurting another person is much worse than being hurt. Others will say that there is no worse pain than being hurt by someone for whom you care. Which is correct? Some would say it all depends on the hurt. The answer is in your heart, not in this blog. Either way, forgiveness or acceptance must be involved if you are to truly move on with your life. You either have to forgive or accept the other person, or forgive and accept yourself.

Forgiving or accepting those who have hurt you does not mean condoning their behavior. It does not mean that you approve of what they said or did, but rather that you are making a conscious effort to move on from that act.

What Is Forgiveness?

Forgiveness is the business of the heart working in tandem with the mind. It is that simple and that complex.

Forgiveness is about accepting that people make mistakes, costly mistakes, and that you make them, too. To forgive someone is to allow the offense to come to a place of peace inside of you and between you and another. Forgiveness is not about forgetting. Forgiveness often includes acceptance, and sometimes the words are used interchangeably.

Many people have a problem with the word forgive; they are much more open to the word accept. For some, forgiveness has religious connotations, although this is not in the definition of the word. To forgive someone is to allow peace to be made between you and the other and to have the emotional debt canceled.

Forgiveness is not about speed. It can, and may, take much time, but true forgiveness can’t be rushed or forced. Forgiveness is not about showdowns or final confrontations. It may happen in the privacy of your own mind. You may never again see the person whom you are forgivig. Finally forgiveness is not about weakness. Weak people are the people who cannot forgive. Forgiveness is the work of the strong. It takes strength and courage to change the heart and render the mind amenable to changing positions.

Benefits Of Forgiveness

  • Stress Relief
  • A Sense of Freedom
  • A Feeling of Finding “Right”
  • Release From Hatred and Anger
  • A Move Toward Healing
  • Deep Joy
  • A Feeling of Inner Peace
  • A Feeling of Balance or Harmony

More in Part Two on Acceptance and Reconciliation.

Thank you and Take Care!
Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo, PhD

Excerpts for this blog were taken from The Everything Guide to Self-Esteem by Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo.