YES, but it’s a journey.
If you’re ever going to truly love another, at some point, you’ll inevitably face the need to also forgive. There are two camps on the topic of forgiveness that the following quotes capture well:
- “Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.” ~Marianne Williamson
- “Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.” ~John F. Kennedy
Scholars, mental health practitioners, religions and world leaders alike all hold up forgiveness as a cornerstone goal we must embrace in our relationships if we ever wish to create a society we’re proud to raise our children in. And yet, forgiveness is hard! No matter how much you agree it’s “the right thing,” we all struggle with it.
Forgiveness is a private (often lonely) journey.
No one can make you forgive another person. It’s a decision you alone make in your mind and heart. Therefore, no one can really know the struggles you face reaching that pinnacle. Are you more like Marianne Williamson believing that inner peace is impossible without forgiveness? Or more like JFK believing that while it’s good, you must never forget? Both paths are challenging.
When someone harms, insults or wounds us, we are left with a profound sense of hurt and longing. The pain from an indiscretion (whether it’s infidelity, being lied to, abandoned or plain old hurt feelings) has a way of settling into our hearts. We think about it. Wonder why. We obsess about the loss, what it means and why someone would ever think so little of us as to hurt us this way.
Esther Perel talks about the pain of infidelity in her 2015 Ted Talk on betrayal. In it, she raises the point that cheating in our modern world affects us differently than it did 40 years ago. The wound of betrayal takes on an almost existential flavor when you think of the person who wounded you as your spouse, lover, confidant, financial partner AND the best friend. We mourn a betrayal of this kind deeply on many levels for a very long time.
And the harm was done TO us, so why is the burden of “getting over it” on our shoulders?
Research tells us that the best reason to forgive is so that the nastiness of the wound doesn’t settle inside us. When we harbor resentment, it lives in our bodies and causes adverse effects on our health, and eventually shorten our lifespan. The list of benefits you can gain from practicing forgiveness includes reduced anxiety, less depression, fewer major psychiatric disorders, and overall better physical health.
But despite the healing benefits of forgiveness for all involved, there’s still another honest question we have to ask …
Andrea Miller, YourTango CEO and founder sat down with several Experts, including authors and IMAGO founders Harville Hendrix and his wife Dr. Helen LaKelly Hunt, marriage and family therapist Christine Wilke, counselor, and therapist Cindy Cartee, and counselor and therapist Cheryl Gerson to talk about what it takes to forgive and address the question on everyone’s mind: