When a relationship comes to an end, people are often so deeply hurt that they feel they will never be able to forgive the other person. This wouldn’t be so bad, but, many people who cannot forgive their wrongdoer end up getting stuck in destructive psychological and emotional patterns. Often times, they become unable to move forward their own lives. It is like their anger is somehow turned inward.
Even more difficult is when the offender shows no signs of remorse. If your brand of forgiveness requires dialogue, that becomes nearly impossible with a remorseless offender. Sadly, though, even when there is empathy shown by the other person, we sometimes still find their offenses too painful to allow us to find it in our hearts to forgive.
If you have been hurt by someone, and forgiveness feels out of the realm of possibility for you, try “acceptance,” instead.
- Acceptance is a gutsy, life-affirming response to injury when the person who has hurt you is emotionally unavailable or unrepentant. There is nothing more frustrating than pouring your heart out to someone, in an attempt to show them how they’ve hurt you, only to feel them do nothing more than emotionally block you and make you feel like they can’t be touched on any sort of emotional level. It is nearly impossible to forgive someone when they will take no responsibility for their actions. Acceptance, in this case, is the only option to gain peace for yourself. After all, you cannot forgive someone who refuses to admit wrongdoing. So, your choices are to let it eat you up inside or accept that this is how they chose to behave. Acceptance is a way of letting go of festering anger without necessarily forgiving the offender.
- Acceptance is based on a decision to take control of your pain, make sense of your injury, and carve out a relationship with the offender that works for you. It can be extremely difficult, but it’s necessary to “dig deep” and take control of the pain you’re experiencing. Make as much sense of it as you can, but sometimes there is no sense to be made. It’s necessary to accept the situation as it stands and move on. Many times, we can’t completely cut ties with the person who hurt us. If the ex-couple has children, they will need to deal with each other for the foreseeable future. Instead of being so angry you can’t think straight to do what’s best for the children, figure out how to accept the past ills and limit your future relationship to encompass only the interaction necessary to satisfy you and the needs of your children.
- Acceptance is a way of gaining further understanding and empathy for the offender’s own personal struggles. When you accept someone as he or she is, you remind yourself that although this person did something very hurtful to you, it was not necessarily about you. It was much more likely about them and their own baggage. It helps you to see how they may have subjected you to the same mistreatment they experienced themselves. Sometimes we think we truly know someone but, unfortunately, it’s not until we get deeply involved with them that we learn what’s deep down inside. And, that can be a lot of scarring from other parts of their life that they are now acting out on.
- Acceptance helps you be true to yourself and rid yourself of the anger that poisons your soul and body. Anger and resentment can do terrible things to our minds and bodies. Don’t let someone else’s egregious behavior continue to destroy you. Only you can free yourself of the burden of anger and rage by attempting to understand someone’s harmful actions, accept the past, and move on.
- You can accept without necessarily forgiving. Don’t worry about forgiving, it isn’t necessary. Lessen the burden weighing you down and give yourself permission not to forgive, if it’s just too difficult. Forgiving isn’t necessary. As long as you can accept what’s happened in the past, you can move on with your new life.
Do what you can to accept the past and move forward. Carrying a grudge can only hurt you and hold you back.
By: ERIN KOFFMAN, Attorney & Virginia Supreme Court Certified Mediator