The Importance of Forgiveness
Why Forgiveness Is A Big Deal In Therapy
If someone has really hurt us it can take a long time to forgive them. Sometimes the forgiveness is elusive or seems out of the question. The road to forgiveness is unique to each individual and cannot be forced. However, it is helpful to know that the benefit of forgiveness belongs to the forgiver. It is a form of letting go which is essential for moving forward.
When people hold on to feelings of anger, fear, and grief tied to someone(s) in the past, it keeps their own energy stuck back there, focused on a painful experience. In doing this, we are "giving our power (energy) away" to a past hurt in hopes of getting justice, or resolution. While wanting hot, loose ends from the past tied up is a normal human reaction, it does not always serve us well in the long-run.
Tom’s father was verbally abusive to Tom throughout his growing up years. The father called Tom "stupid" and "worthless" in one hundred different ways. Tom reached adulthood with his self-esteem in the gutter and a habit of losing his temper over mole hills. At the age of 34, Tom decided to try therapy.
Tom’s counselor, Renee, validated Tom’s reaction to the abuse and his anger toward his father. Tom’s father was now housebound resulting from two severe heart attacks. He was on oxygen continually and had a poor prognosis. His father was taken care of by Tom’s mother (whose part in Tom’s problems we will not complicate this story with). Tom realized that going home to verbally beat up his father would change nothing, and his father refused to talk to his son about the past.
Tom wanted to move forward with his life. He wanted better relationships with people and to be more promotable at work. However, as long as his emotions were invested in the past, and the hope of recompense, Tom could not effectively learn better ways of managing anger.
It took Tom months to let go of demanding resolution that was never going to happen. He was finally able to do it when he realized holding onto the past meant his father still had the upper hand. He did not forget what happened but forgave for his own sake. Tom no longer wanted his life driven by bad memories.
Tom’s story illustrates why forgiveness is a big deal in therapy, and out. Though it doesn’t seem fair that the victim of a hurt should be the one to let go, it is sometimes the only way to heal.