I have been exploring the emotional, spiritual, and academic understandings of forgiveness for quite a few years. I’m also an incest survivor and have my own personal understanding of this masterful skill. I do believe forgiveness is a skill to master.
Your experience of forgiveness is as unique as your fingerprint. However, there are some themes and layers that we all go through as humans.
The process involves moving through shock, anger, grief, acceptance, and peace. This process is non-linear, meaning you can feel anger one day, the next day peace, then the next day back to shock again. This is normal!
The key, I’ve found, is to feel the feelings, and ride the waves.
Just before COVID, my mom, dad, and sister all died in a short period of time from three different types of cancer. Sitting still and feeling the feelings of loss, required exploring forgiveness. Such as … forgiving God for allowing this to happen, forgiving those around me that couldn’t understand the level and depth of my pain, forgiving myself for being the only one in my family to survive (survivor’s guilt). The list goes on.
When you ride the emotional waves toward forgiveness, you change. You’re different. You start to see things differently, you have new perspectives, you grow your ability to be empathic. And ultimately I believe, forgiveness is about shifting your heart.
With that said, I know that I’ve moved through and have forgiven when I have access to a strong sense of peace.
Feeling peaceful about my family deaths, feeling peace around my childhood experience and past abuse.
Does it always feel peaceful? No, not at all. But the thing is when you start the process of forgiving, you experience longer bouts of feeling peaceful.
A year ago I would say I was 20% peaceful. Today? I’m about 85%. (If you can even measure emotions.♥♥♥)
Bottom line? Forgiveness is a process and a skill. There is no such thing as forgive and forget. When you forgive, it doesn’t mean that what the offender did was okay. Not even close.
I also highly recommend the support of counseling for high-level betrayals (such as incest). You don’t have to do forgiveness alone.
For whatever it is you are personally facing, one quick tip is to practice forgiving yourself for not feeling forgiving. That one little thing will get your process in motion, unpack some of the stuck feelings, allowing access to feeling more peace.
I wish you soothing kindness as you move through your healing.