Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, and overcomes negative emotions such as resentment and vengeance.
I was brought up to treat others how you want to be treated. But I have met a few people in my life who did not have the same upbringing nor set of values instilled in them.
I believe that I am quite a patient and a tolerant person when it comes to children learning how to behave, but my tolerance for poor adult behaviour is quite low. Adult treating others badly is a trigger for me. I just don’t have the time nor the energy for people who are unkind, disrespectful, dispassionate or dishonest.
As a direct person, I articulate the poor behaviour from colleagues, friends and family as and when it happens, like I would do with the children I have taught. It needs to be addressed and corrected in the moment, and reflected on at a later stage too. It is then up to me, if it happens again, to decide how to react. At that point I often vote with my feet.
I also expect the same back. If my words are too direct, my tone too harsh, my actions too cold for example I expect those around me to challenge that too. I am generally quite self-aware and will reflect and self-correct, but having trusted people around you to hold up a mirror to reflect back your behaviours is important.
I have ended friendships, relationships and jobs because I have not seen the values displayed that I choose for my life. Living our values means that they should shape our actions and our behaviours. Too many people talk about their values but do not walk their values.
When we wrote our culture for wellbeing policy (behaviour, rewards and sanctions) we chose our language carefully. We communicated that values being personified would be celebrated and values being contravened would be sanctioned. Values being contravened became teachable moments and learning opportunities – they initiated some really good restorative conversations about how our values feed off of each other.
Forgiving and forgetting when we have been crossed or wronged is hard to do. More so, dependent on the scale and impact of the misdemeanour. It has taken be a long time to process some of the hurt caused to me to enable me to forgive others. I am quite good at letting the small stuff go and moving on, it is the big stuff, the deep hurt that is harder to shake off, forgive and forget about.
As an upfront, open and honest person I expect the same from other people around me, especially those who I choose to have in my life. I value trust and loyalty. So lying and withholding the truth is something I find hard to forgive, as is people being disloyal.
“Forgiveness does not excuse their behaviour. Forgiveness prevents their behaviour from destroying your heart”.
But they say that in order to heal and to grow that you need to forgive. That your energy needs to be invested positively rather than held negatively. Forgiving others is a gift to our selves rather than a gift to those who need forgiving.
A trickier one to tackle is the act of forgiving ourselves. We are humans. We are flawed. We have faults and we make mistakes. Once we accept this perhaps it is easier to be kinder to ourselves.
We are going to make mistakes. We will need to be forgiven by people in our lives. But we need to own those mistakes. More importantly we need to apologise for our actions when they upset others, whether it was intentional and conscious, or unintentional and unconscious.
“The first to apologise is the bravest, the first to forgive is the strongest, the first to forget is the happiest”.
Once forgiven, we can forget. In theory. I know I am better at forgiving than I am at forgetting. I hold on to those lingering memories of hurt. They are there as tiny scars, as reminders.
Perhaps this enforced time out is an opportunity for us to reflect on, to process, to unpack and to release some of the things that are weighing us down. Releasing the weight will bring us the peace and the freedom to move on. To step from the darkness into the light, to move on from hate towards love.