What is Forgiveness? In what circumstances do we feel the necessity to forgive one another? According to the Christian ethics, forgiveness is a kind of act of humility and inward cleansing, not just a specific phenomenon, but something concerning everything around us. But in the context of our everyday life, very often what we feel offended by are the words we hear from the opposite side, which describe something we do not want to identify with because we consider it to be “bad” and unacceptable. In other cases, we might get hurt not only by words but also by actions that have made us feel humiliated and without any sense of dignity. In short, we forgive for the insult or the pain that we feel when someone hurts us with words or physical actions.
If there is something that could make the experience even more painful, it is to get hurt by a person we have already trusted and have let enter into our intimate world. Whether it is family or a friend, our closest people know best our weaknesses, fears and wounds, and when a person is so vulnerable with someone, it means that they believe they would not get hurt by them. And what are the human relationships without trust? A suppressive interpersonal exchange between a dominating and a dominated person, where there is no equality and mutual respect, and where fear reigns instead. In such relationships, the dominant person is afraid that they will lose control over things, over the other, and above all, unconsciously, over themselves. Deep down in their soul such a person experiences the fear of falling apart and of losing their own personality in the attempts to interact with the outside world and people. This is why they prefer to control them all. In the end, this individual needs to find the strength to begin to “control” their own selves, or more precisely, build up self-esteem and self-value necessary to cope with their deeply rooted sense of inadequacy, weakness and guilt.
However, when we talk about a relationship of comparative equality and mutual trust, an offense could hurt more, the deeper one has let the other person in their inner world. So, it becomes a non-healing wound that causes infection and makes their whole body and soul shake off from the inflammation it has caused. If we regard human relationships as a channel where energy flows between two people, an offense could be symbolized as a knot that prevents energy flow freely in both directions. Sometimes it may be a little knot that pulls the energy from both individuals no matter how much they try to pretend it does not exist. More often than not, this knot is transformed, in spite of the seemingly good intentions of the two affected sides, into a node of negative energy – a peculiar black hole that absorbs every attempt of tenderness, trust and love. And this goes on until both people get tired of trying to bring positive energy into their relationship, while it is constantly approaching its end, turning into bitterness and misunderstanding between one another.
Forgiveness cannot work as a healing agent in a given relationship until the offended one accepts it. In other words, one should accept the temporary weakness of the person who offended them, and decide to move forward realizing that this person is more important than the pain they feel. It is human, oh so human, to be wrong and to hurt another human being when feeling most unstable and weak. But why is it so difficult for us to forgive and to ask for forgiveness? One of the reasons behind one’s reluctance to forgive stems from their unwillingness to make the other one feel better from this noble gift. The denial of giving or accepting forgiveness is some form of punishment for the opposite side, a kind of an act of controlling the situation that comes as a compensation for losing control over the initial situation where we got hurt.
On the other hand, we may have been hurt and humiliated too much and for far too long, or perhaps we may feel that the other person can no longer give us anything good, and above all we may probably feel we cannot really trust them anymore. The truth is that, in order to do that, we need to forgive ourselves first. Forgive ourselves for the fact that we have let someone come too close, forgive ourselves for allowing this person to hurt us with their words and actions, for not having set healthy boundaries. But above all, we need to forgive ourselves for not knowing well enough our own wounds and fears which are only waiting to be “touched” by someone in order to hurt and make us feel like helpless children. And the more we close our eyes that these “weaknesses” do not exist, the more painful we feel when someone activates them through insult.
Let us imagine that we are absolutely alone in the middle of the night, in a dark and dense forest. Our eyes are wide open in the obscure darkness, we could only hear the swinging branches of the trees and feel the wind caressing our skin, giving us goose bumps from the chill. What would we think or be afraid of the most? It may be the thought of an approaching beast that would tear us apart or the terrible feeling of being absolutely alone, unprotected and abandoned to our own fate? Regardless of the situation, the emergence of such strong and extreme emotions in relation to the possible future outcome, is nothing other than a projection of both our fears and our dreams. The truth is that the thoughts and fears which paralyze us come from our fantasy and our own unconscious psyche, and the less we are aware of that part of ourselves, the more fearful they would seem to us. There is nothing more fearful and frightening than what is inside us, deep in the obscure darkness of the most hidden parts of our own psyche, what Jung calls our shadow. It is there that everything could be found – the worst and the best of us. All this is only waiting to be illuminated by the light of our consciousness, to be given the chance to become an integral part of our whole personality.
It is extremely difficult for a person to accept their own psychic shadow, because the very thought that they have sides that they do not approve and despise terrifies them. And the greater this unfamiliar and rejected part is, the harder it would be to give and accept someone’s forgiveness, in case it is really made consciously and with all their heart. One cannot erase the memory from an offense, but the true power of forgiveness is that it could change the future that would have been without it…