“A lot of times people confuse forgiveness with trust. The fact that I forgive you does not mean I trust you.” – Bishop T.D. Jakes

 

My Philosophy on Forgiveness

I always viewed forgiveness as a very limited and narrow process. In theory, I’d give each person I met a “forgiveness allotment” which, depending on the nature of the relationship, would abide by the three strikes law. If someone betrayed me more than 3 times, they got cut off; plain and simple. Occasionally I’d cut someone off before their 3rd strike, but more times than not, I’d give an individual 3 times to mess up, before I withdrew from the relationship.In my mind, it made sense and when I betrayed someone, I expected the same thing. I thought my method kept me safe. However, a few months ago, I was challenged to revisit my philosophy on forgiveness.

Forgiving Over and Over Again

One relationship that continues to test my ability to forgive is the relationship that I have with my mom. My mom has been in and out of jail since I was 8 years old. A few years ago, she was sentenced to 4 years in prison, which was the longest amount of time that she’s ever done. For the majority of my undergraduate career and some of the most important years of my younger sibling’s life, my mom was locked up. I figured that after this 4 year stint, my mom would get her act together and tap into her potential! I just knew that she would change after being away from us for so long.

Unfortunately, less than a year after she was released, my mom was back in the same predicament. She was arrested for the same crime that put her away 4 years prior. Words can’t even describe how I felt. All I know is, I found myself on the familiar road to forgiveness that I thought was over. I felt that I had given all that I was capable of giving without losing myself. I DID NOT want to forgive anymore. I was tired. It was unfair. I was hurt. I was angry. I was confused. I couldn’t fathom how someone could continue to make decisions that would take them away from their family. Yes, we all make mistakes and I’m guilty of doing wrong to others, but nevertheless I just couldn’t get past this one.

 

It’s Time to Move On

After sharing my story with a few supportive friends, I was challenged to forgive. I knew that I needed to, but I really didn’t know how. The situation hurt me to the core. I mean the kind of hurt where you see other mothers and daughters and don’t envy them, but just wish that your mother-daughter relationship was better. The kind of hurt where you love someone so much but you don’t know how to move past their actions, without hurting yourself. It was the kind of hurt that made you tear up in public at the thought of the mundane. It was the kind of hurt that NEEDED me to forgive.

 Below are 4 realizations that really assisted me (and continue to do so) with the never ending process of forgiveness

 

1. Be Empathetic- Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. In this case, it’d be the person who hurt you or offended you.  Hear me out on this one before you start SYH (Shaking Your Head.) 🙂 Learn about their life, inquire about what has caused them to act the way that they act, think about what that person has been through. Whether you’ve been abused, misused, cheated on or disrespected. Seeing things from the other person’s point of view, may be very difficult because you are taking the attention off of yourself and viewing the situation from a different perspective. This step is challenging but also very, very important. I must admit, viewing the situation from an empathetic point of view is going to require you to be a Big Girl. It’s no joke, but it is worth it.

After talking to my mom and grandmother I learned that my mom has been through so many painful events in her life that I don’t even think I’d be able to survive. She never really had an outlet to express or discuss these events and in addition, she struggles with Bi-polar disorder. Now let me tell you, being empathetic is not a way to justify anyone’s behavior. Yes, the person who hurt you was wrong and you did not deserve to be hurt. Your feelings are valid and you are entitled to them. Being empathetic allows you to be more understanding. It gives you more compassion and insight. Once I learned more about my mom’s past, it gave me clarity as to why she made some of the bad decisions that she made.

 

“Forgiveness is like accounting, you have to balance the books. You have to come to a conclusion about your life or you’ll be miserable all your life. In the process of balancing the books you have to get an understanding not only of your situation, but you also have to understand that this person could not give you what they didn’t have. Just because you wanted it, doesn’t mean  they had it in the warehouse of their personality to complete the inventory of your need.”

-Paraphrased quote by T.D. Jakes

 

2. Take Off the Victim Badge- Often times when someone does us wrong, it hurts us to the core. Some of us walk around with a chip on our shoulder or with a badge of victimization. Wearing a victim badge is like walking around flaunting our heartache and using it as an excuse. When wearing this “badge” the thought process may sound like: “I was abused when I was younger so the world owes me something” or “This one guy hurt me so now I’m going to treat the rest of these guys like sh*t” or “I was teased and everyone said I was dumb so I guess I’ll just drop out because I don’t have any other choice.” Sometimes we demand respect from people who had nothing to do with the hurt and pain that we feel. But it’s not fair because we’re setting ourselves up for failure. No matter what we’ve been through, the world doesn’t owe us anything and neither does anyone else. We owe it to ourselves to let go of the victim mentality.

The first step I took in taking off my victim badge was acknowledgement. “Yes I was abused.” “Yes I was hurt.” “Yes, I was left alone.” “Yes, the experiences that I had, were painful and they made me bitter.” The feelings and emotions are all valid. It’s important to realize that you were betrayed. Someone did take advantage of you or hurt you and it wasn’t right, but in order for you to overcome, you must vow to be a victor and not a victim. You cannot let your circumstances define how far you go in life. As painful as it may be, you can’t let that define your attitude toward life or other innocent bystanders. If you want to overcome, you must have a victorious attitude and it all starts in the mind. Saying things like” I will be ok” or ” I am an overcomer” and “I will keep pressing!” Are statements that will help with your victorious mentality.

 

3. Refocus Your Energy- There are times when I look back over my life and all that I’ve experienced and I become angry. I regret not being given certain opportunities. I regret some of the decisions that I made and quite frankly, I’m tempted to take my anger out on others. Over the years, I’ve learned to refocus that negative energy and instead of taking that anger out on others, I’ve learned to view failure, negativity and anything that isn’t good for me, as my enemy. This perspective prevents me from proactively using the energy to fight against another person or someone who’s done harm to me.  

When bad things happen, when someone does me wrong, when a door is slammed in my face, I fight against failure, the negative emotions and the resentment that I have, as if it were a person who’s trying to hold me back. In situations like this, I try to keep the focus on me. I think to myself, “This person did me wrong but what must I do to continue on the path to success.” It’s easier said than done but it has really helped me to overcome.

 

4. Remember that You’re Forgiving for Yourself- I always looked at forgiveness as “letting the other person off the hook” but in reality, we forgive for ourselves. If you want a better life for yourself, it’s important to forgive. No one wants to walk around with bitterness or a victim complex. Another humble reminder is that there are times when we need to be forgiven, so it’s only right that we forgive others. 

These steps may sound simple but it’s a process. There may be some tears. It will take time. But, forgiveness is a necessary process. Also, for the best results, use these tips when you are not emotionally charged. When I first found out that my mom got locked up again, I was not in a space to use these steps. I was too angry, too upset and ultimately too emotionally unstable to consider forgiving right off the bat. I knew that I needed to forgive my mom but I just wasn’t ready. I was not willing to walk through this process so I had to give myself a window of time to vent, be angry, cry and get all of my negative and natural emotions out. Once my emotions died down, I revisited these steps because I knew that this was the only way that I could live a healthy and happy life. 

 

Share Your Wisdom. Join the Conversation!

Have you struggled with un-forgiveness? Do you have any advice for someone who’s trying to walk through the forgiveness process? What step is the easiest and which is the toughest? Please share!

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  • Terri

    Thank you Nika! I appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment. Lord knows there are many obstacles on that road to forgiveness. Whew!

  • Great post! I like how you outline not only the benefits of forgiveness but also how to overcome some of the obstacles on the path to forgiveness!

  • Terri

    Thank you Erika! You definitely have a unique situation. I’m grateful that my mom has taken responsibility, it helps with the process. There were times when she was prideful and apathetic which made matters worse. I wish you and mom the best! You’ve already come a long way in regards to that relationship. I know that you’ll be able to forgive one day 🙂 xoxo

  • Erika Collins

    I LOVE THIS TERR!! I am happy to see you doing so well despite the circumstances. For me, ive never forgiven my mother completely. I’ve just learned to move on and act as if nothing has ever happened & that works for us. Everything has just been brushed under a rug (by her) and the only way for us to have a working relationship is to act as if the past never existed. I happy you and mom and able to openly address issues and concerns and grow together from there. Luv u and mom soooooo much!!!