Dear Suzie, My husband keeps telling me I need to let it go. And days will go by when I feel that I truly have forgiven. But then something will trigger my anger. He’ll say something or I’ll hear something on TV, and it just brings it all back again. I know I can’t continue like this. My husband and even my kids walk around me on egg shells because at any moment something can set me off. Please help.
Are you willing to question your interpretation of what it means to truly forgive? Here’s why I ask. Many of us (especially those raised in the Christian tradition) are taught forgiveness as a religious principle. It’s important to add the insight that forgiveness is also a practical solution. In other words, embracing forgiveness gives you a lot of psychological and immediate benefits that you might not have thought about.
Once you experience the psychological benefits of forgiveness, no one has to convince you of its powers. Once you have felt the shift, the change, the freedom, it’s a permanent game-changer.
Here’s the challenge:
A lot of what is passed off as forgiveness isn’t actually true forgiveness. In fact, more people fake forgiveness than anything else, because they don’t understand the difference. This lack of insight is why there’s so much discouragement, frustration, and disillusionment surrounding forgiveness.
Today, all that can change for you.
Coming up next… is a quick study guide to help you discern the difference between true forgiveness and false forgiveness (faking it).
So, what is false forgiveness anyway?
False forgiveness is a counterfeit (fake) forgiveness provisionally granted from a place of fear or ego.
Then what is true forgiveness?
True forgiveness is a genuine (emotional and spiritual) release that frees us from the past.
Here are the four key differences between true forgiveness and false forgiveness:
- True forgiveness is permanent. False forgiveness is temporary.
- True forgiveness is unconditional. False forgiveness has conditions.
- True forgiveness lets the past be over. False forgiveness keeps the past alive.
- True forgiveness is inspired by love. False forgiveness is motivated by ego.
Notice… True forgiveness and false forgiveness come from two completely different sources.
True forgiveness is inspired by Love.
Its home is a compassionate heart. False forgiveness, on the other hand, is motivated by fear and ego.
But how can you tell when it’s false forgiveness?
Here are some signs:
- Your painful feelings are buried, but not gone. They have a tendency to come up again.
- You fail to experience any release or sense of peace.
- You still have fantasies of revenge, getting even, and punishing the wrongdoer.
- You feel a kind of superiority or self-righteousness and want some kind of reward for having forgiven.
- You feel like forgiving is a favor you are granting.
- You expect certain terms and conditions to be met before you forgive.
- You forgive because of what you fear losing (your home, lifestyle, 401k, etc.).
- The past still has the power to hurt (no matter how long ago it happened).
Let me give you an example of false forgiveness at work.
Let’s say a wife appears to have forgiven her husband’s indiscretions, but her underlying motive for forgiving him is because she FEARS losing her home, her family, and her lifestyle. While those are all very important considerations, the fact is this: forgiving out of fear (of losing something) is still counterfeit forgiveness. It’s not real; therefore, it doesn’t stick! This isn’t really forgiving… it’s actually suppressing.
You should know that suppressing is the most common form of fake or false forgiveness.
Here’s how suppressing usually plays out:
If forgiveness is motivated from fear and not from Love, rather than releasing the hurt and resentment, what people attempt to do is bury them. But suppressed hurt and resentment are like vampires: they always rise again. Eventually, they will find ways to surface through the cracks of daily life. This is what makes suppressing so dangerous. It gives the illusion that the hurt is over when in fact, it’s simply hidden.
A woman may not understand why she feels so irritable a lot of the time, or why she can’t be happy even when things are going well, or why she’s argumentative, or why sexual intimacy may actually be repulsive or indifferent to her. And although this woman might never make the connection, what she’s experiencing is the price of suppressing versus forgiving.
Here’s another scenario taken from my own work:
Recently, I worked with a celebrity client who discovered her husband had a mistress in another city.
When she got suspicious and called him on it, at first he denied any wrongdoing. But as usually happens, the truth finally came to light, and her husband confessed to his actions. Understandably, she was very upset.
What happened next was interesting and a bit puzzling.
You see, what really bothered her wasn’t the fact that her husband was sleeping with another woman (although I’m not saying she was happy about it). What REALLY bothered her was the thought of what others might think if they were to find out. That’s right! She was more concerned about how it would look if the media and public knew her husband was sleeping around on her, than about the fact that her husband was sleeping around on her.
So, guess what she did?
That’s right. She decided to forgive him. To her, taking him back was better than facing the public humiliation, so she buried the pain under the mantra of “boys will be boys” and TRIED to go on with their life.
But let me ask you this. Do you think the pain really went away? Of course not. Why? Because there’s a HUGE difference between suppressing a painful experience and truly forgiving a mistake. One never works, while the other one always does.
Now let’s go over some more things you should know about suppressing vs. forgiving…
What You Should Know About Suppressing Vs. Forgiving
Often, people think when they’re asked to forgive, it means they’re being asked to find ways to rationalize what happened. But rationalizations and excuses aren’t necessary for true forgiveness. In fact, you only need to rationalize if you plan to suppress, not forgive. And as I’ve pointed out, suppressing is simply a delaying mechanism. It’s only a matter of time until the pain bubbles up again.
And this is exactly what happened to my client.
Her tolerance for pain was high, but like all of us, it wasn’t without limits. She eventually realized that faking forgiveness wasn’t going to work. She realized that healing pain and tolerating pain are two different things.
This brings us to an important discovery.
The act of forgiveness itself is NOT the real miracle. The real miracle is the source that inspires us to forgive.
What is that source?
That source is Love. The real miracle is in loving someone enough to be inspired to forgive. This is often a big “aha!” (It was for my client.)
Before we go any further, I want to call your attention to the word “inspired.”
Notice I said that it’s love that inspires you to forgive. This is a key insight, because true forgiveness can’t be bought, sold, earned, or bargained for. It’s a gift freely given from one heart to another.
So far, we’ve covered false forgiveness (forgiving from fear) and suppressing. Now, let’s look at the Laws of True Forgiveness.
What exactly is True Forgiveness?
I’m so glad you asked. Here’s my definition: True forgiveness is the remedy and the technology that allows the past to be truly over in our hearts and minds. True forgiveness is inspired by Love. Its laws aren’t created by us, but for us. They are created as a way of giving us the power to undo the effects of mistakes in our lives.
The Six Laws of True Forgiveness
- True forgiveness must be inspired. It can never be bought, sold, or bargained for.
- There’s no hierarchy in forgiveness. No mistake is too big or too small to be forgiven away.
- True forgiveness is freely given as a gift of the love that inspires it. Since the source of true forgiveness is True Love, no one has to earn it.
- True forgiveness frees the forgiver AND the forgiven. Both are released from the effects of the mistake.
- True forgiveness is a rational act of self-love. It’s something you do FOR YOU.
- True forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling. (It’s an activity, NOT a theory.)
Now, it’s time to get honest with yourself.
Knowing what you now know about suppressing and faking forgiveness versus being inspired to true forgiveness, which do you think you have been doing?
Here’s a clue:
If the past is still not over for you, then you haven’t truly forgiven.
Forgiveness frees you from the past, while suppressing keeps you chained to it like an elephant, going around in circles.
Some final thoughts…
I believe the desire to truly forgive is the beginning of the journey to true forgiveness. And as important as it is to want to forgive, what’s more important is being willing to forgive.
There’s a big difference between wanting to do something, and being willing to do something. When it comes to true forgiveness, I believe that only Love can inspire that necessary willingness in your heart. Your mission (should you choose to accept it):
Shift your focus to the Love in your heart. Magnify those feelings. Grow them. Fuel them. Feed them. Increase the compassion you feel. Move into gratitude for your partner. You’ll find that inspiration and willingness to forgive come easily to a loving heart.
It will give you the practical steps and daily guidance to ensure that you experience True Forgiveness. This just might offer you the kind of practical, step-by-step guidance to true forgiveness you’re looking for.
I look forward to seeing you in class.
Until we speak again…
Remember… Love Wins!
You might be interested to know… I created an online recovery program for betrayed partners to heal the hurt and find True Forgiveness. Learn More Here