In this blog, which I have divided into two parts, I wished to share a few reflections around the theme of forgiveness in relationships. Many of us have experienced moments in our lives where we were wronged by others, such as moments where persons close to us did not honor their commitments, friends betrayed our trust when sharing our secrets with others, or maybe siblings shifted the responsibility of their mistake onto us and we ended up taking the blame for their actions, and the list goes on.
For many, the deeper and closer the relationship we have with the other person, the more shocking and painful the experience of the wrong-doing is. This is possibly because we would have invested a great deal of trust and commitment in that relationship, maybe to the point where we would have allowed ourselves to be vulnerable in the relationship with the other person. This could also be because we may have never expected to be hurt by a person who we feel so close to and trust, and now that we have been hurt by them, we may have realized that this person is not as perfect as we imagined them to be.
As different people, such wrong-doings impact us in different ways, and we also deal or cope with these injuries in different ways. Depending on how we experience the nature of the wrong-doing or injury, we can conclude that the action was unforgivable and the relationship cannot be reconciled. Karl Tomm (2002) explains that when we are wronged, betrayed or hurt, we might experience a diminished sense of worth; where, for instance, we may find ourselves questioning whether we deserve this pain, or if maybe this experience happened to us because we were not good enough. This diminished sense of worth and bitterness towards the person that caused the pain, can leave some with an urge to cause pain to those who hurt them and vindicate themselves in order to, in turn, diminish the sense of worth of the other. This however, does not help build back the injured person’s sense of worth and thus very rarely leaves the person feeling good about themselves.
Of course, many do not choose to act on urges to cause pain to those who hurt them; and instead may consider forgiveness and/or reconciliation. Forgiveness can be defined as a way for the injured person to heal from the bitterness that resulted from the hurtful action, and thus, to let go of the urge to vindicate oneself. In other words, forgiveness can be the process of letting go of a grudge. Easier said than done maybe. The second part of my blog will focus on the process of forgiveness.
Rebecca Cassar is a Family Therapist practicing the Systemic Approach. She specializes in offering therapy to families, couples and individuals who are experiencing distress in their relationships.