By DR. FRED HALL, LPC
QUESTION: I thought I had forgiven a friend who hurt me, but I’m still upset when I’m around him. How do I know if I’ve truly forgiven him?
ANSWER: What a great question, reader, and one many of us have asked time and time again. It is just as relevant now as it has been for years. Let me start by saying forgiveness is not a feeling, it is an act. Forgiveness is at the volitional level. Forgiveness is something that is a part of my will — that I intend to do. I can choose to forgive, or I can choose not to forgive — it is my decision.
Forgiveness is not forgetting what has happened to you, nor making excuses for the person who hurt or offended you. It might still hurt, and the egregious wrong done to you might still be factual; those things do not change. Forgiveness does not require that you feel compassionate or sympathetic toward the person who hurt you. Forgiveness is the act of letting go of a debt owed to you by that person.
Proverbs 19:11 says, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” Simply put, forgiveness is about you, not them. It includes them or is directed toward them, but the freedom forgiveness brings is for you. Failure to forgive is like you drinking a cup of poison and expecting it to hurt the person who injured you. That doesn’t happen. Forgiveness releases the person from the payment, but more importantly, it releases you from the emotional and psychological loop of overwhelm, despair and negativity.
Lastly, forgiveness does not mean you have to trust that person in that area again. If they violated you, they violated you. Don’t make excuses for them. Set up your boundaries, hold your boundaries tight, get the healing you need for yourself, and move on. Healing is for you. Forgiveness is the door to get you there. They might never apologize or acknowledge what they did, but once you have received your own healing and strength in that area, you no longer need that apology. You are no longer handcuffed to them or that situation. Enjoy your new freedom.
Dr. Fred Hall is a licensed professional counselor (LPC), supervisor, life and leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, couples, families and organizations in training, speaking, consulting and clinical practice. He does clinical work at Cornerstone Counseling in Jackson