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Is There A Right Time To Forgive?

Cristina Bernhardsen | Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Cristina Bernhardsen | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Sometimes we have to accept that everything in life is not supposed to happen as quickly as taking a Selfie and instantly posting it to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, or better yet, doing a Google Search on “finding easy ways to forgive.”  Just ask anyone still reeling from some type of betrayal; forgiveness can often be much more complicated.

Nonetheless, in a recent Huffington Post article on eight reasons forgiveness is good for your health, the author clearly outlined the spiritual, mental and relational reasons that forgiveness is good for overall wellbeing.  And I must admit, the reality is, the very act of forgiveness IS a good thing because it really is about YOU and not the other person.  Why?  Because it allows for forward movement in one’s life rather than being stuck in a place and time of pain and hurt.

Forgiving can hurt, too

But the problem often with articles on forgiveness is that it appears that the act should occur immediately suggesting that it’s not okay to feel the sting of betrayal or anger from a wrong.  Unless we are talking about some minor trivial infractions, the real truth is the severity of the situation can often dictate the forgiveness factor, and it can just take time, and that IS okay. After all, truly forgiving someone is a psychological and emotional process that is, described by the American Psychological Association, voluntary or intentional, and involves working through emotions such as feelings of betrayal, anger, sadness, hurt, pain, and just simply grieving. To suggest otherwise is challenging a person’s right to experience their own emotional complexities and denying their personal rite of passage into the dark side of real life human nature.

So just when is the right time?

There is no “right” time; no one wants to be or stay mad, angry or hurt. But the best time may be when the individual has the willingness to work through the process.  A lot of forgiveness deals with holding on to the actual act of feeling wronged and not wanting to give a pass to the person.  Ask any psychologist or therapist and they can share how painstakingly prevalent this belief system exists within one’s psyche. However, another Huffington Post author makes an argument against forgiveness and suggests saving it for those who have earned your forgiveness. And that could work, too, if emotionally not forgiving someone doesn’t keep you stuck.  We are all different so there is no magical one size fits all approach through life’s interesting journeys.

How About self-forgiveness instead?

© Yuryz | Dreamstime.com - Forgive Yourself Photo

© Yuryz | Dreamstime.com – Forgive Yourself Photo

However, if a person is really struggling with the when, why, where and how of forgiveness, maybe, just maybe, instead of the focus being on forgiving the other person, try forgiving yourself.  In a 2005 research study by Hall and Fincham, the authors describe aspects of self-forgiveness in a social science context as a show of self-love and respect, and from a psychological perspective as a set of motivational changes to decreasingly avoid feelings toward the offense and retaliate against self, while instead acting benevolently towards self).   Now, major aspects of this study suggest that self-forgiveness is cloaked in a self-perpetuated wrong-doing, but this is not always the case when someone feels legitimately wronged.

Even when you didn’t deserve the wrong treatment, forgive yourself for being blindsided by the other person’s behavior.  While it never feels good, “ish” just happens sometimes to us. When you forgive yourself, you own your emotions and decisions, and that allows you to determine when and how you move on from that moment in time.  Self forgiveness is also cathartic and self empowering because it shows courage and strength of one’s character, as quote-Mahatma-Gandhi-the-weak-can-never-forgive-forgiveness-is-337Mahatma Ghandi eloquently quoted when he said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.”

As in any process, self forgiveness will take time, too. But allow yourself that time because as you forgive yourself you also derive equal healthy benefits that enrich your life’s emotional and physical well-being as in forgiving someone else, only without the guilt and resentment of giving someone else a free pass.  You will feel better about yourself, your decision making, and gain the confidence needed to stay in the moment for making the choices that best define your life experiences. And that, my dear, is always the right time.