Written by Alexis Romo
Our culture and society seem to have it ingrained in them that we should “forgive and forget” – insinuating that the only path to forgiveness is to forget the wrongdoings against you. How can you forget some of the worst traumas you’ve had? How can you forget the darkest points in your life? Trying to forget such a huge part of your life is most definitely going to result in frustration and guilt. We physiologically can’t control what memories do and don’t stay with us, but we can control which ones we focus on and our reaction towards them. It’s important to know how and when to set mental health boundaries for yourself. Acknowledging, reflecting, and coping are what lead to a successful recovery. Remember, but don’t dwell.
Sometimes the anger gets the best of us – how can it not? But in the long-run, we need to remember that unchecked anger and frustration can lead to more mental conflict. You have the right to feel angry. You were wronged. Your anger is valid and justified, but that doesn’t mean you have to feed into it. Acknowledge, reflect, and cope.
Accepting what happened to us is often seen as though we’re giving up and letting the abuser win, saying that what they did is okay. Acceptance does not mean justification – it means you acknowledge what has happened and understand that you have/had no control over that. Acceptance doesn’t mean reconciliation. We sometimes get it into our heads that because we’ve forgiven and accepted what’s happened, we need to reconcile with our abusers. We absolutely do not. We do not have control over how other people feel, and sometimes it’s hard to remember that. Although we hope and wish that some day our abusers will see their wrongdoings, we can’t control how they feel about their actions.
Oftentimes, we struggle with forgiveness because it’s looked at as an emotional outcome. We don’t always have to feel better about forgiving. In fact, not everyone does. We try to forgive for the sake of closure and mental peace, but sometimes that isn’t the case, and that’s okay. We can control our actions but not our emotions. Let yourself feel. Remember, but don’t dwell.
There is no straight path to forgiveness and recovery. Sometimes we slip up, and that’s okay. But constantly focusing on the fact that we can control our actions and therefore guide our emotions, we may be able to see ourselves and our offenders in a new light.