What I Got Wrong about Forgiveness

Written by Jennifer Griggs

What Happened to Me

Four years ago, I experienced a profound and traumatic betrayal. Although my friends and family were supportive, no one could truly understand what I was going through. I was consumed by rumination, rarely slept, couldn’t eat, and completely forgot how to feel gratitude and joy.

In a moment of extreme vulnerability, I wrote, “I’m broken” on a post in a private Facebook group.

My husband and others in my life wanted so badly for me to move forward, but I couldn’t see a path through this hurt and anger. I was stuck.

So What Changed?

I came to regret that I was spending my life in darkness and, over the next few weeks made a decision to move away from the pain into something new. In addition, I allowed myself to grieve, I gained insights in why I had been in the original position that caused me harm. I realized that the only way to be free was to change myself. I realized that the only way to be free was to forgive.

I came to regret that I was spending my life in darkness and made a decision to move away from the pain into something new.

Here’s What I Got Wrong about Forgiveness

I thought forgiving meant I had to forget what happened.

I thought forgiving would mean that I was saying what they did was okay.

I believed that forgiveness meant I had to go back to unsafe places and people.

I thought forgiveness meant I had to reconcile with them.

I thought someone needed to apologize.

I believed that I was alone in my hurt. I forgot to forgive myself.

I forgot that I myself have been forgiven for hurts I have caused.

I thought I had to give up any quest for justice.

I thought that I had to forgive because I grew up hearing that God has forgiven me.

I thought forgiving would be easy.

I thought forgiving would be hard.

I thought I was just the kind of person who could not forgive. 

Here’s What’s True about Forgiveness

If your hurt is old, buried deep, part of your life story, or if you were traumatized, it is not simple to forgive. My story of betrayal at work was not the only thing I had to forgive…seriously, how can we go through life without getting hurt? Once I learned how the process works, I was able to face old wounds from your past and be free from those stories of suffering that you tell yourself over and over.

There are certainly times when the hurt flares up–at certain times of the year or when I recall what I’ve lost. But I know how it works now, and I’ve seen how it’s changed me…the way I live and the way I lead. If I had not done the work of forgiveness, I believe that the darkness could have, and would have, overcome me. 

If I had not done the work of forgiveness, I believe that the darkness could have, and would have, overcome me. 

Forgiveness is a Healing Emotion

Done thoughtfully, forgiveness has the power to bring peace and freedom. I am now free of the people who hurt me. They do not enter my dreams. They do not frighten me. I am strong. I am able to empathize with others. I am honest about my own shortcomings. I do not hate. I have been changed.

What about you?

Are you suffering from past hurts? How much of the real estate in your brain have you given to the people who’ve hurt you? If your life is a garden, how much of that garden is taken up by the invasive story of resentment and suffering? Are you burdened with regret for things that you have done? What is getting in the way of your forgiving?

It’s impossible to go through life without being hurt, insulted, injured, heartbroken, or crushed. Being hurt is part of the human condition. Even those of us who consider ourselves fortunate suffer the slings and arrows that life throws at us. These can be profound injuries or the daily offenses that, like small paper cuts, accumulate and wear us down.

It is certainly possible to forgive even the worst offenses. And I can attest to the life-changing effects of forgiveness.