Forgiveness is an important step to rebuilding-either yourself or a broken relationship. While this act can bring the forgiver peace of mind and frees them of hurt, anger, and blame, the process can take an incredible amount of effort and time. For many people, it is a constant struggle to let go of past grudges and lingering resentment.
Is there a way out of these negative emotions to move forward? What can you do if forgiving a person who wronged you is proving to be difficult?
I am Dr. Debi Silber and welcome to another insightful episode of A Dose of Dr. Debi.
Today, we will be discussing forgiveness and the importance of understanding your motives for wanting to be more forgiving. We will also tackle what acceptance means and how it can lead to healing when you aren’t ready to forgive.
In This Episode
- Realize the benefits of forgiveness
- Discover the common reasons why we withhold forgiveness
- Understand the difference between forgiveness and acceptance
Hi there, Dr. Debi here and welcome to another Dose of Dr. Debi as part of the From Betrayal to Breakthrough podcast. You know, this has been coming up a lot within The PBT Institute, so I wanted to bring it up because I have a feeling this may serve you.
So often we want to move towards forgiveness. We’ve heard forgiveness is for us, not the other person. We’ve heard we’ll feel so much better when we forgive, and we struggle with it so much. So I’m going to talk about today, the difference between moving towards acceptance versus forgiveness. So if you’re struggling with forgiveness, give yourself a big sigh of relief because maybe acceptance is an easier way to go. So that’s the topic for today.
Just to break down forgiveness, a little bit. Yes, we’ve heard, it’s in our best interest to forgive because it’s true. We release the pain and the power that this has had over us so that’s a that’s a benefit. We struggle with it though because we think if we forgive, are we setting ourselves up for it to happen again? Are we a sucker? Are we a pushover?
Withholding forgiveness also gives us a sense of control. When we’ve been betrayed, when we’ve been lied to, or deceived, life spins out of control. We want to grab on to anything that gives us a feeling like we have the reins like we’re getting some measure of control back into our lives. Withholding forgiveness, believe it or not, can feel like one of the things that we have control over. So, there are so many reasons why we would withhold forgiveness.
Also, let’s face it, our egos are badly bruised and withholding forgiveness, gives us a sense of power, like; “I’ll show you” kind of thing. And that’s just our ego talking and you know it’s been badly bruised and it’s flexing its muscle a bit. But here’s the thing. Yes, forgiveness is all about us. Yes, it releases the power the pain has over us. Yes, it prevents us from spending so much time on the past and harnesses that time, so that we can work towards the future.
That’s the idea. We want to heal and we give ourselves the best possible opportunity. When we forgive, it’s not about them, it’s about us. And the biggest difference I would say is, when it comes to forgiveness, is that’s largely about us. When it comes to reconciliation. that’s largely about the other person. You still don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to. But when it comes to forgiveness, it really doesn’t matter what’s going on on the other end of it, it doesn’t matter if they agree, it doesn’t matter if they apologize, it doesn’t matter if there’s deep regret, remorse, apology, guilt, all of these things. It really doesn’t matter. It’s about us and it’s that release we feel when we do forgive.
It’s interesting. I really thought forgiveness was going to be this one big grand ta-da moment. No, it’s layers and stages and I remember even in my own journeys with both of my betrayals. You forgive then you take it back, you forgive, you take it back, you forgive you take it back. And that was really hard. I was working with my badly bruised ego that whole time. And when we really forgive you truly do feel free. But, if you’re not ready for that, that’s ok.
I see so often where people try to forgive too early and it backfires every time. So check the reasons why you want to forgive. If the reason is because you just want this over with, you just want to put it behind you, but you haven’t really processed it, it’s going to backfire. I remember reading one study, when I was doing the study on betrayal and in the study they said; “If you feel safe and valued and you forgive, you feel better. If you do not feel safe and valued and you forgive you feel worse.”
So take a look at your own situation. Are you forgiving just to get it over with? Just to put it behind you? Just because it’s too chaotic if you’re not going along with everything? Take a look at your intentions. Why you want to forgive? Because I’ll tell you there were three groups in the study who did not heal, and the group where the betrayer had very little consequences, whether it was out of financial fear, religious reasons (that was a big one), not wanting to break up a family, fear of change, fear of the unknown, whatever it was, they just tried to put it behind them. I only saw two things with this one group. Number one, a further deterioration of the relationship. And two, this group by far was the most physically sick. Your broken heart can’t handle that. So be aware of the reason why you’re choosing to forgive.
But here’s what I want to offer. If forgiveness feels too challenging right now for where you are. An alternative is acceptance. With acceptance, again, that’s just for you, but what that does is it gets you out of this lock, out of this holding pattern. With acceptance, it’s one of the biggest needle movers moving you forward. As you know I talk about the Five Stages from Betrayal to Breakthrough. And when we are in Stage Three, which is the most common place to get stuck, most people land there and stay there. One of the greatest ways to move yourself forward, even just a little bit, is acceptance. It’s one of the classic things that I saw when people would move from Stage Three to Stage Four. Because they were accepting their scenario. This was where they said; “I can’t undo my betrayal, but I can control what I do with it.” And here’s where that acknowledgement, that acceptance, moved them forward. It’s the Stage Three people, the ones who are stuck in Stage Three, they were like; “Nope, I am not accepting this. I have my story and I’m sticking with it.” You’ve heard me talk about this and if you want me to talk more about stage three, let me know.
This is the stage, we don’t even realize it, we wind up getting stuck in and transformation doesn’t even happen until Stages Four and Stage When we want to move out of that perpetual holding pattern, we need to accept where we are. And that’s actually what Stage Four is. Finding and Accepting a New Normal. Here’s where you acknowledge, I cannot undo my experience, but I can control what I do with it.
I see this so often now in this whole time period that we’re going through, with COVID and everything else. There are some people that (and I’m not minimizing COVID at all. I had it. I’ve lost people I’ve loved. I am not minimizing it at all.) What I’m saying here though is, there are some people who look at this time period, and they say; “Oh my gosh the COVID 15! I gained all this weight.” “I haven’t been social, I haven’t been able to get out of my house, it’s the worst thing ever.” Then there are the other people who accept it. This is what is so what can I do with it? So some people are like; You know what, I finally had the time to clean out my house, you know, all those closets I’ve been neglecting.” “I finally have a chance to be on Zoom, FaceTime, connect on the phone, I can be more social than ever!” “I don’t even have the travel time, I can go from one call to the next.” “I only have to iron or steam the front of my shirts!” “I could be closer to my family, I could spend more quality time.”
Those are the people that are accepting. Those are the people that are moving forward, where the other people are just kicking and screaming and staying stuck. You know it reminds me? Think about the strength of a tree. If it’s rigid and unbending, it’ll break. The real strength is when there’s a little bit of flexibility, there’s a little bit of acceptance, of movement. It’s the tree that’s flexible, it’s the tree that bends, that’s the one that withstands all the storms. It’s the one that is so rigid and unbending, that’s the one that breaks. So if you find forgiveness is way too big of a stretch for you right now, and I get it. I appreciate it. I understand exactly where you are. You have every right to stay stuck, you have your story. You’ve been wronged, you’ve been duped, you’ve been lied to, you’ve been betrayed, I get it. I’ve been there.
Forgiveness has nothing in the world to do with that other person. It has everything to do with making you feel better. Forgiveness makes you feel better. If you’re not ready for it, what I would love you to, to consider his acceptance, where it’s a step closer. And it’s just a step closer to your freedom, where you’re realizing I cannot undo this experience, but I control what I do with it.
So I hope that helps and check in with me next time, I’m going to give you all kinds of tips, tools strategies to move past this. Now, if you like the show, subscribe, rate and review so you don’t miss an episode! Share it with your friends, anybody who could benefit. And if you’d like to try a chapter of Trust Again: Overcoming Betrayal and Regaining Health, Confidence and Happiness, You can find you can sample a chapter here. If you want to get the whole book, don’t just get it from Amazon, get it from this special link because this way you can get the book plus a lot of bonuses. Thanks so much, I’ll see you next time. Bye.