According to the Greater Good Magazine, "Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness." This explanation pretty much sums up the action of forgiving but it doesn't really tackle the after-effects. What do you do after you've released those pent-up emotions? Is it healthy to remain in contact with the person you've forgiven or to let them back in your life after they might have been cut off? The amount of stress that goes into what happens after forgiveness while still trying to "be a good person" is mind-boggling. So here's what we've learned about the forgiveness process. 1) What happens after forgiveness looks different for everybody. Some of us have a higher tolerance for dealing with people that don't care about corrective behavior. It may be easy to stay connected after you've forgiven their "faults" and life can go on as normal. For others, it may not be so simple.
Deciding if you can deal with someone or something that continually causes the same outcome or need for forgiveness without the willingness to change is key. Once you make that decision for yourself, this will inform how you proceed with navigating relationships.
2) Willingness to change can influence your decision to let people in or let people go.
If you're someone who values growth, and it's clear that an individual isn't planning to change for the better or work towards change for the better...more than likely that somebody (or something) should be dropped. This doesn't mean you haven't forgiven them, but it does mean that you won't allow yourself to always be in a space where the same negative actions keep happening.
Removing yourself from the relationship allows deeper healing and creates boundaries where you won't be left feeling used and abused. While cases vary and may warrant your decision to stay connected to someone (or something), know that dropping a relationship doesn't make you a bad person, it makes you a healthy one.
3) When you forgive...you HAVE to mean it.
You can't renege on your forgiveness. If you forgive, everything that happened previous to your forgiveness is in the PAST. You can't dig that past up whenever you feel insecure about something. You can't throw things back in people's faces. Though the past may inform some of your actions, it shouldn't inform all of them because true forgiveness is working with a clean slate. Sometimes we want something so badly we go back to it prematurely. However, once we've forgiven...meaning it matters! So, if you find yourself building resentment, getting anxious, or unable to stomach things while people work through their mess...you probably need to re-evaluate the level to which you've forgiven.
4) It takes a while to be strong enough to accept the things that cannot or won't be changed. Some people or aspects of life can change for the better, so you can easily allow space for continued relationships. On the flip side, healing from past pain and trauma can take a while. If you choose to distance yourself from the things that you know won't change during this process, it will take time before you can allow grace for those that needed forgiving. Once you get past the fact that they are either struggling or refuse to grow as a person, your ability to handle interactions with them heightens. You can look at a situation totally unbiased and remove yourself from the equation to accept things just as they are.
Getting to this place requires A LOT of growth, so be prepared to trudge it out in the wilderness.
5) Forgiveness never has the expectation of an outcome. Don't forgive expecting something in return. This makes forgiveness conditional and defeats the purpose of letting go. True healing comes from your personal release because at the end of the day, holding on does nothing but add more hurt to your pain.
6) Forgiveness doesn't have an ego.
As humans, it's natural to want to hold on to our pain, but when we say we've forgiven someone (including ourselves) it only happens because we drop our ego. You can't mend a relationship or heal the way you need to while "staying on a high horse."The beauty of this is that with true forgiveness, time can heal so many wounds (for you and for the other person). While you enter a better mental space, that person you've forgiven also has room to grow...and if they did...chances are (if a rekindling is in the works), the newly formed relationship can be better than expected.
With the trials of life, forgiveness isn't easy. If you're struggling with letting go, know that you're not alone. For us, it's a two-way street -- first forgiving yourself and then forgiving others. We hope that with these 6 truths they help add clarity to your emotions as you work toward forgiving unconditionally.
And, when you finally let go, you can live and love so much more grace-filled and tolerant... you can change the world.