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Forgiveness isn't about repairing relationships
"I'm sorry," are words typically used between people to bridge hurt feelings and misunderstandings. Accepting that sort of apology is one step in smoothing out an argument and moving forward in a friendship or romantic relationship. Forgiveness is about more than repairing relationships, though. Consider forgiving a simple act that will help you as well as the person being forgiven.
What forgiveness can do for you
Amanda Cherian, LLC works as a therapist in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Her specialty is working with individuals, couples and families who seek to improve their relationship and communication skills. Cherian says, "Forgiveness is letting go. It's a process of releasing the blame and shame associated with being hurt. When you forgive others you really forgive yourself."
Thinking about forgiveness as something you can do for yourself and not just as something you can do for someone else is empowering for individuals. A simple "I'm sorry" for small hurts can be given freely and without much thought, but accepting the words for larger hurts and betrayals can be much harder — especially if the apology is never articulated.
Forgiveness without an apology
It seems counter-intuitive to talk about forgiveness without an apology. An apology seems like the beginning of the process, but depending on the apology, it gives the person who hurt you power over your own emotions. Feeling hurt or betrayed casts a shadow over other relationships and other aspects of your life — and waiting for someone else means you don't have the power to move forward unless they give it to you. Forgiving someone doesn't have to involve them feeling remorse for what they did. You can forgive and let go of that hurt — even if the relationship itself isn't healed.
A personal story about forgiveness
Alison, a writer who blogs at Writing, Wishing shares a story about how forgiveness helped her find closure after being hurt. She says, "A few years ago, a friend I considered almost like a sister, betrayed my confidence. I was mostly hurt that she did not feel the need to apologize, and made it all about her. The hurt consumed me for weeks. It made me unhappy. I realized then that I needed to forgive and forget — for myself. Anger and bitterness hurt me, not her. Life is too short to be consumed by something that isn't passion or love. So I forgave her. We still talk, we're still friends, but it's not the same."
The bottom line
National Forgiveness Day provides the chance to reflect on some of the negative feelings you're harboring toward someone who's hurt you. This year, consider letting go of that hurt and freeing that space in your life for positive emotions and your healthy relationships. And if you've been feeling shame about a broken friendship, it can't hurt to reach out and say you're sorry.