What is Forgiveness and what it’s not?

By Sarah Carter, LCSW

Forgiveness is the key to our freedom. Yet, how do you forgive someone who has intentionally caused trauma? Forgiveness isn’t about excusing or justifying the actions of someone else. Those choices are the responsibility of the individual who chose to cause physical, emotional or spiritual harm. We are responsible for our own healing. If you are healing from being with a narcissist, they may never take responsibility. If your happiness is dependent on someone else’s choices, then you will be trapped and you are keeping yourself from moving forward. I want to clarify this isn’t to minimize the abuse/trauma you experienced.

Your priority is healing above all else. That being said, forgiveness is a process and it isn’t a one time event and we can’t force ourselves to get there. For right now allow yourself to practice giving back to the person the trauma you experienced. Remove the responsibility from yourself and recognize your number one priority is healing. I recently watched Unbroken, a movie about Lous Zamperini’s life. Louie was an Olympic athlete. After a plane crash in the pacific, he survived an almost two-month journey on a raft in the middle of the ocean. When he was found he was nearly dead and was captured by Japanese Soldiers and sent to a prisoner of war camp. He was tortured for over two years by a sadist military personnel who was nicknamed “Bird”. He suffered from severe PTSD which led to an alcohol addiction. One day he decided to make his recovery his number one priority. He shared that forgiveness released the pain he was experiencing and after he forgave his perpetrators and his PTSD symptoms stopped. His story is a story of triumph and he decided that he would not let anyone break his spirit, He was determined to survive and live a life after war.

You have survived. You are worthy of creating a life you may have never imagined possible. Choose to live in the present with a future focused attitude. You don’t have to stay in bondage. Forgiveness is about choosing your recovery and choosing to live your best life.

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