I have observed that many, if not most, people really do not understand what forgiveness means or how to sustain and maintain it. Furthermore, people who have grown up in religious homes have the most difficult time as compared to some with little to no religious or spiritual understanding. Now, this is not absolute. There are always exceptions, as I also know people with no spiritual understanding struggle with forgiveness as well.
I am perhaps one of the greatest offenders of not understanding what forgiveness really means. I have been in recovery for almost 14 years, and I have worked with thousands of people of all ages, races, gender and religious backgrounds. Many have made the same mistake I have made by believing that forgiveness occurs when I “forgive you in your wrongness, in my rightness.” It is a stance of being “better than you,” because you do not know any better in your poor ignorance about how you have hurt me.
This is not forgiveness. This is pride and arrogance. It is a person with a heart that is offended, angry and bitter.
This type of forgiveness is out of “having to” not because I “want to.” It is much like forcing two little children to make up and forgive each other. I am not sure where we get this kind of understanding of forgiveness. It may be from our childhood, family system, religious background or all the above.
Most faith practices teach the importance of forgiveness. Regardless of your spiritual or religious background, forgiveness is a key part of setting you and others free from the chains of bitterness and resentment.
It was not until about 8 years into my recovery that I began to better understand a deeper meaning of forgiveness. I have learned that true, deep forgiveness occurs when I cease and stop accusing, blaming and criticizing those who I believe have hurt me. Only when I get to the place of “letting it go,” fully letting it go and not picking it back up again is true forgiveness found.
How simple is that? Just let it go. Perhaps Elsa in the Disney movie Frozen had it right.
I have noticed in my life that once I truly forgive by letting real and imagined offenses go, I begin to regain my freedom and sanity back. Anger, bitterness and resentment go away. I am a more pleasant, and kind-loving person. I am a better husband, father, friend, and person as a whole.
Forgiveness is one of the most spiritual and powerful principles there is, because it requires loving yourself and others. It is powerful to forgive those who have abused and hurt us. Forgiveness does not come easily. Many have work they need to do to process through issues of grief and loss. To admin we were victimized can take time. Once you make the choice to forgive, the feelings of peace, forgiveness, and freedom will follow. If you are waiting to feel like forgiving first, you will never forgive.
The most difficult person to forgive is ourselves.
Forgiving ourselves is one of the most difficult and forgotten parts of recovery but should be the very first. Many of us have numerous offenses we need to let go of that we hold against ourselves.
When we truly forgive, it sets us free spiritually, relationally, physically, cellularly, and financially.
Set yourself free and let go of offenses today. You are worth it, and you are worthy to begin to love yourself again, love others, and allow others to love you.
Cory Schortzman is an author, speaker, teacher and licensed mental health professional. Since 2008, he has served as the Executive Director of Transformed Hearts Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, CO. He is the founder of SARA, the Sexual Addiction Recovery Association. Cory is passionate about helping couples and individuals overcome sex addiction. He is also passionate about bringing awareness to the public and supporting the elimination of sex and human trafficking. Cory has been married since 1998 to his beautiful wife, Kerry, and lives in Colorado with their four daughters. He and Kerry have been seen on the CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, and ABC Good Morning America, Fox 21 News, and TLC/Discovery discussing the harm of sex addiction and the joys of recovery. He has also been heard on numerous radio programs.
Cory’s books include: Out of the Darkness, Into the Light the Workbook, Into the Light the Steps, Ashes to Beauty the Steps, 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You, 301 Ways to Love Your Children & 301 Recovery Tools & Tips.