Teaching Ourselves Forgiveness Before Receiving an Apology
Why though? Why should we forgive someone who isn't sorry? I mean, why bother? Apologies are one of the first lessons we are taught in kindergarten — when you wrong someone, you apologize and when someone apologizes, you should accept it. We are taught this in a way where forgiveness and acceptance are steps 1 and 2; the act of apologizing comes first. We may have even been taught that an apology is still necessary regardless of whether the person is genuine or not; it’s a principle. Most of us have carried this belief until adulthood, and understandably, but how common are genuine apologies in adulthood, anyway? I’ve found them to be quite rare in my personal experiences — where individuals will avoid it like the plague. Thus, not only would it be difficult to learn forgiveness in the absence of an apology, but before one could even get to that point, it’s critical to understand what the purpose of forgiveness really is — and it goes far beyond situational conflict resolution.
I remember coming across this passage at a very young age, “Anger is like holding a hot coal and expecting the other person to get burnt," and it stuck with me ever since, way prior to knowing it was a quote from Buddha. The purpose of forgiving an individual is actually quite selfish; it's for you, not them. Forgiveness is necessary to give yourself peace. Although the individual who gains your forgiveness may also find peace in knowing that you have done so, but it is only a by-product of your achieved peaceful state and ultimately serves their ego as a way to clear their own conscious. Bringing yourself to peace with what has happened is a gift you will be delivering for yourself. You would know this to be true when you no longer react when thinking about it; you’d no longer become upset by it. Once you have truly forgiven someone, moving on will feel effortless. The past will be left in the past while you continue on with your present. I truly believe peace in mind is a blessing that should always be strived towards.
In all honesty, I have a tendency to be quite petty at times. So, even though deep down I know it's for me, my mind still has a habit of ruminating on what went down over and over again, even when I feel that I’m already passed it. Throughout my journey, I’ve learned that the only way to combat this is to turn inwards and ask myself for answers as to why this keeps on happening. During a moment of trigger, I would ask myself, why am I so angry about this? Even if the individual isn’t sorry about what they did, I am no longer affected by it, so why is it still on my mind? I’m in a good place now, so why does it upset me to think about what they did to me in the past?
When I say that I had to turn inwards to find the answers, what I mean is that I had to look at myself and ask if I posses some similar qualities as the person who caused me hurt. I had to ponder upon whether or not I had the same desires to do what they did, and if that is the reason why it upset me so much; because I chose to not act on those same desires, but they did. Is my anger stemming from built-up resentment towards myself for suppressing my most honest emotions? Throughout practing more shadow work on myself, I learned that if I had not seen those same qualities within myself, or atleast identify with that person’s actions in some way or another, I probably wouldn’t have been so angered by what they did. Identifying with an individual’s actions could present itself in the form of being completely against a certain behaviour by training yourself how not to act that way. If the decisions behind my actions are shaped around a fear of hurting or upsetting people in my life, but I’m subconsciously longing to live a more selfish life that I’m not pursuing because of that same fear, it makes sense why I would be so angered when another person chooses to live in that way. And I am the one who gets hurt as a result.
I’m a believer that our reality is a reflection of our inner self, in which we are projecting our own reality. Because of this belief, I also had to forgive my inner being for needing that lesson; for needing exactly what happened in order to shape who I am and bring me to where I am going. I had to forgive the inner being who called in this painful experience as a wake-up call to be who I truly am.
Self-discovery comes through trial and error; people will fuck up in different ways, and the people around them will get hurt as a result, but it’s only because your paths are crossing at that moment. There is a lesson that can be learned from all parties involved when this happens. Their actions — which is, in essence, their path, because our actions shape our path — do not interfere with ours in order to destroy us or knock us off the trail we’re on. We are simply all doing our very best with the ways that we know how.
Before being able to forgive someone who is not sorry, we must first forgive ourselves for everything. Forgive yourself for anything in your life that may have brought you shame, guilt, loneliness, hurt, etc., and approach it with compassion. It’s easy to explain to yourself why you may have done something that you’re not particularly proud of, since you have the capacity to reason with yourself and only you know your full story. Deep down, you know your soul’s desires, you know what your true intentions are, and even if you have skeletons in your closet that do not align with who you are (or who you tell yourself you are), you still know your true self. These aspects of yourself are, nevertheless, still a part of you, and should be acknowledged. We must not judge these ‘dark’ parts of ourselves as good or bad; right or wrong. We should try to keep a neutral frame of mind with the main intention of understanding how and why you were led you to that moment.
When we turn inwards to look at ourselves and the mistakes we have made in the past with love and compassion as opposed to judgement or discipline, you will easily gain the ability to do the same for those around you. Naturally, personalities will clash at times. People may disappoint you, and there's a good chance that someone will hurt you again — these are all normal parts of life. I want to be clear and add that just because this should be expected, does not mean it is okay; no one has the right to cause you pain, ever. Still, even in knowing that something is not okay, it still is an opportunity to learn and grow. It serves your highest being to actually understand why things happened the way they did. Peacemaking, retribution, and genuine forgiveness is only possible with compassion and understanding. The way I know that I have genuinely forgiven someone is when I find that I am no longer angered by them or what they did anymore, because my point of view has changed; my frame of reference has expanded. I know this to be true when I am no longed projecting the parts of myself that still require healing; I’ve conquored those battles, but still I come from a place of understanding with compassion, because I know that this is just another aspect of the divine human experience.