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  • RENATA POLEON

Can You Heal Without Forgiveness?


In a moment of deep contemplation about some of my life experiences, I thought about the act of forgiveness and what it means to me. I was taught that true healing required forgiveness. I also believed that forgiveness should be given to those who are truly remorseful and with boundaries. Both can be correct I suppose, but the question then remains, can one truly heal without forgiveness?


“Forgiveness is not the only route to healing." The idea that to release the hurt that is caused by others, you need to forgive them feels like an imposition and an assault on the consciousness of a person who has been violated.


What it actually does is center the individual who caused the harm, and require the victim to somehow empathize with the aggressor's actions. It forces the victim to give the bad actor some leeway, as some sort of imposed route to get to healing.


Nothing can be further from the truth. This may be very unpopular when I say it, but I don’t need to forgive you to release you.


I release you for my wellness. I release you for my well-being. I release you for my sanity. I don’t have to forgive your actions to get there.

You don't owe the offender forgiveness in order to not be viewed as bitter and angry. Your only requirement is to heal yourself, forgive yourself for any internalized blame and believe that you’re capable of thriving and having an amazing life in spite of what was done to you.


My belief was further cemented after a conversation with my therapist about this very topic of forgiveness. We were talking about my relationship with my ex-husband—a good one that still requires some healing—and went on to talk about what healing and forgiveness looks like with an individual you don't have much contact with, compared to someone you have contact with daily.


She asked, "Do you think releasing is sufficient for healing in this relationship, or would you need to be able to forgive?"


This stayed on my mind for a few days and the only conclusion that I arrived at is that the first focus should be self-healing. Forgiveness is written nowhere in the five stages of grief. The focus is to heal yourself in the most healthy manner that you can, so that you are not fixated on your hurt and do not further victimize yourself. Too often, society puts so much pressure on individuals to forgive and 'move on,' without even giving you a moment to process what has happened.


The act of forgiving is when you  "stop blaming or being mad at someone for something that person has done, or not punish them for something" or you "to cease to feel resentment against (an offender)." This takes time. Getting to the point where the presence of the offender does not take you to a place of anger, resentment and bitterness is a major milestone and ultimately the end goal.


I am definitely not the authority on forgiveness, but what I can say is that no one should be pressured into forgiveness, especially without boundaries. Take the work inward. Find your peace, focus on yourself and your healing, and maybe eventually, you can start walking into the path of forgiveness, if you choose to do so.

 

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