When you feel hurt, having a forgiving attitude can seem impossible. It may be a situation where you feel mistreated by another person or an entire system that you believe is unjust. How do you forgive when you feel so wronged? It’s certainly not easy.
Yet withholding your forgiveness may keep you in a Victim relationship to the person or event, feeling powerless and at the mercy of the situation. Or you may justify blaming or vilifying others, which can keep you stuck in the Persecutor role. When living in a state of unforgiveness, it’s also common to look for a Rescuer who will be the hero and right your world’s wrongs.
To be free of the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT) roles of Victim, Persecutor, and Rescuer, it is essential to learn to forgive, which is one of the most challenging virtues we are asked to learn.
Author and end-of-life teacher Frank Ostaseski writes: “Resisting forgiveness is like grasping a hot coal and saying, ‘I’m not going to let it go until you apologize and pay for what you have done to me.’ In our effort to punish, we are the ones who get burned.”
If you see yourself in this description but find forgiving unreasonable, given what you have endured, here are a few questions to gain insight into what may be blocking your forgiveness.
- Feel the other person needs to be punished?
- Confuse forgiving with forgetting?
- Believe that, if you forgive, you are condoning the actions and letting them off the hook?
- Withhold forgiveness to feel important or powerful—to be “one up?”
- Wait for reconciliation, believing you can’t forgive until the other forgives first?
Forgiveness is about an inner change in you. Instead of living in the past and holding resentments and an unforgiving attitude, you can take responsibility to release what is in your control—your thoughts about what happened—and no longer feel Victim to the original event.
Here are a few places to start:
- Reflect upon the questions above and see if there is one that stands out. This may be the clue to what is blocking your forgiveness.
- Start with the small things. Forgive a driver that cuts in front of you, the loud co-worker when you are trying to concentrate, the rain when you want sunshine. Developing a forgiving attitude takes practice.
- Set boundaries for the behavior that created the feeling of unforgiveness. Begin the shift from Victim to Creator by speaking to what you want and need. For example, if a friend routinely criticizes you and puts you down, setting boundaries about what you will and will not accept empowers you, allowing forgiveness to take root.
- If you cannot forgive right now, set an intention that you will forgive when you are ready. Setting this future intention to forgive can help thaw the negative energy that keeps the relationship in the DDT.
As long as you hold on to the “hot coal” of resentment and stay attached to the thinking that has you stuck in an unforgiving mindset, you are harming yourself more than anyone else.
That’s why forgiving yourself may be the most difficult of all. Holding onto self-persecuting thoughts restricts your heart and prevents you from realizing your true essence as a Creator.
No thoughtful or sustaining attitude of forgiveness will take place if you do not believe in your true essence as a Creator—a deep and abiding inner goodness. Remember who you truly are.
Forgiving does not mean you are condoning hurtful behavior, forgetting, or letting others off the hook. Forgiveness is not for those you are forgiving. Forgiveness is for yourself!