Why Can’t You Just Forgive Me?

by Marla Bollak on September 5, 2012

In an earlier blogging episode, I stated that you can’t forgive someone else. Forgiving is a process of letting go of emotional pain. You can’t release my pain. So, how can you forgive me? I don’t see how you can. But, you can forgive, and there are various ways to do that.

In that post, I also stated that the key to forgiveness is to refrain from blaming someone or something else for your pain, and to take responsibility for your thoughts and feelings. So, let’s get into that a bit more here.

Picture this: Someone or something insults, attacks, or otherwise hurts you. (Ouch!) You feel angry, humiliated, or some other painful emotion. Your first response is to point your finger at this person for causing your pain; Maybe your middle finger. (Whaa?)

Stop… This is where you have an opportunity to take responsibility, and not blame the outside force for your misfortune — even though you really, really want to. Don’t blame yourself, either. Taking responsibility is not about blaming yourself. Rather, it moves you out of victimhood to empowerment.

Stop Playing the Blame Game

Refraining from blaming can be quite the challenge at first, but do your best to resist the temptation to blame anyone at all.

Instead, try this:

  • Assume that the pain was inside you already (because it was).
  • Assume that the person/thing you feel like blaming is actually a trigger to activate that pain (because he/she/it is).
  • Realize that this person/thing has afforded you the opportunity to heal it and let it go. (Thank you very much.)

This is what it means to take responsibility for your own feelings, even though it may still feel like someone else caused them. As long as you feel that someone else is responsible for your pain, you are at their mercy and have no power to change the situation and feel better.

Set Yourself Free

Now you can begin the work of releasing the trapped emotions and freeing yourself from this pain. My two favorite ways to do this are:

Both of these processes move you from blame to questioning the thoughts behind your feelings and seeing expanded possibilities; to see reality as it exists and to move you behind the pain of erroneous thinking. They help you to recognize the pain you cause yourself when you desire to change the behavior of others.

Turning to the Other

Once you’ve processed your own feelings and thoughts, you can turn to the task of responding to the other person without rancor. When you were in an angry, fearful place, you were in the grips of the fight-or-flight response and only saw these two possibilities. Now that you’ve freed yourself from that, the space for all sorts of possibilities opens up. Also, now that your energy is shifted, the other party will respond to that – most likely in a favorable way. While you can’t change the other person, and you still may not have your most desirable outcome, you will have the best outcome.

More Opportunities for Forgiveness

Once you learn to respond to adverse circumstances in this way, you will begin to welcome them as the healing opportunities they provide. You probably still won’t enjoy them, but you will feel better once you’ve arrived at the other side of them.

If you don’t find a way to work through these incidents and find a forgiveness process that works for you, don’t worry, because you will get plenty more opportunities to do so.

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Angela Goodeve September 6, 2012 at 1:48 pm

One thing that used to really get under my skin is when someone would say that they were not responsible for my feelings (not matter what they did).

It took me a long time, but the one tactic I use is to try and understand that whatever the person did to me is coming out of their own pain and lack of self-confidence. This helps because it allows you to see things not as a reflection of you, but a reflection of the other person. It is then easier to not take it personally, and to forgive them for any shortcomings they have…as Marla says it also gives you the wonderful opportunity to find out why you may have been effected so much by their actions in the first place, and forgive yourself too!

Marla September 6, 2012 at 7:08 pm

It does get tricky, doesn’t it, Angela? Some people use this responsibility thing as an excuse to do whatever they want to others and not take responsibility for their own actions. You are clearly very compassionate AND take responsibility for yourself.

Thank you for your comment and adding to the conversation!

John September 6, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Wow Marla it’s funny that I read this today. For the past couple of years I have been the subject/object of violent acts that have been rendered upon me. If I told you what my suspicions were as to why this happened, you would probably be flabbergasted. The bottom line is this; because of the original injury that took place, I am unable to defend myself against these terrorists that feel they need to inflict brutal beatings on me. In my day and before I was injured I could handle morons like this with no problem. But these cowards (and that’s all terrorists are) know that I cannot defend myself.

I tell family members about this in great detail and it’s like they have their heads up in the clouds in la la land! So I have made a decision and using my flight or fight, I’m getting the hell outta Dodge. I am leaving my family (wife and daughter) and moving away, far away, from my current home. Forgiveness is not really an option right now. As with other subjects ( I hate the word victim, it sounds helpless and I am not that) I’m not only the bearer of great pain and several surgeries but before I get killed (I was recently hit by a car by one of these terrorists) I gots to go! My wife thinks I should stick it out but lemme tellya where these terrorists did their number on me. In a church, at a prayer group meeting, at a grocery store and finally in an alley. I went into and travel a lot by alley as I don’t want to be hurt anymore.

Now not that it’s the same thing but I understand why those subjected to violence have a very hard time in forgiving. I used to think, ‘hey what’s the problem? forgive and forget … let it go … Let God take care of it. And I know He will but in the meantime, I don’t want to go outside … at all! I’ve sequestered myself to my home as fear grips the hell out of me when I go out. Unless it’s at night, then I don’t worry. I want to forgive, I really do. I want to forgive these rotten people, my clueless and insensitive family, and also the one who was responsible for the initial injury in the first place because of carelessness and incompetency. But it’s hard, real hard.

For me, it’s gonna be a long process and lots of prayer as well. But my decision, although very difficult and I know that I will really miss my daughter dearly, brings me much peace today. I’m finally going to be free and rid myself of the chains that bind me! (pumps his fist and yells, YES) I am sooooo miserable and as you said, I take full responsibilty for causing my own misery. But I am powerless over people, places, and things. I cannot predict that something will happen to me or when, or why. All I know is that the Serenity Prayer has taught me to change the things I can change. And I am doing just that today.

Marla September 6, 2012 at 7:16 pm

John, thank you for sharing. I am so sorry for your situation. I applaud you for taking responsibility, and at the same time recognizing that you have only so much control. I am a huge fan of the Serenity Prayer. I think it’s brilliant. Please stay safe and be sure that forgiveness will come in its time; As long as you strive to let go, eventually you will.

John September 6, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Also there are two kinds of forgiveness. One is the kind that people ask for and the other is when you forgive someone because you want to have a peace of mind. They didn’t ask for it but your pain that you are feeling is so overwhelming that you intuitively know that forgiving the moron(s) eases it.

Marla September 29, 2012 at 12:18 am

Hi John,
If you think of forgiveness as releasing pain, you can only do that for yourself. They have to release their own. You don’t need to worry about theirs. They do. Take care of yourself in this.

Dawn Abraham September 7, 2012 at 7:48 am

I am glad you cleared that up about you can’t forgive someone else, meaning you can’t take their pain away. True forgiveness is personal to you, if you hold on to resentment and anger you are the one who suffers the other person has no clue.

I am really enjoying your writing and I see it’s getting more Internet friendly each time. Great job Marla you go girl.

Just make sure you name this article something different just in case you were ever interested in a Google listing. They won’t list pages that have the same name they think you have duplicate content. Name it something completely different. 🙂 XOXO

Eileen Lichtenstein September 7, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Yes, Marla, this is indeed a truly difficult thing to do- release blame of yourself and others to become empowered v. victim. I’ve found EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) to be extremely helpful personally and in coaching work. I’ve even used the modality successfully with court mandated anger management cases.
It turns out that the “angriest” folks also have extremely low self-esteem, even if they cover it with bravado.

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