You may or may not be able to identify with this, but trust me whether or not you are aware of it you have done it. As your partner pleads for forgiveness that sinister voice in your head feels good, a titillating emotion that develops a hunger that needs to be fed, and its dish of choice; Guilt. If this is you I want you to go into your coat closet and pull out your pedestal and destroy it!
It is very common to avidly claim and at times believe yourself that you have forgiven your partner, yet from time to time you find yourself feasting on their guilt. Furthering their remorse you feel empowered and this act becomes addictive... Just imagine yourself standing on that darn pedestal looking down on him/her pointing that finger in her face... and because of the guilt they have very little to say and because of the love they have for you they put up with it.
This is wrong. This is unhealthy. This is far too common. The art of forgiveness is not complicated, however it takes commitment.
Step One: Be honest with yourself- Although your partner has apologized you may want to forgive however need time to yourself to really reflect on the situation. By no means does this indicate a break up or separation, but before you utter words of forgiveness take the time to process what has happened.
Not forgiving the person is not an option because forgiveness is more about you and your growth than it is about your significant other and their faults.
Step Two: Ask yourself these key questions;
-Why should I stay with him/her?
- What would I do if he/she did it again?
- If this is acceptable what would I consider unacceptable (absolute dealbreaker)?
- Am I ready to work towards being committed to truly forgiving him/her?
- Is he/she worth it?
Step Three: Ask the questions you want to know, here are some to start with:
- What happened? (get it all in the open now... if it seems he/she can't be honest about it then go back to step one)
- What are you doing to prevent this from happening again?
- Ideally where do YOU think we would go from here?
- Do you understand that forgiveness and rebuilding trust takes time?
- Are you willing to do what is necessary to rebuild the trust we once shared?
All of this discussion should not take place in one night, if you can help it, it is a lot to process, and you don't want to shortchange the process of forgiveness by rushing through it.
Although you may be working very hard to forgive your partner you may be tempted to feed that unnerving hunger of drowning them in guilt and remorse, so here are some things to keep in mind when you are tempted to do so.
- Nobody is perfect... We all fall short so have some compassion if you truly care about this person, and if you don't just let them go.
- You are being destructive... They will leave you if you continue to treat them that way, and if they don't they should have enough love and respect for themselves to do so and not put up with your "holier than thou" antics
- If you feel that behavior is necessary or find it hard to NOT climb upon that pedestal, then you should remove yourself from that relationship and take some time to focus on you- seek counseling if necessary.
Forgiveness can be a beautiful thing and as much as we would like to believe we are forgiving people, it is far from easy for us to genuinely take that step. Using forgiveness as revenge does not make you a monster, it makes you human... but by no means is it acceptable. I leave you with this quotation: To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. ~Lewis B. Smedes