On Forgiveness

I had the opportunity to review Walter E. Jacobson’s Forgive to Win for his book launch today. It’s a thought provoking little book that got me thinking a lot about the concept of forgiveness.

Forgiveness  a Path to Self-love?

Since self-love is often a huge challenge for many of my clients, I found Jacobson’s take on forgiveness intriguing. We all know that it feels better to forgive but according to Jacobson, forgiveness can also help us to love ourselves.

Consider the defense mechanism of projection. According to Jacobson, forgiveness can operate like projection in reverse. When we project, we unconsciously sweep the parts of ourselves we reject under the rug by rejecting people who demonstrate the things we don’t like about ourselves. In Forgive to Win, Jacobson offers “The Forgiveness Diet” as a way to accept and ultimately love ourselves by offering others the same kind of unconditional love we wish to give to ourselves through forgiveness.

Why it’s Hard

Jacobson points out why we’re often reluctant to forgive. We believe, by forgiving, we are also saying…

  1. we’re okay with what they did,
  2. we don’t expect them to be accountable for their behavior,
  3. we’re weak, or
  4. we’re inviting them to continue to mistreat or abuse us.

Reframing Forgiveness

So, first, reframe forgiveness. Karla McLaren, author of the Language of Emotions puts it this way:

“Real forgiveness does not make excuses for other people’s improper behavior. Real forgiveness does not tell itself that everyone always does the best they know how, because that’s preposterous. Do you always do your best? Do I? Of course not! We all make mistakes, and we all do things we’re not proud of. Real forgiveness knows this; it doesn’t set itself up as an advocate for the tormentors in your life.”

Real forgiveness, according to McLaren, says” I see that you were doing what worked for you at the time, but it never, ever worked for me!”

What About Anger?

In Forgive to Win, Jacobson writes “When we find it difficult to forgive others because our anger is so all-consuming and we feel incapable of releasing it, it will help us to remind ourselves that anger is our enemy.” Here is where I respectfully disagree with Jacobson.

Any time we make our emotional response an enemy, we lose. Forgiveness after all is not the opposite of anger. I have learned first-hand thanks to  the wonderful work of Karla McLaren that anger, like all emotions, carries with it important information. It can tell us when we need to protect our boundaries and helps us to restore our sense of strength. Forgiveness, on the other hand, is not an emotion; it’s an act. If done authentically it can bring about the feeling state of peace. The key to forgiveness, in my opinion, is to remember to first honor your anger. Don’t push it away and try to forgive. Honor your anger then try to find peace through forgiveness.

Humanize Rather Than Demonize

Jacobson suggests finding ways to “humanize rather than demonize” when it comes to forgiveness. He draws on the wisdom of A Course in Miracles when he points out that we can choose to perceive the things other people do as malicious and mean-spirited or we can choose to perceive them as a misguided call for love.

The Bottom Line?

Forgive for you. Forgive while also honoring your emotions. Forgive because it feels so much better and, according to Jacobson, it might just make you feel better about yourself too.

For more about Forgive to Win, click here.

P.S. Are you addicted to approval? Check out my latest telecourse!

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One Response

  1. Lorelei Magee says:

    I love this article Amy! All of this is so true from my own experiences with forgiveness. I agree that first you have to feel the pain and then make the choice to forgive. I have found that it is an ongoing battle for the rest of our lives because people will intentionally and for teh most part unintentionally offend us, but it is an extremely important battle to conquer to obtain freedom within.

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