Are you stuck in blame and resentment toward someone, feeling like a victim of another’s choices? Are you keeping yourself miserable by holding on to anger? Are you confused between the difference between condoning and forgiving? Have you tried to forgive yourself and others, only to discover that you are still angry or judgmental toward yourself or them? Discover the path toward forgiveness.
Hi everyone. This is Dr. Margaret Paul with the Inner Bonding podcast, and today I will be talking about forgiveness and what needs to happen to reach forgiveness, both for yourself and for others.
My clients often ask me questions like:
“How can I forgive my parents when they were so abusive to me when I was growing up?”
“How can I forgive my spouse for cheating on me?
“How can I forgive myself when I know I have hurt my kids?”
One important thing to understand about forgiving others is that it doesn’t mean you’re condoning what somebody has done. A lot of people say “I can’t forgive because I was abused as a child, or somebody betrayed me. And if I forgive, then it means that I’m condoning their behavior,” but it doesn’t mean that at all. And in fact, the other people may not even have to know that you’ve forgiven them.
Sometimes it’s important to verbally forgive somebody, but other times it’s just something that you do in your own heart. Walking around with resentment hurts you more than it hurts the other person, so not forgiving may be harming you.
Just because we understand why someone did what they did doesn’t mean we condone their unloving behavior. And just because we let go of our resentment doesn’t mean that we are condoning that behavior. Forgiveness also doesn’t mean that you will continue to spend time with somebody or that you want to spend time with that person. Somebody might have hurt you badly, either as a child or as an adult, and you don’t ever want to be around that person. And that’s okay. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you have to be around them.
Forgiveness means that you have let go of blame and resentment and you’re moving on. You’re not holding anger, blame, and resentment in your heart, which is what hurts you.
We have all been told that forgiveness is good for the soul, and it is. Yet forgiveness cannot be forced. We can’t will ourselves to forgive, because if we try to deny the anger, blame and judgment that may still be there, it is likely to come out at some point.
It doesn’t work to decide to make yourself forgive somebody. People try to do that all the time. They say, “Well, I’ve been told that I should forgive so I’m going to decide to forgive,” but it doesn’t work because you’re not really forgiving. You’re just making yourself forgive because you think it’s the right thing to do. But that’s not true forgiveness. So, let’s talk about what actually creates true forgiveness.
Forgiveness of others naturally comes about when you have forgiven yourself and learned how to take loving care of yourself. When you’ve learned how to take responsibility for yourself, when you have forgiven yourself for whatever it is you’re judging yourself for, you will find your resentment disappearing. In order to forgive yourself for whatever it is you think you’ve done wrong, or whatever your end of a relationship system was, or for whatever mean things you’ve done, or for any way you’ve told yourself that others’ unloving, abusive, or betraying behavior was your fault, you need to know and understand the underlying fears and false beliefs that have led to your own self-abandonment.
We always have good reasons for our behavior coming from our fear and false beliefs, coming from our inner disconnectedness, coming from our woundedness. As you practice Inner Bonding and open to learning about the fears and false beliefs that have motivated your behavior, you can reach forgiveness and compassion for yourself.
One of my clients asked, “Is it possible to fully forgive yourself when you have affected someone else’s life because of your choices?” This is an important question. We always affect other people because of our choices, but how they’re affected and how they deal with how they’re affected is about what’s going on inside of them. They can take our behavior personally and be angry and blaming or they can learn from it. We don’t have any control over what people do with the choices that we make.
However, there’s two kinds of choices, depending on your intent. If your choice is coming from your wounded self purposefully trying to hurt somebody, that’s very challenging regarding self-forgiveness. If you hurt someone on purpose and got pleasure out of hurting somebody, you’ve got a lot of deep work to do to understand why you would ever want to do that and to finally heal enough of your woundedness to reach forgiveness for your wounded self.
Hurting someone on purpose is one kind of choice, and the other kind of choice, and this is by far the more common kind of choice, is that you’re doing something for yourself with no desire or intention to hurt anyone, but somebody else feels hurt by it. That’s a completely different matter because if you’re doing something for yourself with no intention to hurt somebody and they get hurt by it, then they’re getting hurt because of what they’re telling themselves, not because of what you’re doing. So it’s important to not take responsibility for what somebody else tells themselves about why you do what you do with no intention to do anyone any harm.
However, if you’re acting out of your wounded self, with no intention to harm anyone, but you’re acting out addictively, for example, like having an affair, and the other person finds out about it and is hurt, then you are responsible for acting in a hurtful way that lacks integrity. Your partner will likely take it personally. You probably didn’t do it to hurt them, but you knew if they found out it would hurt them. And still, the only way you reach forgiveness for yourself is to go inside with compassion towards yourself and a deep desire to learn and come to understand why you acted out the way that you did. Where did it come from? How were you abandoning yourself? What were you trying to control or avoid feeling? When you do that deep level of work, then yes, you can eventually fully forgive yourself.
If someone betrayed you in some way, or hurt you in some way, I encourage you not to focus on forgiveness towards another person. Rather, focus on doing your own inner work. Focus on letting go of your own self-judgments and embrace your humanness with compassion. Embrace your fears and your false beliefs with compassion and reach a place where you not only forgive yourself, but that you’re giving yourself, your inner child, exactly what you need to feel loved and safe and secure inside, a place when you are showing up for yourself, supporting your own highest good, and you don’t need somebody else to come along and take responsibility for you. That’s when you’re going to find that not only can you forgive yourself for mistakes and failures and be easy on yourself and have compassion for yourself, but that’s when you move into compassion for the humanness, for the mistakes, and for the failings of others.
Once again, just because you do this work, just because you learn to value yourself and forgive yourself and be in compassion for yourself and extend that compassion out to others, does not mean you’re condoning their behavior, and it does not mean that you want to spend time with them. It’s a process of learning to love and value your own essence, and develop your spiritual connection, which allows you to see who you are and who others are in their essence.
We all have a wounded self that has done many things we’re not proud of. We all developed that wounded part of ourselves that can act out and do hurtful things towards people. And part of practicing Inner Bonding is understanding that the wounded self is not who we are. It’s what we got programmed to think and believe as we were growing up as part of our survival. And when we learn to have compassion for the wounded part of ourselves, then we can extend that compassion out to the wounded parts of others. And you will find yourself more easily forgiving others, even those who abused you as a child. You realize that they came from deep woundedness, or they couldn’t have acted that way. And that they came from deep woundedness because they were also wounded as they were growing up. And they never dealt with it to the point of taking loving care of themselves, so they acted out on you. And this is often what happens for people who don’t do their inner work – they operate out of their own woundedness, and they think that’s who they are.
Because they don’t know how to manage their painful feelings, they take it out on others and do harmful things to others. The more you learn to take care of your painful feelings, rather than dumping them out on others, and the more you feel compassion for the pain coming from what other people may have done to you, the more you realize that it really wasn’t about you, that it was about their woundedness.
Understanding this still doesn’t make it right. We don’t condone hurtful unloving behavior. It never makes it right, but we can let go of our blame, our resentment. Once we do our inner work, once we’re truly loving ourselves, once we’re defining our own worth, our own essence, once we’re compassionate toward our own pain and our own woundedness, it becomes much easier to forgive others and move on. Once you’re truly valuing yourself, you stop taking other people’s behavior personally, even behavior that was really, really hurtful.
When you stop taking it personally, and when you’re able to see your own essence and you are being loving towards yourself and valuing your own essence, that’s when you can see the essence of others. It becomes very easy to see the essence of others when we see our own essence. And that’s when it becomes easy to forgive them for their woundedness. As you do this inner work and you stop taking other people’s behavior personally, that’s what makes it easy to let go of blame and resentment – to just let it go. It naturally releases as you learn to value yourself, see your essence, and not take things personally.
I often receive questions about a partner having an affair – about the betrayal of truth and trust. My clients want to know how do they forgive somebody who has betrayed them? So one of the things that I want to encourage you to think about is instead of focusing on what the other person did that was so bad and so awful, and you could never forgive, is what are you telling yourself from your wounded self?
You will not be able to forgive a lying or cheating partner until you fully take responsibility for your participation in the relationship issues that may have contributed to the lying or infidelity. There may have been ways you betrayed yourself by not listening to yourself or honoring yourself, that put you in the position of being betrayed by your partner. As look deep within and discover how you might have betrayed yourself and learn to forgive yourself, you may find that you can reach forgiveness for your partner, even if you end up leaving the relationship.
You want to focus on what can you learn. How can you grow from betrayal rather than getting stuck in blame and in taking other’s behavior personally, or getting stuck in telling yourself that if somebody had really loved you, they couldn’t have had an affair? That’s a victim state that keeps you stuck in blame and resentment. It doesn’t allow you to learn what there is to learn from the situation. It’s pretty devastating when you find out that somebody you’re in partnership with has had an affair, but what makes it bearable is when you realize that there’s a level in which it has nothing to do with you – that when people do that, it’s because they’re acting out of their own woundedness. They’re in pain and they don’t know how to handle it. They think somebody else can make it better. They think having sex can make it better. They think having a conquest can make it better, or whatever it is for them. They think that something external will make it better. Just like somebody who turns to alcohol or drugs or food, they think it’s going to make it better and take away their pain. And it might work for the moment of the sex or conquest, or alcohol, but it doesn’t work permanently. It’s a wounded way of dealing with feelings and it’s self–abandoning, but if you’re at the other end of that, why go on abandoning yourself by telling yourself it’s all about you and this person doesn’t love you? They can’t love you because they are not loving themselves. They have no love to share with you when they are abandoning themselves. And if you stay in blame and resentment, then you are also abandoning yourself.
If you’re in relationship with somebody who’s abandoning themselves, then for sure there are ways that you’re abandoning yourself. And the thing to learn when you’re in a situation like that is what are the various ways that you’re not taking care of yourself? What are the various addictions that you’re turning to? It might be very different than having an affair, but maybe you’re turning to food or drugs or alcohol or something else, or anger or blame. These are all addictive ways of avoiding taking responsibility for your own feelings and learning about what you need to learn from that kind of situation. Yes, it’s very challenging. I understand. But when you open to learning, rather than stay stuck in blaming, you will be amazed at how much there is to learn from a situation where you feel very hurt and betrayed.
What is there to learn if you really were the victim, like if you were the victim of child abuse? Actually, there is much to learn. You need to learn about what false beliefs you absorbed from the abuse. Do you tell yourself it was your fault in some way, taking it personally? Do you tell yourself that it makes you a bad person? Do you judge and shame yourself, having taken on the perpetrator’s shame? If your body responded, as sometimes happens with sexual abuse, do you feel that your body betrayed you?
Children often absorb the shame of abusers, and this is very important to release and give it to spirit or back to the abuser.
Are you continuing to treat yourself the way you were treated? As long as you continue to treat yourself in any of the abusive ways your parents treated you, you cannot reach forgiveness. It is your lack of self-love that perpetuates the anger toward others.
As adults, you have a wonderful opportunity to learn to treat yourself with the love, respect, caring and understanding that you may have lacked as a child. When you don’t do this, the past becomes the present as you continue to abuse yourself in some of the ways you may have been abused, and then continue to blame others for how you end up feeling as a result of your lack of self-love.
Once you learn to see and value your essence, you will understand that abusers are acting from a very young and very wounded self who knew of no way to manage their emptiness, neediness, anger, fear, or aloneness so they took it out on you. Once you learn to love yourself and give your inner child what you didn’t receive as a child, you will be able to let go of blame, resentment, and feeling like a victim and forgive them for their woundedness, even if they never admit to abusing you. Many parents who acted from their young wounded self don’t even remember being abusive.
If they are still abusive, then it’s not loving to you to be around them, but you will feel much happier and freer if you let go of your anger at them.
Have you ever noticed the difference in people who are able to let go of resentment and forgive, and those who stay in anger and blame?
What I have noticed is that those who continue to stay in blame and resentment are often people who see themselves as victims of other people’s choices. I’ve noticed that people who stay angry at someone are generally people who are very controlling and believe that they can control someone else’s behavior through punishment, such as anger, withdrawal, withholding, blame, righteousness, judgment, and so on.
For example, if you find out that someone close to you has lied to you in a major way, you might decide not to spend much time with that person. You might decide that it is not in your highest good to spend time with someone whom you cannot trust to be honest with you.
However, if you hang on to anger, blame and resentment, what happens to you? You end up feeling miserable.
Whenever someone behaves in a manner that I find unacceptable, I attempt to understand the good reasons behind the unacceptable behavior. Is this person a very scared and insecure person? Did this person come from an unloving background? Is this person a very young soul, doing the best he or she can but is limited in ability? I do not take others’ behavior personally, knowing that their behavior is coming from their fears and beliefs and actually has nothing to do with me.
Even though I choose compassion rather than judgment when others behave in unacceptable ways, this does not mean that I want to continue to be around the person. I can fully understand why the person acted as he or she did, yet still decide that being around this person is not in my highest good. I can fully forgive that person, which means that I am not carrying around blame and resentment, without wanting to continue to be around that person.
If you forgive but choose to not be around someone, it is important to be aware of your intent in not being around that person.
Your intent is either controlling or loving.
If your intent is to control, then you hope that by not being around that person, he or she will learn their lesson and change their behavior. You have not really decided to end the relationship. You have a secret hope that by distancing yourself, you can have control over whether or not this person changes.
Leaving with the intent to control can lead to you getting stuck in misery, waiting for that person to change.
If your intent is to take responsibility for yourself, then you have decided that not being around this person is in your highest good. You are ready to move on, rather than being attached to this person changing. You have fully forgiven this person and are now taking loving care of yourself by letting go of all hope of this relationship resolving.
If someone behaves in a way that is hurtful to you, this does not mean that you need to leave the relationship. It does mean that you need to accept that it may happen again and that there is nothing you can do about it. You have no control over another’s choices. Again, hanging on to blame and resentment will only make you miserable. If you decide to stay, then you need to decide how to take responsibility for yourself in the face of the other’s unloving behavior. When you are truly taking loving care of yourself, then you will find you can forgive the other person and find a way to take care of yourself in the face of their choices.
The blessing of forgiveness is that it allows you to let go of life-draining resentment and open to love and joy.
In one of our early sessions, my client, Carolyn, said, “I’ll never forgive Andrew for what he did to me. He doesn’t deserve my forgiveness.”
Carolyn’s focus was on whether or not Andrew deserved to be forgiven, rather than on whether or not it was loving to her to forgive or to continue holding resentment.
Take a moment to tune into how you feel when you choose to hold on to blame. Do you feel happy, open, peaceful, and joyous, or do you feel angry, tense, closed, and unhappy?
What Carolyn didn’t realize is that forgiving someone is not about them. It is about taking loving care of ourselves by releasing ourselves from resentment and blame. It is about moving out of being a victim of others’ choices and taking responsibility for our own feelings of wellbeing.
“But what Andrew did was unforgivable,” Carolyn told me. “How can I forgive him for cheating on me and ruining our marriage? How can I forgive him for leaving me for a younger woman, for breaking up our family, and for the pain he has caused our children? What he did hurt so many people. Why should I forgive him for it? Wouldn’t that be the same as condoning his behavior?”
As I previously said, this is a common misconception – that forgiveness is the same as condoning. I remember reading about a woman whose adolescent son got shot and killed by another adolescent boy. While this mother was deeply heartbroken and never condoned what the other boy did, she not only forgave him, she got to know him and helped him to heal the pain that led to his shooting her son.
It is not loving to ourselves to condone others’ unloving behavior, nor is it loving to ourselves to continue to hold negative feelings in our body. The energy of resentment and blame brings down our frequency, making it impossible to connect with our guidance. Resentment is like a poison that continues to feed upon itself, creating more and more darkness.
“Carolyn, what are you afraid of if you let go of your resentment and forgive Andrew for what he did?”
“I’m afraid he will think that what he did is okay.”
“At this point, why are you concerned with what he thinks? What difference does it make to your life right now what he thinks?”
“I just don’t want him to think that he can just act like this and get away with it.”
“So you are punishing him by holding blame and resentment within yourself?”
“Yeah, I guess I am. He should be punished.”
“And who do you think is suffering as a result of your punishing him?”
“Well, certainly not him! He is having the time of his life!”
“Are you suffering as a result of focusing on punishing him instead of taking loving care of yourself?”
“Well, I am miserable. But I’m miserable because of what he did to me.”
“I know that is what you believe, but the truth is that you are miserable because you are focusing on punishing him rather than on taking loving care of yourself. You are being a victim, blaming him for your feelings. Your misery is being caused by what you are telling yourself and how you are treating yourself – not by anything Andrew has done. From what you told me in our last session, you weren’t any happier before Andrew left than you are now. You were always making him responsible for you and he never did it right enough for you. As long as you have your eyes on him instead of on taking loving care of yourself, you will feel miserable.”
“I’m tired of being miserable. That’s why I called you. But I don’t know how to forgive him.”
“Carolyn, forgiveness is a natural outcome of taking loving care of yourself. As you practice Inner Bonding and learn how to take responsibility for your own pain and joy, you will stop blaming Andrew for your feelings. The more you learn how to love the beautiful essence that is who you are, the more you will find yourself forgiving Andrew.”
Maryanne, a woman on one of my webinars, asked me this question. “I want to be a forgiving person, but when I feel disrespected, betrayed or crossed in some way, I perceive the presence of a nasty little child who wants revenge, who wants to be vindicated, who wants to punish and who is cold and dispassionate. The level of immaturity in this offends even me. I don’t permit these feelings to motivate actions against anyone, but it’s still shocking that I feel them so intensely. I hold grudges. And even though I’m willing to give them up, I don’t know how. Could you please offer some guidance that might help me to do so?”
What I said to Maryanne is that the little child is your wounded self that wants to control. We all have a wounded self who wants control, who wants to be vindicated, who wants to punish and who is cold and dispassionate. You have offered a good description of the wounded self. What you need to do is breathe into your heart and open to compassion for that wounded part of you. You’re judging the wounded part of you, and when you are judging yourself, you are operating from the controlling wounded self. The loving adult never judges. It’s only the wounded self that judges, and it often judges itself. And that keeps you locked into that wounded place where you can get stuck in wanting revenge and holding grudges.
So I encourage you to move into your heart and into compassion for that wounded little kid and see if you can do some Inner Bonding work to see what’s really going on, because it sounds like that what’s happening when you feel disrespected or crossed, is that there’s some feelings you’re avoiding. You’re avoiding feeling helpless over the other person. You’re avoiding feeling the painful feelings of loneliness and heartbreak when somebody is being mean. These are the painful existential feelings of life that most people will do anything to avoid feeling. But when our intent is to avoid taking responsibility for these feelings, we go into our wounded self to control them and control others.
As you practice Inner Bonding and open to compassion for your wounded self and allow yourself to feel the deeper feelings with compassion so that they move through you, then you will find yourself not taking others’ behavior personally and being able to let go and forgive and move on. This is what will eventually bring you inner peace.
I hope you join me for my 30-Day at-home Course: “Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships.”
You can learn so much about loving yourself and creating loving relationships from my recent books:
- And my newly released book, How to Become Strong Enough to Love: Creating Loving Relationships Through the Six-Step Pathway of Inner Bonding
And we have much to offer you at our website at https:www.innerbonding.com.
I’m sending you my love and my blessings.