It’s More Than Just “Sorry”
“I’m sorry,” is the phrase we learn as children when we hurt someone. This could be when we hit someone or call people cruel words, such as “stupid” or “dumb” to someone. But it goes much deeper than that. Many of us hold on to traumatic events, and we carry that with us in our daily lives. Sometimes, we don’t even notice that trauma affects all aspects of our lives. Perhaps the trauma could affect your romantic relationships, or you are leery of selfish people because it reminds you of a traumatic event in your life.
In fact, many of us don’t know what it means to forgive someone. What does it actually mean? According to the Greater Good Magazine, “Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.”
It’s important to know what forgiveness is, but surprisingly not many people understand what forgiveness is not. It doesn’t mean forgetting about the offense, denying the seriousness of the wrongdoing against you, nor does it excuse the misdemeanor.
However, forgiveness can bring benefits and to greater things. It allows you to have a free peace of mind and let go of the burden that you have carried around for X amount of months or years. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to heal. You are the only one who knows when to begin the healing process. Once you allow yourself to forgive, it can help repair the relationship with that person/group, or you can choose not to let the offender be in your life.
This is the quote that fits best with what it means to forgive:
“Before we can forgive one another, we have to understand one another.” – Emma Goldman
To show what this forgiveness looks like, I must tell you how I was able to forgive and the process of going through it.
The path of forgiveness started when I was a teenager, at 17, to be exact. During that summer, my grandfather passed away, and I felt betrayed by my cousin at the same time. I never got to say goodbye to my grandfather because I was in another country when he passed. My cousin and I were super close, and we were babies when we first met. My cousin became my best friend, and nothing could ever pull us apart. Unfortunately, things changed for the worst. As we became teenagers, I could feel the strain between my cousin and me. It became apparent that she didn’t need me, nor did she care about me.
At 17-years-old, I felt this intense anger towards my cousin that I never felt before. I had resented my cousin for eleven years. Talk about holding a grudge against someone for so long. It had taken me that long to finally learn to forgive her.
At first, it began when someone mentioned her name, and if they did, I was ready to pounce on them. I couldn’t even trust her after what she did to me and what she put me through. My cousin was desperate to reach out to me, but I wanted nothing to do with her. Any type of communication that went through my cousin was ignored. She tried to reach out to me often over the years.
As time passed, my anger slowly diminished as I went to a couple of therapy sessions to understand my anger towards my cousin. My mom, who was involved in my cousin’s betrayal, gave me some pointers. She would analyze the series of events that led to the betrayal. In fact, my mom pushed me to talk to my cousin, but I knew I wasn’t ready. I still held the resentment toward her.
What was worse is that the anger I held onto my cousin and my mistrust of her impeded my relationships with others. In particular, my romantic relationships and my budding friendships were often ruined because of the “baggage” I carried with me. I didn’t know who to trust, and I was always leery of people who had other ulterior motives, especially if it was to bring me harm.
But I came to a point where I was finally ready to let go of the anger towards my cousin. I didn’t want to be angry with her anymore, and I knew it was time for me to heal. Deep down, I knew if I talked to my cousin and heard her side of the story, it would make me a better person, and I was sure of it.
I had reached out to my cousin via Instagram. We texted the whole night, and there were a lot of emotions involved. Some that I didn’t expect to happen. It turns out that my cousin felt the same way. We both felt abandoned. As she talked about the series of events from her point of view, it changed how I saw her. I always thought that my cousin was the villain in my story, but in reality, she was just a teenager, a human being who made some mistakes along the way.
After the long emotional talk, the burden or the “baggage” I carried with me for so long disappeared, with a snap of a finger. The heavens blessed me, and I’m free again. I overcame something that bothered me since long ago. However, I now have control if I ever want to talk to my cousin again, and that’s okay.
Forgiveness can take a long time, or it can be short-term. But just remember, even though you forgave yourself and the person who offended you, doesn’t mean they have to be in your life forever. They can, if you want them to be, or not. It’s up to you to decide after you forgive someone.