Forgiveness can be a very difficult process to accomplish.
This is no doubt true for many reasons.
While visiting with a friend recently, a new level of difficulty surfaced.
She was discussing a recent incident she had with her mother. It was yet one more painful encounter in a long history of disappointment and hurt she’d experience at her mother’s hand.
My friend has been growing a stronger self in how she relates to her mom, and wanted to address the current issue with her. In spite of my friend’s personal growth, she still felt a great deal of anxiety surrounding having the conversation with her mother. She wrestled with how to broach the topic.
To my friend’s surprise, her mom actually took the initiative this time. Furthermore, mom led by offering a heart-felt apology–brand new territory in the terrain of their mother-daughter relationship.
My friend’s immediate response to her mom’s apology was to say, “It was okay, mom.”
Mom immediately corrected her daughter. “No it was not okay. I was wrong.”
My friend told me she was speechless, moved to tears by her mom’s brave new posture of owning her wrong-doing.
I commented to my friend that I found it intriguing that her automatic response to her mom’s apology was, “It was okay.” I wondered aloud why she would believe that such treatment is permissible and “okay”?
“All my life I’ve thought I am supposed to let people treat me badly. I feel selfish to tell people that I don’t like when they hurt me.”
As we talked about the process of forgiveness, a light began to come on.
One of the reasons it’s difficult for many of us to say the words, “I forgive you,” is that it confronts our shame.
When we bestow forgiveness, we are making a statement that we believe ourselves worthy. We are saying that what the person did to us actually hurt. We’re stating that we are valuable enough to feel pain and acknowledge the injustice done to us. We validate our humanity.
That’s uncomfortable ground for shame-based people. It’s easier to swallow our pain. To take our lumps. To throw ourselves under the bus. How dare we have the audacity to speak up and validate ourselves?
It brought home to me once again the huge difference between saying, “It’s okay,” and “I forgive you,” when we’ve been hurt.