Updated: Mar 8, 2019
Do you need to forgive to heal from a wound or do you need to heal in order to forgive? I went to a conference recently entitled Anger, Forgiveness and the Healing Process. The presenter discussed how it is difficult to forgive if we have not healed from a wrongdoing. He actually went on to say that if proper steps have not been taken in order to heal; then forgiveness is difficult to achieve. Now of course; this is but his perspective based on his research, but a perspective I thought worth exploring.
Let me try to apply some examples before proceeding. You have individuals who have experienced significant trauma; incest, abuse, neglect, or rape. Similar examples could also be given for infidelity, theft, rape, name-calling, violation of trust, emotional abandonment and hosts of other acts. These individuals are sometimes told that they should forgive the perpetrator to move on and heal. However, I wonder how often we ask that person what they need to heal (after all, we are all the expert of ourselves). If we did take the time to ask; I would imagine the need to forgive would not be one of the FIRST things noted. An apology, some accountability, the acknowledgment that they were violated and their pain has been heard with validation and without minimization may be among the list of needs noted. Regardless of the situation; forgiveness is a personal and complicated choice. A choice that they cannot be told to make but one that they have to be ready to make.
I want to be clear in saying that I am not advocating for or against forgiveness. I am advocating for a person to identify what it takes for them to heal. I am advocating for a person to decide what is important for them to heal and follow that path. Where forgiveness exists along that path is for the wounded to decide. I find it more productive to engage someone on what they need to move beyond the hurt. To inquire as to what they need from their environment to get to a better emotional place? Once these needs have been met can a person be in a position to genuinely forgive.