“Genuine forgiveness does not deny anger but faces it head-on.” – Alice Miller
“I forgive them”. This is what victims of crime sometimes say when they’re interviewed on the news days, or even hours, after some terrible violation has been committed against them. Perhaps they were brutally attacked. Perhaps someone they love was murdered.
“I forgive the people who did this to me”, they say.
I always feel a sense of concern when I hear this.
Their forgiveness seems so immediate. It makes me wonder what happened to their feelings.
If an injustice has been perpetrated against us, understandably we experience many emotions – anger, rage, hurt, pain, upset, shame, humiliation.
While we may want to forgive because we feel it’s the “Right Thing to Do”, we must nonetheless ensure our feelings don’t become casualties in the rush to forgiveness.
Forgiveness is often defined as an act of letting go. But how can we truly let go if our feelings remain unprocessed? They don’t simply go away because we deny them.
We carry them with us and need something, such as food, to suppress them. Thus, bread becomes a fire blanket to smother rage. A quagmire of chocolate serves to quell fury.
But the relief is only ever temporary.
Genuine forgiveness is a process. A process in which, as Alice Miller says, rather than deny our anger, we face it head-on. It’s human and normal to feel angry when we’ve been hurt – especially in childhood – and it’s OK to acknowledge our feelings and make peace with them.
Then – and only then – is genuine forgiveness an option.