By Cisi Eze
People advise us to forgive a person who has wronged us. The person could even beg for forgiveness. It is almost as though we are doing the offender a favour. However, the selfish human mind is uncomfortable with this.
Understanding that selfishness is a primal instinct helps put many notions into perspective. In the throes of hurt and pain, granting pardon to someone who has caused us to bleed is too much of an act of charity to perform. The selfish human psyche does not desire to give forgiveness; au contraire, it desires to feel better by any means. This makes the idea of forgiveness sketchy, and after critical analysis, it is pointless, albeit to an extent. This is the way I see it: not the absolute truth.
We desire healing, not necessarily to forgive the person (or event) that hurt us.
Humans are inherently vindictive. For instance, an infant could hit their head on a wall. This child begins to cry. You pet the child, but they do not stop. Next thing, you ask the child, “Should I beat the wall?” Petulantly, the child nods. You smack the wall a couple of times. Immediately, the child stops crying. The child wants revenge. We do not outgrow childish tendencies such as this. They repackage themselves as other behavioural traits in adulthood.
People ask us to release pain without showing or telling us how to go about it. They go ahead to put a deadline on forgiveness. We are compelled to be clement. And when we do not meet this deadline, they vilify us, “Haba! Your mind is too strong; you’re cold-hearted.” We are asked to show mercy lest we run on a revenge rampage. In giving forgiveness, it seems as if we put emphasis on the other person – we make it about them. Conversely, in the case of healing, we put the focus on us. I always recommend this: “Forget forgiveness. Make this about you: Heal.”
We take responsibility for ourselves when we make the effort to heal.
There is no set-in-stone pattern or timeframe to healing. Some of us bounce back faster than others do. Personality differences play a salient role, so we must look inwards to find ways on how to heal. For some of us, therapy works fine. For others, it does not work. You won’t say because K went to therapy, you’ll bundle yourself to therapy. If you consider talking about ‘things’ a chore, therapy might not be the best thing for you. According to Carl Jung, “The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.” This applies to healing. Therapy creates space, the enabling mental and emotional environment, for you to heal yourself.
Then again, there are basic elements involved in the process.
First, we must be gentle with ourselves. Things happen. The past is past. We should grieve, but we must not wallow.
Furthermore, we must find meaning in that situation. Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and neurologist, concluded loss and suffering could be purposeful after his release from Auschwitz. In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, he went on to explain how finding meaning in tragedy helps people overcome pain and remain who they are regardless of horrible hardships. If we believe everyone has a life purpose, it makes sense we must have life lessons. How else do you achieve your purpose without lessons? If we believe helpers come into our lives at different times, we should expect “hurters” come into our lives at certain points. What are the lessons we are taking from the event? In the bigger picture, we can use those lessons to enhance our lives. We become tougher. The phoenix rises from its ashes.
In addition, we have to love ourselves. This is crucial. In loving ourselves, we are kind to ourselves and we understand holding on to pain hurts us more. This would motivate us to create healthy ways – specific to us – to heal.
I think being vindictive is fine if it would facilitate healing. Sometimes, we have to get justice. Think of it as some sort of restitution. Karma is real. Newton’s Third Law of Motion: For every action in nature, there is an equal and opposite reaction. What goes around comes around. It is okay if we allow Karma use us to do “The Job”. Nonetheless, we should try not to lose ourselves in seeking vengeance. Abu in Cyprian Ekwensi’s An African Night Entertainment lost so much in seeking revenge.
Our focus must remain inwards during the healing process. We should not occupy our minds with forgiving. It will come without being forced, as love, forgiveness, and healing go together. Loving ourselves motivates us to heal. In doing this, we release pain. We truly forgive after healing.
There will be triggers even after we think we have healed because healing is a lifelong process. However, with healing, we see the event through the lenses of survivors, not victims. This is our power: survivor, not victim.
That we forgive someone/something does not mean we allow that same thing to repeat itself. Classic example: not lending money to someone who refused to pay an old debt.
Here is something to ponder on when we can: Do we really want to heal if we keep defining ourselves by pain we felt when we were hurt?