Forgiveness seems like it should be a one time thing. Something happens and you get hurt. The person that was a part of making that thing happen apologizes, you forgive them and life moves on. Or you get hurt several times over, give up that person or that thing, forgive yourself and them for your parts in the cause of the pain and move on.
I used to think that was how this worked. Actually, right up until the last year or so it was how I thought such things worked. It is only after I have thought things over that I have started to realize that forgiveness is not a one time deal. It is a way of thinking and way of acting and a way of being.
There are several people in my past that hurt me, whether they intended to or not, whether I meant them to or not, it happened. Some of these actions are years and years in the past and I thought I was over whatever was going on there. Except that there are random times when I am at home, in the shower, dreaming, reading, driving or whatever other quiet moment I find myself in, when I will think of X person and S action and wonder why it happened and why I still felt the pang of hurt from it. I had already forgiven myself, forgiven them, forgiven the others who were peripherally involved…
What I have discovered is that it’s not enough to “forgive and forget.” If I completely forget then I will not learn from those mistakes of mine and the act of forgiving no longer means anything. If I never forgive then I will very likely continue to attract that sort of action/behavior/people into my life and will slowly be eaten away by the anger and pain associated with unhealed pain. That isn’t such a great option either.
What I have been doing for some time now, years actually, is to forgive myself and others every time I reflect on a particular event or that person in my life. There is still an echo of that pain, still knowledge of that lesson, but it is nowhere near half so painful or troublesome as what it would have been if I had not learned how to think, process, and forgive multiple times over.
The thing I find the most amusing about all of it is not that I have been doing it for years, but that it has taken me so long to be conscious of what has actually been a very good coping mechanism for me. One would think that this would have been an obvious thing. I think the only reason why it even came to my attention at all is that now that there has been a greater distance of time and emotion from my ex I am reflecting more upon the things that I learned from him, but it is taking more effort, more time to complete the ritual. Think, process, forgive, move on. This has not been working so well, at least not easily, as what I am used to, and so now I am having to take on the part of a full and active participant in my own mini-therapy session.
Now the important thing for me to figure out is if I’m the only one that works this way. If not, hey, there’s a new thing that can be suggested for people relatively far along in their recovery, or at least past the grief stage in their own processing. If so… hey, at least I know what works for me.