Anger, outrage, and resentment are normal and natural emotions in reaction to wrongdoing. These emotions provide important information to us about what’s happening in our world. However, we tend to dwell in them, thereby magnifying their impact, when the wrongdoer shows no remorse or provides no apology. As a result, much of our suffering associated with the wrongdoing is self-inflicted, in that we continue to “dwell and tell.” And each time we tell it to ourselves, both the story and the suffering grow.
It’s infuriating, but true, that we are not in charge of if/when/how the offender ever feels remorse and/or sincerely apologizes for the wrongdoing.
It’s liberating, yet sometimes difficult-to-accept, that we are totally in charge of whether we allow the wrongdoing to live/thrive/dominate our hearts and minds.
Forgiveness is not a “one and done” effort. It unfolds over time, and may involve many episodes of “one step forward, two steps back.” It takes time to gain clarity about how we define forgiveness and, once we have clarity, to willingly choose to forgive. How we were wronged, how we have suffered, and the meaning we’ve attached to the suffering must all be examined in order to shift our intention to the work of forgiveness. We must be willing to allow empathy to grow toward ourselves and toward the wrongdoer, and to remain open to identifying and exploring the many ways our justifiable anger and resentment will try to block these empathic feelings.