Understand, and forgive. It is what my mother taught me to do, poor patient gentle Christian soul…Understand, and forgive… and the effort has quite exhausted me. I could do with some anger to energise me, and bring me back to life again. But where can I find that anger? Who is to help me?
More than 25 years ago, my partner and I decided against the expected religious ceremony and married in a registry office. At the reception afterwards, a family friend came up to me and said, 'Cynthia, I want you to know that I will forgive you, whatever you do.' My response, 'Thank you, ' still rings in my ears.
I have no doubt that she meant to be kind. But the religious belief system which lay behind her words was one of certainty, of right and wrong. And, although I was no longer a member of her faith, for that moment I found myself accepting her truth and absolution. It was only much later that I felt indignant.
The lesson I learnt was to be cautious about forgiveness. Be cautious about the motivation which lies behind the wish to forgive, be cautious for the client who comes wanting help to forgive and be cautious, above all, about the word itself. Forgiveness may carry too much conflicting emotional baggage. 'Accepting', 'becoming reconciled', 'letting go' and 'closure' may be more appropriate words in our more secular society. Whatever the word, hurt, anger, regret, the desire for revenge must be faced.
After a wrongdoing or a tragedy, most people struggle to come to terms with what has happened. Talk of forgiveness, at this stage, may be quite inappropriate-in fact they may be better off not