I always hate it when people preach forgiveness.
Don’t misunderstand me — I do think they’re right on every point. The main idea behind forgiveness is that it’s good for you and that’s true. Letting go of the pain and anger does free you up for good things. But even when people really do mean it for good things, it always feels as if they’re minimizing the pain and anger. No one deserves to have their feelings minimized even if it’s not meant that way.
Think about how we handle a broken arm. If we were to just “let the pain go,” it would take months for the arm to heal and even if it did heal, it wouldn’t likely heal properly and we wouldn’t regain full use of it. Instead, we get it examined and X-rayed, then set, splinted, and bandaged. Only then can the arm start to really heal. The same goes for non-physical wounds. We have to acknowledge and validate them before we can start to really heal.
Another problem with the preaching is not the fault of the preachers. Many people equate “forgiveness” with “letting the bad guy off the hook.” That’s not the case at all. Forgiving those who hurt you doesn’t make them any less guilty. Forgiving is about you and only you. It’s about you healing from the pain.
Now that we are in the middle of the Yamim Noraim, I do think that we should work on forgiving other people. But I think that there is a healthy way to go about that. Here are my steps to healing…
Step 1- I acknowledge the pain and anger. I might have a good cry or beat up a few pillows or scream and rage. But I try to do it privately. While crying on someone’s shoulder can help me, taking my pain and anger out on others definitely won’t help me.
Step 2- I pray for the person who hurt me that he/she should get a very bad attack of conscience. If I think the person who hurt me has no conscience, then I pray that he/she gets one. An attack of conscience can often cause worse pain than any form of revenge.
Step 3- I make time to do something healthy and productive that makes me feel good. I might use a creative outlet and make a new piece of jewelry or write an article or blog post like this one. Sometimes certain household chores work. I happen to like sudsy water so I like to wash dishes and I don’t wear gloves most of the time so that I can feel the water and suds. The best is exercise. It gets me healthier and relieves both stress and pain by triggering endorphins. I love yoga and walking but any form of exercise works.
Step 4- I make a little time to do something unproductive but reasonably harmless that makes me feel good. This one is easy for me. I eat a bite of chocolate and/or watch an episode or two of a great TV show that I like.
Step 5- After I’ve done all of the above, I can allow myself to start healing. It may take a while (a broken arm doesn’t heal overnight and neither do anyone’s feelings) but these things make me feel better and that jumpstarts the healing process.
I do agree with the preachers that forgiveness and healing are good things. I just feel that my steps allow me to do it much more easily.
May this be a year of forgiveness and unity among all Klal Yisrael.