Food for Thought: Holidays are a time for joy, forgiveness

| December 16, 2020 12:00 AM

The holidays are a time for celebration and joy. The holidays can also stir up unsettled memories from the past of unreconciled issues with others who have harmed us. Part of recovering from the past is to face the issue of forgiveness and make peace with ourselves.

Forgiveness means different things to different people.

Is forgiveness part of the recovery process? Does forgiveness apply to victims of unspeakable crimes or is it a concern you wrestle with when someone has been directly been the cause of your pain and suffering?

What is “forgiveness?”

Forgiveness is not excusing someone who has committed an injustice or who has caused pain.

On the contrary, people must be held accountable for their actions whenever possible. If they weren’t to blame they would not need forgiveness. Forgiveness is not forgetting. It is remembering the experience and accepting what has happened. It also means remembering what was learned.

For example, trauma survivors may have learned how to grieve, how to be safe, or be more prepared. They may have learned who to trust, who to be cautious around, and what meaning life has for them.

They may have discovered strengths in themselves that they never knew they had.

Forgiving is letting go. Forgiving does not mean your heart will be free from all feelings of resentment or that you won’t continue to wish for justice. But when you are consumed by hate, all you are is hate. There is no room for anything else.

Forgiveness is in everyone’s best interest. It means letting go of destructive feelings in yourself and toward others.

It builds up what is good in you and releases what will only harm you more. Forgiveness is the path of peace and part of the healing process.

Here are a few suggestions that may assist you in the process:

  • Acknowledge that what has happened will always be wrong and will not be forgotten.
  • Think about what you have learned from the experience.
  • Think about the strengths you have developed or shown from the experience.
  • Think about how hate is affecting you.
  • Think about how forgiveness feels when you give it and when you receive it.
  • Think how forgiveness gets rid of hurtful feelings and replace them with peace and acceptance.
  • Forgiveness takes time and may not happen easily or all at once. You need not feel ashamed or wrong if you are unable to forgive. Forgiving is a different process for everyone but the benefits for forgiving are too important to ignore.

Dr. Leta A. Livoti Ph.D., LCSW, LCPC is a psychotherapist in Thompson Falls. She can be contacted at 827-0700.