So many times in our lives things happen that we have to forgive. The hangup comes for survivors of sexual or domestic violence when we equate forgiveness with acceptance of the wrong done to us. So let’s talk about that first.
To be clear, when we forgive someone we are not saying that what they did was OK – we’re saying we are not going to let holding on to the anger (which is righteous), the humiliation (which is understandable), or the desire to hide ourselves from the world (which is very common) rule our lives anymore. Those emotions are powerful, and they need energy to thrive. Our energy. Until we are depleted and stuck.
We need that energy to move on from merely surviving to thriving. We need it to have the courage to go back to our daily lives, walking down the same streets, going to the same church, and often, even the same school. But we don’t have that energy if we waste it on those oxygen-sucking, mind-hogging “negative” emotions. Forgiving is for us – for you – not for them!
Forgiving frees our mind to dwell on other things: advancing our schooling or our careers, participating once more as part of a family and member of a circle of friends.
But we also have to be smart. We have to limit our circle of friends to those who truly want to see us move on, advance ourselves, and thrive. If people want to see us stay stuck in the darkness of the violence we endured (for their own selfish reasons or personal agendas) then we must recognize that they are not true friends; and we must let them go.
The reason for that is simple. It is not easy to forgive and move on. It may, indeed, be the hardest thing you ever have to do. But it is the only way to thrive. And thriving is (or should be) your goal. You will need the support of those who love you, care for you, and are vested in seeing you succeed.
It can be done. I am living proof. With the support of the fine organizations in Chicago who counseled and supported me, along with a husband who not only understands my journey, but was a cheerleader along the way, I have forgiven and moved on. I am thriving, and you can too. It begins with forgiveness of your violator and ends with forgiveness of yourself. But forgiving yourself is a topic for another day. That’s a hard one – both to understand and to practice. But it, too, is necessary.
Send me an email to (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let me know how you managed to forgive what some would call the unforgivable, or let me know what’s holding you back if you still can’t. I want to help you thrive.
Coretta Dixon is a highly regarded businesswoman and sexual assault survivor. Her own traumatic experiences and exemplary work done through the healing process, along with her Master’s Degree and business experience in Change Management, equip her well to act as a coach to those who have done the work of healing and now wish to “thrive.” She can be reached at email@example.com.