Have you ever stepped out of your comfort zone to share a thought, be yourself in a unique way, or express a feeling? Bracing the elements, you voiced your thoughts, but to your dismay, you were immediately criticized, mocked, or shamed for sharing your thoughts. Instead of feeling like a part of the group, you felt crushed and alone!
Unfortunately, rejection, shame, criticisms, and judgments are not foreign to humankind. We have all experienced them at one time or another. But sadly, these are the experiences that can move us away from our true self and towards conditional styles of relating. When people are wounded, they learn how to dodge the prior negative emotions to avoid being hurt (or shamed) again. They replace vulnerability with self-protective styles of relating. And it is these alternate styles of relating that hinder people from living their true self.
The truth of the matter is that we all experience hurts. We need love, but we seem to pick up a lot of wounds along the way. And when people are wounded (especially as children), they make assumptions about their identity based on their experiences. If the wounds are rooted in shame, the result is an inner sense of ‘not being good enough,’ and the person feels cut off from their unconditional needs for love and value (worthiness). The experience is more than problematic because when it comes to love and value, we need unconditional and not conditional. We desire love and value that does not go up and down with our imperfections. When we mess up, we need to know that we will not be rejected or that our worthiness does not plummet with our actions. Messing up (or not being perfect) is human, but the rejections and judgments that follow are hurtful. And to make matters worse, these rejections are not limited to a person’s shortcomings. I am sure that most of us (maybe all of us) know what it is like to be shamed or criticized for being different or for not following the crowd.
Research shows that unforgiveness is highly correlated with a host of negative effects including:
- Negative attitudes
- High blood pressure
- Weakened immune system
- Inner conflict
- Anger, aggression
- Relational problems
- Disdain or repulsion
- Feeling trapped
- Self-pity, and
If you are unsure of whether or not you might have some unforgiveness, complete the online checklist for some self-reflection.
How do we forgive?
Forgiveness begins with a choice to forgive, but sometimes we need to know what forgiveness is before we can make that choice.
FORGIVENESS IS NOT:
1. A quick and easy fix
2. Denying an injustice
3. Ignoring an injustice
4. Making excuses for an injustice
5. Downplaying an injustice
6. A way to avoid conflict
7. Changing another person
8. Reconciliation—although forgiveness may facilitate reconciliation for some
relationships, it doesn’t mean that you have to reconnect with a person to forgive them
9. A forgive and forget coping strategy
10. Forgetting a painful experience and never remembering it again, or
11. Letting people get away with hurtful or unjust actions against you.
2. A choice and a commitment
3. A process
4. A skill that all people can learn
5. Regaining control of your life
6. Releasing yourself from the person or persons who hurt you
7. Freeing yourself from past hurts, and
8. Taking your power back from the person(s) who victimized you.
Forgiveness isn’t easy, but it is a process that we can all learn.
Steps to Forgiveness
It’s around every corner, behind every new challenge and trying to block your every move forward. At times, you feel it; at other times, it rises up in your thoughts to discourage and threaten you through your imagination. Unworthiness and shame are the scaffolds of its power, and it has no favourites. Everyone faces it at times, but not everyone conquers it. It appears much larger than it is: a mere kernel from a distance, but a giant when it confronts you. It controls people and keeps them trapped behind bars that never exist. Its name is fear, and it can be one of our greatest challenges.
Disclaimer: The ME Workbook: Seven Simple Steps to Living Your True Self and this website are educational resources for women. The information contained is for reflection purposes and is not intended to be a resource for legal advice or counseling. These resources are not substitutes for professional counseling or therapy. For medical conditions, professional counseling, psychological assessments, or psychiatric conditions, consult a qualified health care professional.