Eliminate Religion in your Forgiveness Work
Every month I read something new on forgiveness as part my personal development and devotion to my clients. One thing I find is that the literature about forgiveness is usually religious based. The book I read this month was “The Four Laws of Forgiveness: How to Forgive Yourself and Others” by Brad Johnson. As an athiest, I used to be quick to find a new source when I started reading something like this. I felt like the message was forcing people to forgive because God is perfect and he commanded it, but that kind of extrinsic motivation never lasts and it doesn’t mean you really forgave. Relgion attempts to get lip service for people’s real problems.
My main issue with this month’s book, and others like it, is religious bullying. They quote from scripture, “If I have received forgiveness, I am to give forgiveness”. Forgiveness happens on our own time and God never gives you a timeline after a hurt or trauma to forgive. There’s also usually repetition of, “God is perfect and forgives perfectly”, but we know from Genesis 11:5 that he is not perfect because he had to come down to Earth to check on things. If he was perfect, would we grieve for mankind or would he have seen the issues before they existed and fixed them? It’s possible to forgive too soon and feel regret later about forgiving someone. It’s all part of the process.
It’s also selfish to think that because you forgave someone, you should also be forgiven. If you’re religious and believe the bible where it says “so you must forgive others”, so if you only forgive to get someone’s approval (God) or a reward (afterlife), your forgiveness isn’t real and you have more work to do. There’s nothing wrong with needing more time, forgiveness isn’t a one size fits all.
It’s nice in theory to expect everyone to be able to flip a switch and forgive people, but it’s not realistic. It takes time and reflection. Without reflection into yourself and the other person/people’s motivations, it’s near impossible to let things go.
If you’d like a recommendation to work on things yourself, you talk to me about becoming a client and there are also great books out there. My favorite is “How to Forgive When You Can’t: The Breakthrough Guide to Free Your Heart & Mind” by Jim Dincalci.