Forgiveness can be a key concept when offering couples counseling in Bethesda or marriage counseling in Northern VA. In the past, I have struggled with what forgiveness really means – so, because of this, I have done a lot of thinking and research on what forgiveness means in my own life. I certainly can’t help my clients with this topic without understanding it more myself! I have forgiven people quickly at times and, with others, forgiveness has not come as easy. What I have come to understand, however, is that while forgiveness is necessary in order to find peace, forgiveness is also a process that is not static or without ups and downs.
I really like this straightforward definition of forgiveness: “Forgiveness can be seen as a process of setting aside negative emotions, thoughts and behaviors, or motivations of avoidance or revenge towards a transgressor and transforming them into more positive emotions, thoughts, motivations and possibly behaviors (Hodgson & Wertheim, 2007).” Forgiveness is actively choosing to not let negativity control your life and, instead, replacing negative with positive! Bottom line is that forgiveness is hard work.
While providing couples counseling and marriage counseling in Potomac MD, one of the key reasons I hear for not forgiving someone is that they believe that by offering forgiveness, they are saying to the transgressor, “What you did was okay.” In reality, forgiving someone does not mean you condone or agree with their actions. In fact, you can forgive someone but still choose not to have that person be part of your life any longer! Forgiveness is actually just as much for the sake and sanity of the hurt party as it is for the transgressor. Forgiveness offers the hurt party the opportunity to be free of the anger and not let it control their lives.
Here is an example of how forgiveness, based on the above definition, can look: Jennifer lies to Joseph multiple times. Jennifer apologizes each time she is caught, but continues to be dishonest. Joseph is hurt, of course, but works hard to remind himself that Jennifer has significant mental health issues (or is an addict, a trauma victim, etc) and, in turn, shifts his anger into compassion and forgiveness. However, after multiple transgressions, Joseph tells Jennifer that, until she gets help, he can no longer be part of her life. Joseph oftentimes will feel the anger and hurt boil up, but practices giving himself gentle reminders to why Jennifer acted as she did and why he chose to cut her out of his life.
This is NOT an easy process, but it is a necessary one when anger and resentment is controlling our lives. Oftentimes people to turn to friends, mentors, religious institutions and therapists to help with the process. Lindsey Hoskins & Associates is always available if you find yourself stuck on the road to forgiveness and seeking marriage counseling in Rockville MD.
Lindsey Hoskins & Associates offers individual, couple, and family therapy in downtown Bethesda, MD. Call or email to set up an appointment or a complimentary consultation!