Timi was only 26 years old when he married Preye who was a little over 18years old back then. Exactly one year after their wedding, she slept with someone else and this infuriated him to no end but after much counsel, he decided to give the marriage a chance. They went on to have 4 children but exactly 10 years later, she cheated again and this time he sent her packing .Now without trying to justify his wife’s actions I must inform you that Timi also had his share of infidelity while they were married but you know, like the saying goes, it’s okay for the man but wrong for the woman (for the record, yours truly sincerely does not share this opinion!).
I met Timi 15years after the separation; he was now in his fifties. He had come in with complaints of being unable to sleep without taking medication for more than 13 years, he was also unable to concentrate at work and had actually resigned from an enviable position in a successful bank and was now teaching economics in a private secondary school. He had been to several hospitals, done several tests, taken so many medications over these 13years yet the problem was still there. He was unable to trust women after the separation and was now in various relationships strictly for the sex. He had come to the hospital for help but one desire was glaring, he was obsessed with proving to his ex-wife that he would rise again and get the last laugh.
As I spoke with him it became obvious to me that he had a “Somatoform disorder” (a term used for a group of disorders characterized by physical symptoms with no proof of organ malfunction and discovered to have a psychological origin). Alas! Timi’s problem no doubt, stemmed from all the bitterness he had bottled up against his ex-wife! And so my focus will be on dealing with the issue that led to the deterioration of his physical, social and occupational functioning…Unforgiveness!
This story may be considered to be an extreme example of the toll that unforgiveness could have on our health and general well being but the saying is true that when we do not forgive someone, we end up hurting ourselves even more. Everett Worthington, Jr, a clinical psychologist and a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, has completed studies that show that people who won’t forgive the wrongs done against them have more stress related disorders, lower functioning immune systems, and more cases of heart disease than people who forgive. Unforgiving people also tend to have higher divorce rates.
There are three types of forgiveness: first is judicial forgiveness, this type of forgiveness can only be given by God. It is the pardoning of sin, the gift of undeserved kindness. Second is psychological forgiveness. It is the victim’s job. It is letting go of the desire for personal revenge and negative feelings towards the offender while extending underserved kindness towards him or her. And lastly, reconciliatory forgiveness; It is the offender’s job. It is at this point that the relationship is restored or at least restoration is sought. In order for this to happen the offender must be repentant.
Now looking at these three types of forgiveness, the first and the third are beyond our control but the second is well within reach; our responsibility and fundamentally necessary for our total wellbeing. Forgiveness is a process that takes time and effort but it is well worth it!
Forgiving doesn’t necessarily mean forgetting the offence rather it means “to let go of the resentment and the thoughts of revenge; the bitter ties that bind us to the one who hurt us”.
Forgiving someone is not an easy task; you can’t just skip to the part where you feel better but you can commence the journey to feeling better with these liberating steps listed below.
Step One: Don’t deny the pain
You can not heal what you do not feel. Rather than brush it aside, avoiding the pain, you should allow yourself the time and place to feel these emotions. You have a right to feel hurt. Deciding to just let go of the hurt or trying to forget it will lead to failure of effectively dealing with the hurt. Those are quick fixes and only mask the anger. It usually resurfaces. You may have to find a trusted family member or friend who will just listen, like a sounding board, without making too many comments and wouldn’t share your delicate issue with others.
Step Two:Don’t pass it round
When hurt, there is usually the tendency to become easily irritable and the tendency to snap at others is high, the hurt generally colours our judgment and it affects our decisions and those around us. Sometimes we look for who or what to blame and at moments like that, we must accept and own the hurt without transferring it to someone else.
Step Three: Visualize separating the offender from the offence.
This is pretty difficult because as far as we are concerned there wouldn’t have been any offence in the first place without the offender however by doing this you are giving up your control, your right to go over and over again in your mind what they did to you. It is like making an excuse for the offender; it may sound foolish but it is a step in the right direction of achieving peace of mind
Step Four: Release the offender and the pain
Every thought, every emotion, hold nothing back. You could write down the offence and all the emotions you feel; anger, guilt, depression, disappointment and so on, then burn it afterwards. You could write a letter to the person who hurt you expressing your hurt and then just simply throw the letter away. This may look like a ritual but it also has a therapeutic effect. You should also ask God constantly to give you the strength to let go of the hurt because it would occasionally return like waves especially when you find yourself in a situation that reminds you of the offense, for example, being in the presence of the offender.
Step Five: Express love to the offender
This should be approached like a baby attempting to walk…one step at a time. After the offense is committed there will surely be setting up of boundaries directly related to the nature and severity of offense and I wouldn’t expect you to let down your guard and allow them back into your life with all the privileges they once had. It may begin with a smile when you meet, regardless of if he or she has asked for forgiveness. You should also continue showing love despite the boundaries like sending a get well message when you find out they are not feeling fine. This last step makes you look vulnerable but remember this whole forgiveness therapy is for your well being not for the offender though your attitude and actions of love may eventually help them. I can not tell you what boundaries to keep after an offense especially if the offense was severe like in sexual, physical and/or mental abuse and the exact measure of love to show but I would say a counselor (whether religious or a clinical therapist) would be of great help here.
Like I said forgiving is a process that could take a while but it is worth it because in freeing the pain and the offender you literally set yourself free. Accommodating feelings of anger and hurt in your system can actually make you ill over time, and lead to unhealthy addictions. Like they say; don’t get bitter, get better! And yes, it often takes God’s help to go through it, after all;” to err is human but to forgive is divine”.