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How I Learned To Forgive People In My Life Who Weren't Sorry

Whether or not you heal is entirely up to you.

Love & Relationships

Something that I'm being very intentional about until my next birthday (June) is healing from my childhood PTSD. Very long story short, I've endured just about any kind of abuse you can imagine growing up. Add to that, parents — and grandparents and some aunts, uncles and cousins too — who were in the spotlight but also used religion as a way to not take full ownership for their actions and/or neglect; meaning, no matter what they did, they wanted me to focus more on forgiving and moving on than their need to take responsibility and make amends. What I realized is the trauma made me pretty codependent. It also caused me to continue to re-victimize myself by choosing friendships/relationships/situationships that reflected my childhood.

See, when you're a child, you love from such a pure and innocent place. You just want others to feel loved, so no matter what they do — good, bad or super ugly — you keep on loving them; even to the point of overcompensating in hopes that it will make them 1) feel loved, 2) love you and/or 3) stop hurting you.

Next, you tend to keep repeating this pattern over and over again until you say to yourself, "OK, something isn't right." Then, rather than choosing more people who will harm you, you slow down, take a deep breath, and focus on healing so that you can learn what love really is and start selecting individuals to be in your life from that head and heart space.

As far as the healing process itself? As much as a lot of us may not want to accept this blaring reality, it does include forgiving those who caused us so much pain. Only, what I'm learning is just like a lot of people presented a jacked-up representation of love, they did the same thing when it comes to forgiveness.

As I've been working on forgiving from a healthier space, this is how I've learned how to forgive others — whether they take ownership for their actions or not:

Remember That We All Need It.

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Being a marriage life coach has taught me A LOT about forgiveness. One of the main reasons why is because oftentimes when there are issues in a marriage, BOTH people have to accept some of the responsibility. That means both people have to be willing to humble themselves and forgive each other so that they can move forward.

I've had a lot of crap happen to me and I've done a lot of crap too. I accept that it's definitely arrogant and borderline dangerous to think that I deserve forgiveness while someone else doesn't. Or, someone should forgive me while I shouldn't forgive them.

Knowing that I'm gonna need to ask someone for forgiveness at some point makes it easier to be willing to give it to someone who asks.

After all, forgiving someone is simply not holding what someone did — or didn't do — against them. I certainly don't want a ton of folks holding things against me, so why not put good karma energy into the atmosphere? A bonus is I can put the emotional energy that it takes to stay mad at someone towards something far more beneficial and productive. Plus, it's proven that forgiveness is really good for my physical health and that's always a good thing.

Feel the Pain. Then Choose to Heal from It.

We're not designed to embrace pain. We're designed to embrace love. So when someone hurts us, it can be almost devastating to our being. Not allowing yourself to "feel that out" is not only unrealistic; it's unhealthy too. But again, you are made from love and designed to embrace love. While you didn't choose to have someone hurt you, you do have the power to choose to not let the pain consume you.

How do you get past the pain and on the road to healing? I'll tell you what I do. I spend a season (sometimes it's days, other times it's weeks) saying "I can't believe they did that!". Then I move into the season of "I didn't deserve that because I'm better than that". Then it's "What can I do to prevent that in the future?"

Once I get to that third question, healing starts to happen because no longer is my time, effort, and energy going into what someone else did. It's now focused on the lesson I can learn and how to set better boundaries.

When you stop looking at the wound and start looking for the lesson in the wound, you're well on the road to being able to forgive someone. Whether they are sorry for what they did — or not.

Accept That the Past Can’t Change.

Although I think author Gary Zukav is the originator of the quote, I remember hearing Oprah once define forgiveness as "Accepting that the past cannot change." Listen, if forgiveness has a foundation (other than God himself), this would be it.

No matter what someone did or how much they hurt you, no one can go back in time and change it. Yet, if a lot of us are honest with ourselves, that's what we can't get past — wishing that the "offender" did things differently from the beginning.

Once you get to a place of accepting that only the future has the ability to be different, that opens your heart up a bit more to at least considering giving someone who hurt you another chance — that is if they apologize, put forth concerted effort to right their wrongs, and ask for one.

Value Your Sanity More Than Their Offenses.

There's a conclusion I've come to as it relates to relationships where I'm doing more work than the other person is. If I'm keeping record of who's doing what, something is imbalanced.

What I mean by that is, when you're in a relationship (this includes a friendship) where both people are showing up, being emotionally available and giving, not only do you not need to keep tabs; it's almost impossible to. Oh, but when what they do is so far and few between that you can count 'em on one hand (give or take a few fingers), that's when you know the scales are off.

That said, there's a woman in my life who has been a taker since the beginning. If she needs something, she has no problem asking (and expecting). But if I need something, it's an inconvenience.

It used to piss me off to no end because 1) it's been years of this and 2) she never thinks she does anything wrong, including her feelings of entitlement. But one day, I said to myself, "While she's going on about her day without a care in the world, I'm over here mad as hell." Who do you think was winning?

Just recently, she did something that was SEL-FISH (like the deal-breaking kind). But for the first time since knowing her, I decided that my sanity was worth more than staying frustrated with her.

She's probably not gonna apologize but I forgive her anyway. My sanity needs me to.

Know That Forgiveness Is a Process.

A man by the name of Cedric Dent presented forgiveness in a very wise way. He said that if he tells someone a secret, they tell others but then come and ask him for forgiveness, and while he's going to forgive them, he's also not going to tell them anything (that he doesn't mind getting out) for a while.

His motive isn't spiteful or to "punish" the individual. What he said is, "Obviously confidentiality is a weakness for you, so I'm not gonna tempt you to hurt me and our relationship again by giving you more information." What this taught me is forgiveness is a process. Just because I "pardon an offense", that doesn't mean things are supposed to immediately go back to the way things were.

A wound needs time to heal. A scab is only the beginning. Relationships need time to heal. Forgiveness is only the beginning.

Here's the thing, though. If someone is truly remorseful, they will be patient, loving, and careful to not do the same offense during the healing process. If they're not sorry, then it's easier to see the weakness for what it is. And weak people who are too weak to choose to be humble enough to apologize? They are who we should truly feel sorry for.

I promise you, the stronger you get, the more you'll realize that if anyone needs forgiveness, it's them. I forgive you for being so unhealthy that you can't help but be toxic and do toxic things.

Oh, the irony of what forgiving someone who isn't sorry can do for your heart, your life, and your overall perspective on things. Try it. It's worth it.

Featured image by Shutterstock

Originally published on December 16, 2018

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

This article is in partnership with Staples.

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