The Freedom of Forgiveness.

“I’ll never forgive you.” Said in the heat of the moment it can feel like you really mean it. You’ve been hurt. The pain is unbearable. You will never forget and you will never forgive. End of story.

Except that it’s not. Not wanting or not being able to forgive brings further anguish. It doesn’t diminish over time like a memory can. It can filter into your soul filling you with bitterness, intolerance. Thoughts of revenge will keep you trapped in the very past that you despise and keep your heart like stone.

Forgiveness is the key to freedom. It will release you to live the life as the person you were meant to be. Not the person held captive by the actions and words of someone else.

“Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.”     ~ Corrie Ten Boom

In my own life, one of the main barriers preventing my recovery was not being able to forgive. Until I could, I was going to continue holding onto the anger and pain. I was going to continue looking for something to numb me from reality. And I was going to carry on thinking that life owed me. It didn’t.

For me the greatest healing came from forgiving the mother who had abandoned me and the father who had abused me. It was a journey over many years requiring patience, determination and courage. Forgiving isn’t a transient emotion, it’s a decision that continues over time. It was worth it. My reward was a life free from the horrors of my past and the liberty to enjoy each day with a clear mind and an open heart.

Of course there have been many other instances since then that I have been lied-to, insulted and betrayed. Each time I have had to make the choice to forgive. Even when every fibre in my body has screamed ‘Never!’ I have still resolved to make my peace.

Forgiveness is not a form of acceptance or surrender. It is a battle cry. Another person’s actions have already stolen enough from me and I am refusing to let them take any more. Even if there is no recognition of wrong-doing or apology, by forgiving I am taking control of a situation over which I had none.

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act. It is a permanent attitude” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King.

Have you ever replayed an event over and over in your mind?  Have you driven yourself half crazy doing it? Has thinking it left you feeling depressed, frustrated and emotionally exhausted? You need to let it go.

Remember that forgiveness is not to be confused with being a doormat or allowing the offender to ‘get away with it’. Neither does it mean you should not express your grief and upset. It means that you are willing to move beyond your rawness and vulnerability. And you are willing to let go of the negativity and animosity that hold you emotionally hostage.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”  ~ Lewis B Smedes

Reclaiming your spirit of compassion will release your body, mind and soul.
That’s the freedom of forgiveness.

Top image thanks to Kathleen Tennant×7    Bottom image thanks to Elle Major

78 thoughts on “The Freedom of Forgiveness.

  1. Hi Carolyn, Excellent article, I have often in the passed replayed a bad experience which had been done on to me over and over in my mind and had driven myself absolutely crazy by doing it. It certainly had left me feeling depressed, frustrated and emotionally exhausted. Thankfully now tho I am heading in a direction in life now that I can let these events go very easily. Forgiveness is so important and I appreciate you for sharing this article 😉

    • Hi Paudie, I am sure there are many of us who can relate to that experience of replaying an event in our minds! Learning to let go is the key to moving on and finding the peace of mind that we need in those situations. Thank you for visiting and commenting. Great to see you here!

  2. This post was as thought-provoking the second time I read it as it was the first, Carolyn. Best of all, it made me realize I have a little unfinished business with someone I’ve allowed to stay stuck in that morass of sadness and anger. Time to work that through … for which I thank you, my friend!

  3. Carolyn, me too. As I read your story, I recalled my recovery process – not that it’s ever over, but when you first walk through it, it’s pretty eye-opening. i had a lot of hurts, habits, and hang ups, but recovery provided a place to get down and dirty with the ugly vicious lies I’d been believed. It provided a place of safety to be real and honest without fear of reprisal. Forgiveness is hard but unforgiveness will strip a soul bare leaving one in the bitter cold. Thank you for sharing your heart. It matters!

  4. “Reclaiming your spirit of compassion will release your body, mind and soul.
    That’s the freedom of forgiveness.” I scheduled your quote to go out to my Social Media friends. This is a very powerful message. Compassion for yourself and others is a beautiful spiritual attribute and with it comes the ability to forgive completely as God has forgiven us when we accept Him as our Redeemer.

  5. I especially like this line, Carolyn: “Forgiveness is not a form of acceptance or surrender. It is a battle cry. Another person’s actions have already stolen enough from me and I am refusing to let them take any more.”

    It reminds me of drawing a line in the sand and saying “Enough is enough!” Freedom is the absence of fear, and I believe unforgiveness is the fear that justice will be delayed or neglected. The gift of forgiveness opens the door to true justice and redemption.

    I believe forgiveness is one of the most important subjects – and this is an excellent, thought-provoking article – THANKS so much, Carolyn!

    • I love what you say here Susan about forgiveness opening the door to true justice and redemption. There is so much truth in that statement. Thank you for your insightful comments and encouragement 🙂

  6. Forgiveness is so liberating, for both parties really. Like you said forgiveness is not about being a doormat. When someone holds onto the hurt, they’re hurting themselves even more. Holding a grudge is like stabbing yourself in the leg and expecting it to hurt the other person.

    Forgiveness is about releasing the pain so you can live a happier life. You’re not forgetting what happened. You’re releasing the negativity of the situation.

    This is a beautiful post.

  7. I find it interesting that it is often when we are hurt the most that we need to forgive the most, yet it seems like the last thing we would want to do. Forgiveness requires an almighty leap of faith. If only we knew how well it paid off before we had to make that first leap. At least it gets easier the more we do it as we have previous experience to draw upon. Doing it for the first time is often the biggest hurdle to overcome as it seems so counter-intuitive.

    This is a really valuable post for those who haven’t made the leap as it shares in the benefits. I will definitely use this in my work. Such profound wisdom and we are all so lucky that you share it with us! Thank you.

    • Thank you so much Sam for your confidence in me! I spent so many years with deep unforgiveness and used it as an excuse to stay in victim mode. Forgiveness isn’t easy on any level and it is never instant, but I do know that gently and surely I have come to a place of peace about so many things in my past. The good news is that it is a skill that can be learnt and once you grasp it, the capacity to forgive gets greater and more effective.
      I truly believe that my faith had a huge part to play in this but even if you don’t believe in the way that I do, forgiveness is crucial to a happy life.

      • The process of forgiveness is also about understanding that we must relinquish the illusion of control. So many proclamations regarding forgiveness are in fact conditional, even if only in our minds… “I’ll forgive her, hoping that I’ll get X or Y in return.” And this gets to why forgiveness has to be something you do for yourself and not primarily the other party.

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  9. Fabulous! “Forgiveness is not a form of acceptance or surrender. It is a battle cry. Another person’s actions have already stolen enough from me and I am refusing to let them take any more. Even if there is no recognition of wrong-doing or apology, by forgiving I am taking control of a situation over which I had none.” Sooooo insightful, and tackles head on the idea that forgiveness means you are letting someone “get away with” something. I guess I love the idea of a battle cry because unforgiveness destroys you and doesn’t do a thing to the other person, and choosing to forgive enables you to take control of the situation and stop any further destruction.

  10. Outstanding post, Carolyn!! It was learning forgiveness as you’ve describe it here that set me free: “Forgiveness is not a form of acceptance or surrender. It is a battle cry. Another person’s actions have already stolen enough from me and I am refusing to let them take any more. Even if there is no recognition of wrong-doing or apology, by forgiving I am taking control of a situation over which I had none.” Thank you so much for another outstanding share.

  11. Beautiful post Carolyn! One of the best lessons I learned when coming to terms with my own past, was that forgiving doesn’t absolve the other person of anything, it just frees you up to move on.

    • Well Kimberlee I’m sure I’m not the only one who can relate to you! It doesn’t matter who has annoyed you or for what reason, you have to work out the best way to deal with it for your own peace of mind. It’s okay to express your anger but holding on to the anger can lead to a cycle of resentment and bitterness. I’ve learnt that reliving the event or words over and over in my head only makes me feel worse. I have to let it go – (even if the other person refuses to acknowledge or take responsibility for what’s happened). It takes time to forgive but it can also be the best form of revenge 🙂

  12. Such a powerful post – thank you! It took me a long time to realize that I didn’t need the other person to accept my forgiveness… I could simply do the forgiving and letting go, and allow the healing to happen in my own heart. What freedom is there!

  13. This is an awesome essay. Too rich to be called a “blog” , a term I am coming to terms with. This took several reads as it is so full of feelings and wise counsel. Not an easy practice but vital to health and wellbeing.

  14. Thanks so much for this wonderfully inspiring post Carolyn… I agree that forgiveness is a powerful process – it’s not about allowing yourself to be walked on – it’s taking the high road! In my experience though, the hardest person I’ve ever had to work on forgiving is myself!

  15. I often wonder what we were taught about forgiveness as children. Or if it’s simply a concept that children cannot wrap their thoughts around. It seems that many of us need to go well into adulthood before we realize that the act of forgiving someone else is done for ourselves, and not for the other person. And it doesn’t even matter if that person is still alive … or in our lives. I could sure have saved myself many years of anger and frustration if I could have learned that earlier. The blessing is that I did finally learn it. As did you, Carolyn.

    • That is a really interesting point about what we learn about forgiveness as a child. I think you are right in that we are taught to forgive others for them rather than for us. So glad that you too learned that forgiveness is just as much for ourselves. Like you Sally, it’s taken me years to get to this point and it is a blessing to be in the place I’m in now.

      • Wow, light bulb moment! I was taught as a child that forgiveness is for the other person! It really has nothing to do with them at all. What a difficult process to relearn old truths/patters. Thank you.

  16. Loved this post so much, Carolyn. You always do such a great job with tender topics! You also are getting more colorful with your graphics all the time. Love everything about your blog!

    • Glad you enjoy the blog Sally! The graphics as always are by artists who allow me to use their work and they are credited at the bottom. But you can also get their details by clicking on the image. 🙂

  17. As always, your posts inspire and make me think, too! I’ve not had to forgive anyone for anything big, so on the ‘forgiveness’ scale I am a rookie. Love what you are writing and love how you put yourself in this post, too. it’s not just talk, you’ve walked the walk. Honored to know you Carolyn.

  18. Another lovely post – thank you Carolyn. The section on forgiveness was the only major change I made between editions 1 and 2 of ‘Your child:Bullying’ – it had been titled ‘Forgive and forget’ and became ‘Forgive… but don’t forget.’ I think when you need to forgive someone, whatever happens becomes part of that relationship – it can’t be ignored, though that is not to say it can’t be transformed. I love the Martin Luther King quote – brilliant.

    • Thank you Jenny! I think you’re right about the forgive but don’t forget. I think the memory of an event can be stored away so it can’t hurt us any more, but we can learn from it. Funny you should mention your Bullying book – I’ve recommended it to three concerned mums this week 🙂

      • Wow – fantastic – thank you so much! I’m working on new editions of two other bullying books I wrote which are currently out of print – it’s something I really care about – and if we’re lucky enough to be blessed with something we care about, we should look after it 🙂

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  20. Carolyn, There are times when I read Your posts, and I feel like You literally climbed into my head and saw my memories, that You saw my heart and experienced my pain, I love reading about Your experiences because I can sooooooo relate! Thank You one again, for yet another masterpiece of the heart, I absolutely LOVERD reading this, and I particularly loved the quotes, whch I can’t help but share on twitter 🙂 My favorite quote of Your’s is : “Another person’s actions have already stolen enough from me and I am refusing to let them take any more.” – Carolyn Hughes

    I couldn’t agree more, and I am so inspired by Your words here, and the fact that they serve as confirmation for me, for my recent actions on my journey that I am currently on.


    • Thank you for leaving such an amazing reply! I am so humbled that you say my words have inspired you and have given you confirmation for your journey. It is wonderful that you can relate to my experiences, it makes me feel like I am not alone! Thank you for sharing my quotes and all your support! Love and blessings 🙂

      • No matter what happens in life, we are never alone 🙂 We can deal with anything as long as we have faith, and the best of it is, that we find others like ourselves along the way, to bring out our passions, ignite the fire within us, and to remind us of our purpose in this beautiful struggle we call life. I don’t know You but I feel like I’ve known You my whole life … Be blessed, Keep Shining xxx

  21. Love this post Carolyn! Forgiveness isn’t agreeing with the wrong it’s just not willing to hold on to the pain of the wrong – the other person(s) aren’t feeling the pain – we are – and only we can let it go by forgiving the situation and ourselves.

  22. I have found that I can forgive people and still not have to interact with them, because they are people who cause pain. I then am not afraid of them, am not bitter towards them, and know if I meet up with them I will just keep moving forward. Love your web page and post!

  23. So beautifully expressed, Carolyn. Forgiveness is more for ourselves than the other person(s) and sets us free from the anguish. Sometimes it is easy, sometimes not. 🙂 Hugs! Vidya

  24. Forgiveness is soo important; if we only knew how much it sets us free from all the agony and Pain when we don’t want to forgive. It is soo selfish, really. God has forgiven us, what are we waiting for?

  25. What a beautiful post! So much meat here. In my life, I find that forgiving myself is the hardest. I tend to beat myself up over things I say or don’t say, the actions of my children (that I have no control over!), or always thinking there is MORE I can do to make the world a better place. I find it SO much easier to forgive others.

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