Podcast Episode 30 – The Forgiveness Journey

Jul 1, 2023 | Podcast

I’m Diana Swillinger, and this is the Renew Your Mind podcast. Episode 30 The Forgiveness Journey.  

DIANA: Hey. Hey. How are you all doing today? I m am doing great. The sun is shining and I’m happy, and my furnace isn’t working. Oh, uh, my goodness, people. We already repaired it in spring, the week of the shutdown for COVID-19, our furnace also went out. That was interesting. They did warn us that there was another part on our furnace that could go, but it’s kind of like if you have a car and the transmission goes in spring, and then in fall, the engine goes. And so we decided not to replace our furnace in spring. So we’re just going to have to do the other repair now. That’s all right. I’m fantastic. We’ll figure it all out today. 


The journey of forgiveness. This is another topic that people in my Facebook group wanted to hear about on the podcast. It’s also one that comes up when I coach. As you can imagine, we all deal with having to forgive people. This is something we all need to continue to work on and think about and figure out in our lives. And I think that we can do forgiveness well. We also need to give ourselves grace in the journey, just like everything else. I always want you guys to give yourselves grace, right? We’re just figuring this out. But forgiveness is a journey. Most of the time, at least when we’re thinking about having to forgive, we don’t just decide, hey, I’m going to forgive them. And boom, it’s done. It’s over. It never comes up again. All the resentment is gone. All the pain is gone. Forgiven, done. I mean, there are little things we forgive all the time for little things. I’m not talking about those, though, right? 


The person the store gives you the wrong change. You’re frustrated for a second, but then you forgive. Your child spills something. You’re frustrated for a moment, but you forgive. A friend is late, and you forgive. Maybe some other friends you don’t forgive, though. But the friend who’s not usually late, they just show up late. They’re like, I’m so sorry. You’re like, forgiven. I’m not talking about those simple moments. You don’t really need help with those. When people want me to talk about forgiveness, they’re not talking about those either. It’s when the forgiveness doesn’t just happen. It’s when it’s not easy. It’s when it feels like being stuck in unforgiveness. It won’t go away in an instant. And I would love for us to think about it as a journey. I think even though we know forgiveness is hard, sometimes we’re like, I just want it to be over. I just want to decide to forgive, and then it’s done. It doesn’t work that way when we’re hurt. Doesn’t work that way. Sometimes it takes an hour, sometimes it takes a week. Sometimes it takes years. I’m still not even sure if I have fully forgiven someone. 


My last boss, I trusted her, I looked up to her, and then I felt betrayed by her. I think I’m still working on a little bit. It’s still coming up, and it’s been a few years. It’s a journey. And so what do we know about journeys? A journey takes time. A journey takes preparation. A journey takes planning and thought. A journey takes intention. What a journey does is it takes us from one place to another place. And in the case of forgiveness, it takes us from pain and resentment and betrayal and other uncomfortable emotions to a place of forgiveness that has contentment and peace. Like, the landscape is different there, and we don’t want to stay where we are, and we want to go someplace else. Contentment and peace. These are, uh, two of the top emotions I hear women tell me they want on a regular basis, more contentment, more peace. Well, unforgiveness will sabotage that. There isn’t contentment and peace in unforgiveness. Just keep that in mind as we’re talking about this here. 


When I looked up forgiveness in the dictionary, the number one definition is actually to cease to feel resentment against to cease to feel resentment against. It’s about your own feelings. If we want to do the journey of forgiveness, we need to know why we want to forgive. Know why you specifically want to forgive a specific person. Notice I’m putting the emphasis on you. The other person might appreciate it if they hear that you have forgiven them, or if you tell them that you forgive them, they might appreciate it, but that’s just you communicating something to them, and then they get to do something with that information. They might appreciate how you act around them when you have forgiven them versus when you’re feeling unforgiveness. Because we do act differently around people. If we’re feeling resentful, we act different than when we have forgiven them, and that’s gone. 


But ultimately, you don’t have control over that other person. But also keep in mind if you want to repair a relationship with somebody, building a relationship, repairing a relationship to have a healthy relationship, it’s only possible when you have forgiven. You don’t build a healthy relationship on, um, unforgiveness, m, and resentment. But even if that’s your goal, because you want to repair a relationship, I think there’s a greater reason why do you want a healthy relationship? I mean, for you, I know you might want connection. You might want to feel love. You might want that interaction with another person. Security m but even deeper. The reason might need to be about the kind of person that you want to be. Ask yourself some of those questions. Are you the kind of person that lives stuck in the pain of unforgiveness, focusing on what you perceive as infractions against you? Are you the kind of person that dwells on what you think is wrong or judges others for their actions and then you feel kind of responsible for punishing them with your unforgiveness? But who suffers when you don’t forgive? I know you’ve heard this. It’s you, right? Living with unforgiveness is living with constant pain of resentment and bitterness. You are the one suffering. But beyond getting out of the suffering, who is it you want to be? Why do you want to forgive? Are you wanting to be the kind of person that is confident in yourself to the point that you don’t need to judge someone else? Are you the kind of person who wants to be humble and doesn’t see yourself as more important than the other person? Are you the kind of person that doesn’t want to keep a list of what you think everyone else has done wrong or how they’ve harmed you? Do you want to be the kind of person that has compassion and empathy and notices that the other person is hurting too and that they might be doing their best? 


Figure out why it is you want to forgive. Figure out what kind of person you want to be and why, and then you get to embark on the journey. And I suggest that the more hurt you feel and the bigger your story is about how you’ve been wronged, the longer the journey is okay. And that’s okay. Just know that I talked about different aspects of a journey at the beginning. The first one is a journey takes time. I’ve asked this question on other podcasts. The question is just how long? In this case, the journey of forgiveness. How long will this journey take? How long will it take to forgive? How long am I willing to invest in this? And we don’t know how long the journey is going to take. It’s going to be different every time. How long are you willing to work on it? Are you willing to work on it for as long as it takes? Is there anything that would make you quit? Understand this before you start your journey or even reevaluate as the journey is going, a journey takes step after step and you gradually get closer to your destination. Whenever I think of journeys, I guess I always think of Lord of the Rings. I just feel like that was the ultimate journey. Frodo having to return the ring. 


Okay, you Lord of the Rings fans, and my husband going to kill me for not knowing the name of the mountain. He had to throw it in for it to be destroyed. But he decided to go on that journey he knew why he was doing it and he wasn’t going to stop. He had to have a reason. You need to know your reason why or, uh, you won’t stick to it and you won’t stay committed. So know it takes time. The next thing is a journey takes preparation. You have to prepare because a journey is going to have setbacks and it’s going to have obstacles. You need to pack snacks. You need clothes in a physical journey. Okay, so figuratively, what kind of snacks and clothes do you need? What sustenance do you need? How are you going to manage your own needs? Because you’re not going to make the journey if you aren’t taking care of you. You need to plan how you’re going to meet your needs. Usually when we have a person in our life that we want to forgive, we’re noticing that they did something that was an infraction on one of our needs. 


Like, it undermined a need that we have, maybe a need for connection, a need for trust, for relationship, a need for security, a need to be respected, a need to be valued. So we’re already coming from a place where we feel like one of our needs has been knocked down and now we want to go on a journey to forgive them. They’re not going to meet that need. So you do need to plan. Have a plan to get that need met in a healthy way so you have the sustenance that you need or you won’t be able to complete the forgiveness journey. We don’t forgive well from a place of depletion, we don’t. Feeling depleted makes me want to crawl under the covers and fall asleep. Depletion leaves us feeling defeated. Usually we want to throw in the towel and give up when we’re defeated. So you need to have a plan to get your need met. How are you going to do it? Is it through faith? Are, uh, you going to allow God to fill that need? How about other people in your life? Who else can walk beside you and help fill your need? And how about you? How are you meeting your own need? Can you love yourself enough to feel valued and secure? Because I would argue we need to feel valued and secure in order to forgive and let go of resentment. And, uh, I think ultimately, these needs, they’re going to get met because we believe that God made us valuable and he is going to provide for our needs. But if we are not loving ourselves, it’s kind of like rejecting that offering from God. We’re like return to sender. I don’t want this. I’m not valuable. 


But if you want to forgive, it’s going to be a really, really hard journey. If you’re not loving yourself enough to let God meet your needs through his word, through his promises, and through the people he places in your life, you’re going to have to be supported and build yourself up and not deny yourself essential sustenance for the journey. So many people just try to forgive in a bubble in their head. They don’t involve anyone else in the process. They don’t try to get their other needs met. And it’s like banging their head against the wall. They’re like, why can’t I forgive? Why can’t I forgive? I just told you why. You have to take care of your needs. Okay? The next a journey takes planning and thought. Got to plan out the journey. You know where you’re going. You got the map. You take the right tools you need to have with you what it takes to move toward your destination. For me, I think the two biggest tools in forgiveness are having honest assessments and story management. Let me explain. Have an honest assessment to gauge your progress. 


You’re going to want to do this at the beginning, during the middle, closer to the end. You just need to know where you’re at. So at a starting point, you want to start the journey of forgiveness. It might sound like this. It’s got to be real and raw and honest. So it could be, I decided I want to forgive this person, but I am so hurt, I can’t even imagine getting there. The honest assessment is you’ve made the decision, but you’re still filled with hurt, and you’re not even sure how you’re going to make it happen. But that’s okay. You did the first thing, just made the decision, started the journey. But be honest with where you’re at. For me, when I’m deeply hurt, my starting point is often a prayer because I feel inadequate to forgive. So I might say something like this. Um, god, I do want to forgive this person, but I really am still mad. I’m still hurt. I have no clue what this journey is going to look like. Part of me doesn’t even want to do it. So I’m asking you to help me the whole way through, especially now when I haven’t even started and I already want to give up and keep my resentments. That kind of honesty. Did you ever notice we want to hang on to our resentment sometimes? Just notice it. It’s okay. It’s part of being human. It’s part of having this desire for wanting everything to be right in this world. That’s okay. To have that, just notice it and be willing to honestly assess where you’re at. 


What does it look like for you? You don’t need to sugarcoat it. You don’t need to try to be a perfect Christian with all the right answers. If you actually want real progress, you’re going to have to dump the pretense. Be honest. Pretense is useless. That’s just pretending something that’s a little different from what actually is. If you honestly want to forgive, you’ve got to dump the pretense and be real. And it’s not like you’re going out and telling everybody about this. You’re journaling it, or you’re telling one person, or you’re telling your coach, or you’re telling your therapist or your mentor, or you’re just thinking this and praying this. You don’t have to go shout it from the rooftops, but be honest. And along the way, this assessment will change. I mentioned my boss, and I’m still forgiving for now, the honest assessment is a little bubble of resentment surfaces here and there I didn’t know was still there. And then I just asked God to help me with it. But before, like, six months into this, my middle assessment was kind of like, all right, I kind of forgive her and better at seeing that she’s a person that struggles too. 


She doesn’t always get it right. Neither do I, and I accept that better now. But I still don’t feel like I forgive her for lying and backstabbing. Uh, be honest. I still had drama. I’m like, I forgive her, but she’s still lying. I still think she was lying and backstabbing. Okay, just be honest. I wasn’t going to give up. I’m like, It’s okay that that’s still sneaking in there. It’s okay that I’m still working on it. And now, years later, I still have the occasional daydream about gloating. But most of the time, I feel compassion and forgiveness and I just ask God to keep helping me clean up the rest. And it feels like I’m in the final stretches now. Or maybe this is as far as I’m going to get in this life. And I’ll keep working on that little seed. Like, just mostly I feel compassion and humility and love. But occasionally I feel little unforgiveness and resentment and I just ask God, I just turn it over to Him. Maybe that’s how it’s going to be. It’s okay. I’m just noticing you guys. I didn’t really prepare this part of it, but I do want to make sure that I mention that in any relationship, we’re really just talking about our heart here and our thoughts and forgiving the other person. But a piece that really helps is owning our own part of what happened. With my boss, I had to decide, I am part of this relationship. I could have done things better. And I own that. And that allowed me to be more humble. Sometimes in some relationships, it might be appropriate. 


We might want to apologize and ask for forgiveness too. Like with my husband, all the time, whenever I feel like I need to forgive him, I always find what piece in it. Can I ask for forgiveness for what was my part? And it’s a beautiful part of forgiveness, owning our part. And actually, now that I think about it, let’s just roll that into story management so we can roll our piece of it into story management. So I’ll do that. My original story about my boss was something like, my boss had it wrong. It’s her fault. I blame her. She’s wrong about me. This never should have happened. She’s got problems. Look at how she goes around doing this to people. At the very beginning, when I was feeling very hurt, I had a lot of drama in my story. And if I would have chosen to hang on to that, I would have stayed in unforgiveness. I had to manage my story. So I worked on thinking about it differently. The story in my brain. My boss had did some things wrong, but she was probably doing the best she could. It’s possible she isn’t fully to blame. I was part of the relationship, and I’m going to own my part. Okay? I’m folding that into my story. 


She was wrong about some things, but that happens sometimes. People are wrong. She’s a broken human. I’m a broken human. It was two broken people. She’s trying to figure life out. I’m trying to figure life out. And maybe this happened exactly the way it was supposed to happen. All of my podcasts intertwined, so if you want more on maybe this is exactly the way it was supposed to happen. Listen to, um, accepting what is. There’s no use fighting reality. It only leaves more frustration, and it’s harder to forgive. So get out of resentment and unforgiveness by telling a more balanced story that leads to humility and compassion. And the last thing I mentioned about journeys is a journey takes intention. Forgiveness doesn’t just happen. It’s an intentional choice. A journey has a destination in mind, and you need to stay the course in order to get there. Like baby steps. You can get more traction if you take it little by little intentionally. 


I had a client this summer who wanted to forgive her mom. But anytime we talked about it, she got filled with resentment, and it was a, uh, no. Like, I can’t do it, she’d say. So we worked to break it down into a single first step. We found one thing in the past that she thought she could forgive, and then we got intentional with it. Does that make sense? She couldn’t forgive her mom for everything that she’d ever done. She couldn’t forgive her for never being there, for moving away, for choosing her stepfamily over her own family, for not calling on important days in the whole long list. Like, my mom doesn’t show up for me, and I can’t forgive her for that. It was too big. It’s like trying to leap to the end of a treacherous journey super fast. It’s just not even possible. It’s insurmountable. So what is the first step on the forgiveness journey that makes you take the first step of progress? You can forgive just one thing. There was one thing my client decided to forgive her mom for from high school. Mom, I forgive you for not taking me shopping for a prom dress. That’s it. One thing. 


She intentionally said it out loud a few times over the next week. I imagine she might have adjusted her story a little bit, too, because we talked about it. Like, mom might have felt insecure about finances or didn’t know how to handle her emotions or her finances properly or how to handle that situation. And so because mom didn’t know how to do it well, she just ignored the client’s request for a prom dress. That’s possible. We didn’t know for sure. But having a story like that allowed her to add some compassion. And so she forgave just for that one thing, just one. And it brought some relief. She told me she even had a phone call with her mom later in that week about other random things, nothing about the past. But she said that whole call felt better. That is intentionality. That is a baby step that is moving forward in the journey of forgiveness. Okay, so if we’re looking at forgiveness as a journey that takes you from one place to another, here’s the recap. 


Know why you want to take the journey of forgiveness. You have to know why and make it a good reason. You need to know that the journey is going to take time. The more hurt you feel, or the bigger the infraction feels, the longer it’s going to take to forgive. A journey takes preparation. Pack your snacks, pack your clothes, meet your own needs so that you can manage the journey. A journey is going to take planning and thought. Know where you’re going, have a plan, and be intentional. But I promise you, the forgiveness journey is really worth taking. When you choose to forgive, you free yourself from the weight of resentment. When you choose to forgive, you get to have more humility and compassion, which actually feels really great. When you choose to forgive, you become better at loving other people. You become better at doing relationships. You’re going to like how you show up better. And if that sounds great to you, you are in the right place. And I am here to help you on your journey. If you want some more help, every week I send out an email with additional resources that will help you along the way. So if you don’t get it yet, you totally should go sign up. Head over to Rympodcast.com, scroll to the bottom of the page, and sign up for weekly mind management tips. And I hope that you will go set up a journey of forgiveness. Who’s that one person you want to forgive? Go make a plan. Get started on that journey. Don’t wait. All right, y’all, that’s all I have for today. I will catch you next week. Take care, you. Bye. 


As an advanced certified life coach, I help Christian women trying to live their best lives, but they still feel unsatisfied and stuck. I teach thought management skills that work so you can enjoy life again and step into who God has created you to be. Don’t forget to head on over to Rympodcast.com to get my free resources or a free coaching call.

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