The Freedom in Forgiveness and the Power of Apology
“Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.” – Marianne Williamson
We will hurt the ones we love. Our loved ones will hurt us. It is how to deal with this that matters.
Entering into a process of forgiveness is a choice. If you chose to not forgive, and you close yourself in order to not risk ever being hurt again…You lessen your chances for closeness and connections with your partner. Can I trust you? Will you let me down again? If I forgive, does it signal that it was OK?
If I had to identify one of the most challenging tasks that the couples I work with in couples therapy face, it is forgiveness. When a couple decides to come into counseling, as a result of an injury around lost of trust that had occurred, it is the inability to forgive and move on, that is keeping them stuck.
Most often, it is a discovery of an affair, infidelity, addiction, or other break in the trust in the relationship that was discovered or disclosed. At times a couple would try to ‘organize life around it’, ‘move on’, decide it is not ‘such a big deal’, try to transcend or bury the injury under the rush of life. Inevitably though, it will surface, and like anything suppressed, it will become combustible. Forgiveness is a way out, but it is also very difficult.
In her ground breaking work with Emotional Focused Therapy (EFT), the leading model of couples therapy, Dr. Sue Johnson uses attachment theory to explain so many of the forces at play in relationships. She wrote the book Hold Me Tight – Seven Conversation for a lifelong Love .
In her book, Dr. Johnson, devotes a full conversation to forgiveness as it is one of the most difficult tasks to overcome in a relationship’s attachment injuries and breakups. Johnson writes, “The first goal for partners is forgiveness. Just as with love, forgiveness has only recently become a topic of study by social scientists… “Letting go of resentment and absolving a person’s bad conduct is the right and good thing to do. But this decision alone will not restore faith in the injuring person and the relationship. What partners need is a special type of healing conversation that fosters not just forgiveness, but [also] the willingness to trust again.”
In my therapy practice, and in our Hold Me Tight workshops, I have been trying to help couples restore faith in the possibility of forgiveness and the power of apology and to bring back hope into the relationship.
In all relationships we make mistakes. We hurt those we love. Ruptures and injuries happen in most relationships. Time does not always heal. If we do not choose to enter the process of forgiveness, we decrease the chances of closeness and connection with our loved ones.
Dr. Sue Johnson and other relationship experts such as Drs. John and Julie Gottman, Dr. Fred Luskin of the Stanford Forgiveness Project and many others emphasize the importance of repair and forgiveness in loving, close, healthy relationships.
My dear colleagues Michelle Gannon, PhD and Sam Jinich, PhD have created a training and a teaching based on the Emotional Focused Therapy and Hold Me Tight (HMT) Model for forgiving injuries and using the power of apology. I have personally gained much from their work as well, the benefit of which is passed on to my clients.
The challenge of forgiveness lies not just with romantic relationships but also with relationships with friends, parents, siblings, colleagues, nations, and others. When we get hurt, there is a call inside of us to be protected and to ‘never again‘.
Growing up in Israel, in the shadow of the holocaust, I have encountered many survivors’ stories and how hard it is to begin trusting again and opening your heart to the possibility of forgiveness and redemption.
Jack Kornfield has written and talked much about forgiveness. In his words, “forgiveness is not just about the other. It’s really for the beauty of your soul. It’s for your own capacity to fulfill your life… Forgiveness is, in particular, the capacity to let go, to release the suffering, the sorrows, the burdens of the pains and betrayals of the past, and instead to choose the mystery of love.”
Forgiveness expert Fred Luskin explains what it takes to give up a grudge. “The essence of forgiveness is being resilient when things don’t go the way you want—to be at peace with “no,” be at peace with what is, be at peace with the vulnerability inherent in human life. Then you have to move forward and live your life without prejudice.”
Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.
Experts who study or teach forgiveness make clear that when you forgive, you do not gloss over or deny the seriousness of an offense against you. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses. Though forgiveness can help repair a damaged relationship, it doesn’t obligate you to reconcile with the person who harmed you, or release them from legal accountability.
In the Forgiveness conversation of our Hold Me Tight workshops, we again will try to bring on the power of forgiveness for healing and for redemption in the relationship. In order to facilitate the ritual of forgiveness and a powerful true apology in a hurting relationship; we engage throughout the workshop in creating a safe place for the hurting partner in the relationship to talk about their pain and experience and to be received and given the sense of empathy, validation, comfort and acceptance.
We have all had the experience of an apology looking like this:
- I am sorry YOU feel that way…
- Saying you are sorry does not matter, are you going to change?
- Sorry is cheap….
- Well maybe I did that, but….
- Fine… I am sorry…
- It’s always my fault…
- I am sorry… OK?…
- I’ve apologized so many times already, it does not even matter….
- I’ll apologize… if you apologize..
Even with best intentions, we will fail to reach our partners, with even the most sincere thoughtful apology. What is needed at times, is a creation of a safe place and ritual. A conversation where vulnerability, safety, and accessibility are pivotal pillars to holds space for both partners, to be heard and to heal.
At our Hold Me Tight relationship enhancement Workshop – participants will learn and experience how to:
• Affirm strengths in your relationship by developing understanding and bonding.
• Address negative cycle patterns, and learn why they show up, and how to get out of them.
• Learn how to repair and forgive injuries, and become vulnerable with each other.
• Enhance your emotional, physical, and sexual closeness and INTIMACY.
I’m delighted to be offering my next Hold Me Tight couples workshop Saturday September 17 to Sunday September 18, with Owen Marcus, MA, author, workshop facilitator, and TEDxTalk presenter on Masculine Emotional Intelligence.
Owen brings with him the width of decades of leading and facilitating men’s group all over the country, helping men access their masculine vulnerability. Owen’s presence, and his work with couples and men, will enhance this upcoming Hold Me Tight workshop, by offering his depth, support, and perspective to the couples in our workshop.
SPACE IS LIMITED. SO SIGN UP ASAP.
As I keep the groups small and intimate, if you know you want to sign up, I will encourage you to do so shortly, as they do tend to fill up.
This is a great opportunity to have a deeper and vulnerable look at your relationship, develop new skills to recognize the cycle and patterns that inflict the relationship and keep you separated and apart.
It is also a beautiful time to connect and highlight the strengths of your relationship, and build on the positives that already exist.
Please do not hesitate to call me with any questions or for more information. Looking forward to sharing the workshop with you and I hope you are enjoying this beautiful summer.
RSVP on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/events/496868083845854/