Recently I was bombarded by two different people trying to give me unsolicited advice about issues from my past. People who try to force others to “get closure” are peculiar to me. Why are they so concerned with “closure?” And furthermore, why are they so concerned with other people’s closure? I have to wonder if this is about them more than it's about me. Let’s face it, people love to project their issues onto others.
Yes, forgiveness is a good thing. I’m not saying we should have hard hearts and stop forgiving others and ourselves. I’m saying we need a little dose of reality and we need to stop expecting a miraculous quick fix to occur once we find a way to forgive and let go of the past.
Below is a list of five questions that make me wonder if forgiveness and closure are overrated.
1. Is there a legitimate definition of forgiveness?
I don’t even believe in the word forgiveness. The definition of the word forgive is “to stop feeling anger, or to stop blaming.” I don’t know about you, but that could mean anything! Anger and blame fall on a sliding scale of emotion, and stopping our emotions is impossible. Are you really looking to stop feeling angry? What about sadness? What about that split inside where you feel twinges of sorrow and anger in the exact same moment?
2. Can forgiveness actually change the reality of any situation?
People LOVE to talk about forgiveness and closure as if it will miraculously transmute a situation into pure peace. News flash: we need to wake up and recognize that life is about learning from our mistakes, not erasing them.
3. Can we ever really STOP OUR FEELINGS for good about something or someone?
I’ve been divorced for three years now, and I still occasionally feel blame toward my ex-husband and myself for our divorce. I'm OK with that. It's exhausting dealing with people telling me I should talk to so and so, or do xyz for closure. I will never have “closure.” What happened is part of who I am; it's been imprinted in me, and accepting that has been like a breath of fresh air.
4. So how can you “let go?”
Let’s get real with ourselves and with the fact that we are humans who continuously have thoughts and feel emotions. Emotions are like waves at the beach. They're always going to come. They WILL ROLL IN; there is no stopping them. We just have to learn how to ride them! We may find ourselves riding them with ease and grace, but they're still coming nevertheless.
5. Are we expecting perfection by expecting closure and forgiveness?
As we all know, perfection does NOT exist. We’ve got to give up this false hope of perfect closure and forgiveness. I used to think I had forgiven myself and my ex-husband, and therefore had moved on. But every so often an unexpected memory would trigger an emotion to bubble up and I would feel bad about myself for not being stronger. Beating ourselves up does not facilitate self-forgiveness!
Finding peace isn't about some magical moment of closure or forgiveness; it’s about moving forward and focusing on what you CAN DO rather than what you didn’t do. Accept your memories and emotions; let them be reminders of how far you’ve come, and let them remind you of what you want for your life. That is the closest you can get to self-forgiveness.