“I believe forgiveness frees the heart and soul of a darkness that was never
intended to live there”
What I’ve seen in therapy is nothing short of a miracle because what I’ve seen is couples giving one another grace that does not come naturally. I’ve seen couples display acts of kindness that come only with love, but not just any love, this is an act of “true” love. Amazingly, these acts of love have been exhibited in instances where the very nature of human existence instructs us not to love at all but rather to act “as if” at war with the enemy. As beings of a higher order, we are capable of many things, but is true love one of those things? Are we capable of loving those who are a threat to us – those who have hurt us to the core – those whose very actions say they are at war with us? Maybe the more important question is – Is forgiveness natural? Is this true love?
The therapeutic process allows clinicians to see people turn from hate, distain, and distrust, potentially endangering their own self-pride, self-esteem, and self-worth, and turn instead to love, respect, and altruism. People choose to love, when given the chance. We are confused when messages are mixed between convictions and behaviors. We expect others to uphold their commitments to us and we’re blind-sided when they instead hurt us with acts of disloyalty, dishonesty, and vengeance. Yet when given the chance to forgive, we forgive. I believe this is a good argument for the existence of “true” love.
I believe we are born to be in relation with one another. I believe we have an innate longing for connectedness. I believe love is a basic need for survival. I believe we choose to forgive in order to maintain our natural need to love and to be loved; we trust those who have betrayed us to avoid disconnection. I have witnessed such behavior in couple’s therapy. I have witnessed the beauty of forgiveness for infidelity, dishonesty, and disloyalty. There is no greater pleasure to a therapist than to witness such forgiveness. Forgiveness is a gift some of us never experience. Forgiveness is one of the most empowering acts human beings exchange with one another yet, it is one of the most difficult to offer or accept. Why? Because at first glance, forgiveness appears to be an act of weakness. People perceive the act of forgiveness as challenging to their self-pride, self-esteem, and self-worth. Forgiveness is one of the most humble things we do as human beings because it calls us to love truly. It calls us to love emphatically, loving “as if” from the heart of the very ones who have hurt us. Not only are we to set aside the pain they have caused but we are called also to put their needs before our own? How can we do this? Only through the act of “true” love. Forgiveness may be the most selfless act we ever offer; an unwillingness to forgive, stands in the way of altruism.
We can learn from one another the power of loving with our whole-self. A love that calls us to come to the middle “wholeheartedly”, a term used by Brene` Brown in her book Daring Greatly, Gotham Books, 2012. I think loving wholeheartedly is our chance to love others considering not only what’s in the best interest of “me”, but also what’s in the best interest of “you”. When we come to the middle wholeheartedly rather than half-heartedly, we come vulnerable, willing to step outside “me” to see “you”. When I see you first, I then love you truly. I’m then loving myself enough to give myself the gift of wholehearted love, a love that is the shared interest of both me and you – it’s unselfish, fearless, and completely vulnerable. It’s trusting me enough to trust you. That’s the kind of love I want, need, and desire and I believe it is a love that can be taught. It is by sharing through acts of humility that we learn to live out our most valued attributes.
Written by Tammy Kennedy LPC
Mental Health and Relationship Counselor