The greatest misconception regarding the willingness to forgive and making the decision to forgive is that the process will happen overnight. This misconception may have begun as a child. Think back to a fight you had with a sibling or childhood friend that was broken up by an adult who sub sequentially made you hug, shake hands and say to each other, “I forgive you”. Did you really forgive that person at that very moment? Now, as adults we expect the process to actually have an immediate turnaround, when in fact the process takes a more proactive approach on our end. Conversely, due to the intense pain we feel coupled with our impatience, we are often frustrated during the journey, which then leads us to give up and aborting the entire process. Unfortunately, our unwillingness to try again (pride) has left us with grudges, unresolved issues, and conversations that are five or 10 years overdue.
To begin the process of forgiveness, the very first thing you must do is to decide that you are ready to heal. Often we choose not to forgive, because we would rather be the “victim” and continue blaming the other person, who has probably moved on. Yet, once you have made the decision to obtain the end result, which is to heal, your willingness to do what it takes will fall in line with that desire.
What should one do if the offender doesn’t acknowledge the wrong or does not feel the need to atone?
As mentioned in Part 1, the atonement process, by definition, is for the one who committed the wrong to seek perfect union with Allah (God). It would be a blessing if they acknowledge the wrong, but do not place your relationship with God in their hands. The only thing you can do for them is pray and keep it moving. They may think that it is hurting you by not atoning, yet they are hurting themselves and their relationship with God. Your duty is to join with Allah (God) in the process of forgiving them. That will give you the greatest of ease. Do not wait on a “mystery apology”! Depending on the level of development of the offender, you may never get that acknowledgement. Your growth and development should not be stunted on account of someone else’s unwillingness to grow.
What if your offender is now deceased?
At times we quarrel or have major conflicts with one another, and shortly thereafter we are being notified that our loved one has been in a fatal accident. The weight of guilt alone can very well complicate the process for the opposite reason in wanting that person to be actively involved in both the atonement process and the forgiveness process. The emotions of guilt can be debilitating, because it involves the one thing we cannot change, which is the past. In this case the one thing I would suggest is to understand that in any strong, authentic, and long friendship-relationship we cannot go without hurting one another. It happens. We disappoint each other whether we intend to or not. You cannot be close to someone without ever hurting him or her. In interpersonal or intimate relationships, we open ourselves up to that person and they do the same, which in most cases invites some form of potential disappointment or pain. For most of us we do not open ourselves up often. Thus, we may say or do things to hurt the other person, because we are still learning how to be close. With a loved one who has passed away that you may have regrets with, embrace the willingness to be compassionate toward yourself. Even if you think you’re a bad person, reflect on the loved one you lost physically, and remember that they know who you really are. The first thing one should do in this case is to enter the process of forgiving self and showing love toward self as stated in 2nd Corinthians 2:5-11. We must understand that time is much too short to continue placing blame on self and others.
In the case where you are the one who is atoning…
Do not worry about whether or not someone has forgiven you or will forgive you. If you continue to work on yourself and work with Allah (God) in your atonement process, it will reflect in your spirit and actions. If the one offended is doing their part, you both will find each other and be in perfect union with Allah (God).
May Allah (God) continue to bless us with the light of understanding and love.
Ebony S. Muhammad