Have you ever sat through a murder trial? It’s absolutely brutal. The victim’s family has to listen to every horrific detail of how their loved one died, without saying a word or making a sound. They must relive the crime in vivid detail as their understanding is broadened in ways they never needed to know. The how, the why, the who is gone over bit by bit as the prosecution works to prove the accused guilty. Then, they must suffer through the explanations, excuses and even justifications of the defense. The guilty knows he is guilty, but out of self-preservation, he still persists in his innocence. It is maddening.
That is where you place yourself when you linger on in a state of unforgiveness – right smack dab in the middle of a trial. Not letting go of the past is just as much of an active decision as letting it go. You must continuously go over the details, justifying your anger. And it is justified. What that person did to you was wrong and it never should have been done. You are probably changed forever and your normal will never be what it was before the heinous act. But who is that trial hurting?
The trial for the guilty is over. You have already adjudicated him or her as guilty and you cannot do it twice, whether the guilt is ever admitted to or not. He may sit inside his prison forever, or she may have done her time and be released, but no matter how many times you hold trial, that person can never be convicted again. You, however, must relive it over and over again as long as you insist on holding trial in your empty courtroom. The guilty inflicted the pain the first time, but you are the one inflicting your own pain now.
I think most people insist on putting themselves through this torture (myself included) because forgiveness is too often equated with excusing or approving of the crime. It is not. Or perhaps you think that forgiving a person means that you need to start a relationship with them once again. You do not. If you want to start that relationship again, of course you can, but it is certainly not a necessary act of forgiveness. Forgiveness simply means that the trial is over. You will no longer go over the minutia of what that person did wrong. They are guilty, they have been held accountable and now you will move your life forward and let go of the past.