Absolute forgiveness means a lot more than mere forgiveness. When people declare themselves willing to forgive but not forget, they often find themselves regularly upset over the same old stories. Absolute forgiveness means finally letting go of the pain, the anger, the sadness… all the feelings triggered in you each time you recall the circumstances that prevent you from fully letting them go.
Once in a while, something we thought we had forgiven comes haunting us. The memory returns and produces feelings in us that are reminiscent of the feelings we once had when the event originally happens. The pain is reproduced and the anxiety returns. The more we recall the event, the stronger and more entrenched the feelings become. This happens when forgiveness was not absolute.
Forgiving doesn’t only imply forgiving others, which is hard enough, but even the harder type of letting go: forgiving ourselves. There can be certain events caused by others for which we forgave them long ago, in spite of which, the event keeps on haunting us. The reason behind this usually is that we forgave them for what they did but forgot to forgive ours
In humanological terms, there are three levels of forgiveness, depending on how one approaches the process:
Mental forgiveness, the first and most common one, means condoning an action because its trigger sounds logical. The “victim” accepts the reasons for the action and intellectually decides to forgive the perpetrator. It’s the simplest form of forgiveness and is usually expressed in words. Valid for mild feelings.
Sentimental forgiveness, the second type, implies understanding the perpetrator’s reasons and choosing to grant that person our forgiveness because of our own feelings. This second level is an act of love and acceptance. We decide to forgive from the heart. The act itself could involve some kind of physical action, like a hug, a kiss, a letter or any other kind of gesture. Required for stronger feelings.
Absolute forgiveness is the third and most complex form. It requires having completed the other two but also needs a new understanding of the circumstances or event to help us accept it as something good for us. It could be good because of the lesson it taught us or for any other reason. Absolute forgiveness is not a matter of choosing or deciding but needs a process that should be learned and implemented correctly.
The goal of any type of forgiveness should be to turn painful memories into mere feeling-free recollections. Haunting memories will only vanish for ever and become mere recollections when absolute forgiveness is granted. Until then, the feelings will still be there.