Writing Our Way to Forgiveness // Trina O’Gorman

Writing Our Way to Forgiveness // Trina O’Gorman

In a recent Instagram post in which I asked my followers if they had any questions about personal writing, one person posed an interesting and provocative question, How do you write for forgiveness? Initially, I thought it a fairly easy and straightforward one. I figured I’d share my ideas about writing techniques that I used, including MindMosaics, Unsent Letters, and H’Oponopono as a MindMosaic. Those had always lent themselves to the kinds of mental pathways I needed to explore, in order to process my own hurt and pain. But the more I thought about it, the more troubled I started to feel because as much as I write and think about certain things, there were a couple of issues that I have not yet personally resolved, that still need work, and that are still impeding my overall sense of peace and well-being. And those issues primarily stem from the struggle to forgive.

What is this strange relationship that I and many others may have with forgiveness that makes it so hard to give or grant or extend? Forgiveness itself is an abstract concept that means different things to different people, but for many people, it means coming to terms with some injury or wrongdoing and letting go of the hurt that came with it. The problem we have with that is that we feel that forgiveness means that this other person is no longer accountable for his or her actions, that we have essentially let them off the hook. And there’s then the additional concern that if you let someone off the hook and excuse them for the way that they hurt you, then that person will hurt you again.

But keeping people “on the hook,” just like keeping a big fish “on the hook” is a battle. The fish thrashes around, trying desperately to get off the hook, and you swing the rod around trying to keep the fish on the hook. But once you release the fish from the hook and hold it in your hand, it doesn’t thrash around quite so much. It either makes its way back to the water for oxygen, or it dies. Either way, the struggle ends.

The difference between keeping a fish on the hook and a person on the hook for is that we generally went looking for the fish. We wanted the fish so badly that we put bait on the end of a hook, cast our line into the water, and sat patiently (or impatiently), waiting for a fish to come by and take a nibble. We wanted this fish! But we don’t generally go out looking for someone to hurt us or looking for pain. In fact, most of us want to stay away from that. So, why would we want to keep the pain or injury or person who inflicted it on the hook? Like with a fish, it’s probably a lot less work to let it go.

This is the point that I’ve reached in my personal writing.

My thought is that fear and/or anger are probably the root cause of our inability to actually extend forgiveness. We are either afraid that we will be injured again and feel that this is a matter of self-preservation. Or we are so angry that we were hurt in the first place that we find it difficult to let go of this feeling of resentment. The first reason is probably the more logical reason to withhold forgiveness. If we are withholding forgiveness because of fear, we have to determine whether or not the fear is warranted. If the potential or threat of injury is still present, then we do actually need to protect ourselves. In that case, I think forgiveness comes after our safety. We have to feel emotionally and physically safe in order to forgive.

In my personal writing, I am writing to figure out my reasons for withholding forgiveness. I can then explore my options. If I determine that there is a continued threat to me, then I have to determine if there is a way to protect myself and how I would prepare myself for that. All of these feelings and emotions are so abstract and emotionally-driven that writing them down really helps me to organize them and make sense of them. It is also easier for me to confront and deal with my reasons for fear, once I identify them and name them.

This is a complex and challenging question and topic. But to simplify how I write for forgiveness, I:
  1. Write about the person or thing that has hurt me.
  2. Determine if that person or thing is still hurting me.
  3. Write about the lessons I’ve learned.
  4. Write lists of coping strategies.
  5. Take accountability.
  6. Engage in written dialogue to open communication.
I do believe that forgiveness is often the best option because it frees us from the job of having to hold onto this thrashing metaphorical creature that is trying to free itself. Most of the time, when we release it, we are essentially freeing ourselves. 

1 comment

  • Deepo: March 12, 2019
    Author image

    Awesome post. Thank you for articulating an issue that has bothered me in my own life and writing. Forgiveness is a tricky business, I think you nailed the steps for sorting it out,

Leave a comment

All blog comments are checked prior to publishing