In Anatomy of Peace and Leadership and Self-Deception, the Arbinger Institute describes the process by which we unknowingly contribute to relationship problems. They describe it as the Problem We Cannot See. By becoming aware and alive to that contribution to conflict, Arbinger says, we can put an end to the collusion and beliefs that keeps conflict alive.
Arbinger does not use the word forgiveness in this process, yet if we look up the word forgive, the Merriam-Webster.com dictionary defines it as to stop feeling anger toward (something) or about (something). Arbinger helps us to let go of feelings of anger but also entitlement, superiority, resentment, depression, or envy by increasing our awareness of and owning our own role in a conflict or relationship dysfunction. Therefore, this ongoing and lifelong process of letting go is so much larger than forgiveness since we are releasing many feelings beyond anger. We replace resistance to reality and others with acceptance. As we see how pervasive the resistance mindset is throughout our day, self-acceptance also becomes required to make this important and ongoing change.
Forgiveness is a difficult process. It is not solely driven by our cognition: understanding the benefits of or wanting to forgive are simply insufficient to release those feelings of anger, contempt or resentment. In my own experience, I believe that forgiving others for their faults or mistakes is really the same as forgiving myself since I share the same struggles and challenges as everyone else. Hating someone else’s controlling, compulsive or condescending nature means that I hate my own; accepting their humanity (imperfection) requires that I accept my own.
One of my favorite quotes is from Suzanne Sommers: “Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself.” Imagine all those negative emotions that accompany being the Problem We Cannot See. It’s like Christmastime, folks, all year round.