How My Anger Led Me to Forgiveness



1. act of forgiving;  state of being forgiven.

2. disposition or willingness to forgive.

Trauma residue from childhood and my more wild adult years spin me out of control when I’m not on it.  My trauma experienced is soul-insidiousnessly based.

Unusually, being a woman, my bipolar depression manifests as irritability, bitchiness, anger and if I’m not careful, escalates to rage in electric nanoseconds of expression when triggered.  To manage it,  I work.  Right now, producing Wellness Solutions 1.0 Uncensored Innovation in Philadelphia on September 4-5th, I’m putting in 80 hour weeks.  I work out.  As much as I can.  I cook.  I sleep at least 6-7 hours a night now, at least 2-3 x a week.  I spend time with trusted friends.  I remain transparent, accessible and work to be authentic to avoid complexities that are unnecessary and time consuming.

Forgiveness can be one of the most difficult concepts to grasp.  This may explain why it’s one of the most difficult and greatest gifts to give.

It may sound a bit cliché, but one of the best definitions of forgiveness I’ve ever heard was actually stated by Oprah Winfrey. Oprah’s definition of forgiveness is, “to accept the fact that the past can’t change.” (The Gift Of Forgiveness, Forgiveness: It’s For You…Not For Them,” (Warren, 2008).

 My partner is patiently teaching me the hard act of forgiveness as a result of abuses which have effect me.  “The Oxford English Dictionary defines forgiveness as ‘to grant free pardon and to give up all claim on account of an offense or debt’. The concept and benefits of forgiveness have been explored in religious thought, the social sciences and medicine. Forgiveness may be considered simply in terms of the person who forgives including forgiving themselves, in terms of the person forgiven or in terms of the relationship between the forgiver and the person forgiven” (Wikipedia, 2012).

Forgiveness?  Is that the same as letting things go… “Let Go, Let God” and “Forgive and Forget”?  I can “forgive” but I never forget.  I’m not built that way.  Forgiveness must be granted without any expectation of restorative justice, and without any response on the part of the offender. Essentially, it would be necessary for the offender in a relationship where forgiveness were necessary, to offer some form of acknowledgment, an apology, or even just ask for forgiveness, in order for the wronged person to believe himself able to forgive (American Psychological Association, 2008).

 “Love the creatures for the sake of God and not for themselves. You will never become angry or impatient if you love them for the sake of God. Humanity is not perfect. There are imperfections in every human being, and you will always become unhappy if you look toward the people themselves. But if you look toward God, you will love them and be kind to them, for the world of God is the world of perfection and complete mercy. Therefore, do not look at the shortcomings of anybody; see with the sight of forgiveness.”

— `Abdu’l-BaháThe Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 92

Understanding, acknowledgement that I can’t control anyone else other than myself helps.  Mindfulness… Self-Care.  I’m getting better at it, but am by no measure of the word decent at it yet.  Buddhism places much emphasis on the concepts of Mettā (loving kindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (sympathetic joy), and upekkhā (equanimity), as a means to avoiding resentments in the first place. These reflections are used to understand the context of suffering in the world, both our own and the suffering of others.

“He abused me, he struck me, he overcame me, he robbed me’ — in those who harbor such thoughts hatred will never cease.”

“He abused me, he struck me, he overcame me, he robbed me’ — in those who do not harbor such thoughts hatred will cease” (Wikipedia, 2012).

Acceptance and forgiving things done to me… those many awful things said to me, things both physical and tangible to the indeterminate and held in secrecy, and in hate, being deceived by women I held in friendship…  My personal recovery is steeped in self-gratifying minutes and seconds at a time sometimes doing, thinking, breathing, taking action for myself and comrades in arm. Pratikraman also contains the following prayer:

Khāmemi savva-jīve savvë jive khamantu me /

metti me savva-bhūesu, veraṃ mejjha na keṇavi //

(I ask pardon of all creatures, may all creatures pardon me.

May I have friendship with all beings and enmity with none. (Jaini, Padmanabh (2000).

Finally, to love… Love deeply.  Breathe in and hold it  then just let it all go out into the hot night air reminiscent of summers before.  For me at least, this works.


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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  1. Work is always a tough balance for me. I have to figure out how many hours is too many. I keep a timesheet so I know when I’ve done too much and it’s time to go garden or ride bikes or play with dogs or take the kids to the museum.

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  2. Judith Hermann, MD, who wrote “Trauma and Recovery” has a discussion in the book of the forgiveness idea. She says that forgiveness is between the abuser and THEIR higher power and I don’t have the power to grant or deny forgiveness to anyone. Not my job.

    I do work on releasing the repetitive thoughts that are the aftereffect of trauma. Obsession and preoccupation with the harm is what happens post trauma. It’s not a character defect or a spiritual flaw. Letting go of the resentment (re-feeling) is not the same as forgiveness. If adopting a spiritual practice reduces inner turmoil – then great! But this forgiveness thing is one more guilt trip I don’t need.

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  3. I don’t plan on forgiving the people who tortured me. I use my anger to try to change the situation so others won’t have to experience what I did.

    Perhaps if one feels powerless to change anything, he/she might need to accept what happened to them. Or perhaps if the same system that abused them now is giving them grants, they better not bite the hand that feeds them, I suppose.

    To me, that would be shameful, but it seems to be pretty common in what was at one time a movement for liberation.

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