This is really important because we often think that forgiving someone means that we are really saying “everything is great, like nothing has happened between us, we’ve turned back the clock on our relationship”. That simply isn’t possible! And it shouldn’t be. What’s done is done and can’t be undone.
Sure there are people and circumstances when the forgiving is easier and things can go back to what was considered “normal” before the breach. My mom once accidentally broke a coffee mug that I particularly loved, she had given it to me many years ago. It was irreplaceable. I was really hurt when I discovered it was gone forever. I knew she didn’t break it on purpose and that she felt bad for the loss. She apologized and I accepted her apology. I forgave her, and though I remember the mug fondly, life goes on pretty much the same between us. This is not the kind of situation I’m talking about.
I’m talking about the kind of forgiveness that comes after deep, personal, life-changing hurts- hurts that forever change important details about how, when, where and with whom we live our lives. These are the events that hit us at our very core and make us ask the question “Why God? Why?”
What I’m referring to is the forgiveness that says “I trust myself enough to take back the control that I (un/intentionally) gave away.” This is the control that determines how I respond to the adversary, how I choose to live my life, what kind of confidence I hold in my self. And just because you have come to a place of understanding or compassion for the adversary does not mean you continue to allow them to have (total) power over you, your feelings and thoughts, your self worth. Forgiving your adversary is another way of giving yourself permission to move on with your life.
Moving on with your life also means a lesson has been learned. That lesson may be “I can’t trust my adversary, they do not have my best interests at heart.” It may be a variation on that theme, or it may be, if a continued relationship is desired, that you wish to give that person a chance to regain your trust. When reconciliation is warranted, the work must come from both sides. There must be active change worked by both parties. (Note that an ongoing abusive relationship is usually NOT one that should be reconciled. Forgiveness may be given without reconciliation.)
Moving on with your life may mean choosing not to interact with the adversary, choosing not to participate in the same activities they do, and it can also mean choosing to limit interaction, or to continue to participate in the same social group, but without directly interacting with that person. Sometimes circumstance require you to be in the same place at the same time, moving on after forgiveness will enable you to do that with civility.
Forgiveness means “I wish to let go of the effects of this event”, it does not mean retaliation or that I will look for opportunities to make jabs at my adversary. Letting go of the effects means that you don’t dwell on the event and that its memory doesn’t dictate your behavior. Letting go means you re-embrace your self, and have a healthy regard for your self and your needs, not in a narcissistic way, but rather along the lines of justice for everyone. At best, when you forgive, you work your way to the place when you can wish your (former) adversary well, and not feel resentful when they experience blessings.