Forgiveness – is it all it’s cracked up to be?

You can not forgive unless you are first angry at someone. Furthermore, what would the point of forgiving someone be, if you aren’t angry at them?

Forgiveness – is it all it’s cracked up to be?

New age gurus are leading the charge of forgiveness for all, but is this leaving women high and dry rather than at peace with themselves? Whilst it’s true that carrying anger around with you is detrimental, it’s also true that society discourages women’s anger. It’s rare for a woman to feel comfortable expressing dissatisfaction, let alone full blown fury.

Society begins consciously and unconsciously conditioning women from the moment they’re born, telling us that anger is unattractive, and we must strive to be liked if we want to succeed. How does this happen?Without even discussing the way families train girls to be submissive, and internalise their anger, we only need to look at gendered children’s toys. Toy guns versus tea sets are the perfect example of the way society conditions women to be hospitable and subservient, meanwhile boys play angrily.

Not only does society condition us not to express our anger, it is itself conditioned to belittle, ignore, and malign any woman who dares step out of line.

If men were forced to contain their anger the way women are, there would be a lot less of them in prison. How many of us have our valid and firey anger dismissed by our parents, partners, and other significant people with the single sweeping statement “she’s just angry” and a condescending roll of the eyes.

Women who have been abused, mistreated, or neglected have every reason to be angry, but they often lack the skills to work with their anger constructively. They either allow it to simmer under the surface until they become cancer patients, or they have explosive outbursts of anger for which they are mocked and labelled “angry women”.

In this context women become desperate to forgive rather than to express animosity and having never learnt to see the potential for growth in anger, they cast it aside before it can be beneficial. Anger is simply an emotion, it is neither good nor bad, and all our emotions are valid and deserve to be heard, we have every right to feel whatever we feel without judgment – external or internal.

So here’s the problem with forgiveness. Unfortunately, embracing forgiveness as a means of creating inner peace will not work until we release our anger. So whilst the gurus of self help pressure us to forgive, they forget to tell us that the only way to do that is to work through it, not to quash it. For a man who has oozed anger from his every fibre for the last forty years, it is conceivably healthy to move through that into a peaceful state of forgiveness. For a woman who has spent forty years avoiding, ignoring, and judging herself for any hint of anger, moving to forgiveness is pointless.

You can not forgive unless you are first angry at someone. Furthermore, what would the point of forgiving someone be, if you aren’t angry at them? This brings us to a crucial point. How does a woman express anger? In order to conceptualise the healthy expression of anger we must first move away from the idea that anger is always loud, aggressive, and masculine. It is, in fact, entirely possible to express anger without ever raising your voice.

Using words like “I am not satisfied with this, I require [insert requirement here]” plainly and assertively states your needs without any hint of the irrationality that society associates with feminine anger. Calmly and firmly stating “I am angry” also states fact without being aggressive. It is perfectly acceptable to state how you feel, and then walk away from the situation to regain composure before attempting to fix it.

Butterfly and flowers to symbolise forgiveness
Does forgiveness lead to transformation?
Credit: Sharp Photography | CC BY 3.0.

In some cases, like the case of a woman who is angry at an abuser from her past or even current life, expressing anger is either pointless – because her abuser believes he is entitled to abuse – or because it could be dangerous. When it is pointless or unsafe to express anger, it is still crucial to FEEL the anger. A state of peace through forgiveness can not be achieved without validating and releasing your angry emotions. Venting anger is often a magical release, it’s necessary, to move into a natural state of forgiving – or perhaps acceptance is a better word for it. We can vent by writing, screaming, running, smashing something, through Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) and also through non violent confrontation.

This in no way suggests that forgiving isn’t important, but simply that there are steps to be taken before you can achieve inner peace. Anger can undoubtedly be a dangerous and destructive emotion, which is why it’s so important for women to learn how to channel their anger into something worthwhile, to stop fearing their anger and start feeling it. The old saying “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” is one to embrace, for within anger a woman can truly find her power, and within forgiveness, she can find herself.

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