Clinical psychologist Dr. Robi Sonderegger explains what forgiveness is, and what it’s not.
By Foo Cechao & Dawn Seow
“When it comes to moving the stone that hinders our restoration, we need to forgive,” clinical psychologist Dr. Robi Sonderegger advised during his session on Saturday evening, July 7 at Singapore Expo, as he spoke about recovering from past hurts and moving ahead. “In order to get on with our future, we need to reconcile with our past.”
Forgiveness is about making a choice. Many people would rather nurse, curse and rehearse a hurt rather than releasing it. But doing that will not heal the inner wound that is within themselves, until they make the choice to release the past.
Forgiveness is a sacrifice. The reason why most people find it hard to forgive is because they often feel they have been dealt injustice; they are hurt and they want to seek revenge and justice. But the Bible says when it’s difficult to forgive, treat it as a sacrifice of praise. Peace will start to replace the hurt when the individual sacrifices his or her right to seek revenge, and make the decision to thank and praise God instead.
Forgiveness comes with trust. Forgiveness does not come easy, unless the individual can trust God to deal with the injustice that has been committed and to restore those who obey Him.
Forgiveness is a gift. It is a gift a person can give even when the other party is undeserving of it. “It’s only when you extend the gift of forgiveness that you realize the gift is actually for yourself,” said the psychologist. “When we understand what forgiveness really is, we will realize that it’s less about the other person than it is about us.”
Having established what forgiveness is, Sonderegger moved on to explain what forgiveness is not. It is not an act of excusing the wrong committed by the perpetrator; it does not require us to befriend the perpetrator after forgiving them, it does not require one to forget the wrong that had been done, and it most certainly does not mean that the victim has to continue being subjected to abuse and hurt—stay away from harm’s way if necessary, for example in the context of domestic abuse.
In an elective session earlier that day, Sonderegger shared that the stronger each party’s relationship is with God, the better the relationship between a couple will be—a triple-cord bond is not easily broken.
He added, if we place too much emphasis on finding the right person instead of being the right person, we are setting ourselves up for a fault. Being the right person includes facing our fears and identifying how we feel and respond once the fears are triggered—some may feel powerless, manipulated, disconnected, or go into passive-aggressive mode, denial, withdrawal and many others.
Read our reports on Dr Robi Sonderegger’s other seminars: