How To Practice Forgiveness as a Person Of Color
Forgiveness is part of a healthy life. But that definitely does not mean it’s simple. Far too many people have endured terrible treatment in their lives. It is far easier said than done to find forgiveness in your heart. But, as we touch on below, the benefits far outweigh any other option. That said, in the face of systemic issues, how can a person of color (POC) develop a practice of forgiveness?
You endure the endless micro-aggressions. You survive the outright racism. And now you’re expected to move on? Again, no one said this would be easy.
The Benefits of Forgiveness
- It releases you from the past. You’re no longer stuck in a moment that could be days or decades ago. This is shown to very much benefit one’s mental well-being.
- Holding onto anger causes resentment. Both of these emotions cause your body to release stress hormones. In short bursts, such hormones can be helpful. When they become chronic, they can lead to a vast array of mental and physical health issues.
- A forgiveness practice has been sown to reduce anxiety and depression. Simultaneously, it elevates your mood and increases optimism.
- Forgiveness can repair relationships.
- Choosing forgiveness positions you to be a role model for those in your life.
5 Things to Remember About Forgiveness
1. You Are Always Free to NOT Forgive Certain Transgressions
Let’s make this one clear right off the bat. Forgiveness, as you can see, has its benefits. However, you don’t automatically become a “bad” person if you choose to set forgiveness boundaries.
2. It’s Not the Same as Reconciliation
You can forgive someone without condoning what they have done. You can forgive someone without reconciling with that person. We are not talking about some kind of magic pill that leads everyone to live happily after.
3. Forgiveness is a Reminder
In racial terms, yes, a POC is the one who can get victimized. This is not to say that you or any other POC cannot do something for which you’ll seek forgiveness. Embracing a practice of forgiveness is a powerful way to accept your own fallibility. It also teaches you the importance of apologizing in an emotionally mature manner.
4. Forgiveness is Best Accomplished When it Includes an Apology
The person who has wronged you owes you a sincere apology. You deserve far more than the standard “celebrity” apology, e.g. “I’m sorry if I offended anyone.” A genuine apology is one in which the person names their transgression, holds themselves accountable, shows remorse, and takes steps to never do it again. When you get this level of atonement, you may find it more natural to forgive.
5. Sometimes, There is No Remorse
This is the toughest scenario. You have been mistreated but you don’t get the closure of hearing the other person’s contrition. This leaves you in a situation where you revert back to #1 above. Yet, you can still forgive someone who does not even seek your forgiveness.
Why would you do such a thing? Scroll back up to the “benefits” section. It is virtually impossible to heal until you have let go of at least some of the rage and resentment. If no closure is being offered, you may have to create your own — in the name of your mental and physical health.
Guidance is Crucial
Plenty of POC learn to live with their guard up and their anger sharpened like a sword. After what you’ve been through, it feels logical to take such a stance. Even so, there is much value to be found in forgiving when you can. To navigate this minefield, it helps to have a black therapist by your side who knows what it is like to be a person of color. Let’s connect and talk.