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“It’s easy to do nothing, but it’s hard to forgive.”  

— Aang, Avatar: The Last Airbender (2007)  

In the Filipino community and culture, we are taught that family is more important than anything; that we should always be the bigger person and extend forgiveness even when we did nothing wrong. We get into conflicts with our family members and close relationships, exist in silence, and then we forgive and forget. We are pressured to reconcile when we are not ready for the sake of the family.

What do you do when this cycle becomes unhealthy to your wellbeing? How do you forgive when you can’t forget? Forgiving someone can sometimes feel like you are letting the person that wronged you win or have their way. It can feel as if you are ignoring the pain that they have caused you.  

I grew up giving out more apologies than I received. This led me to become a people-pleasing and over-apologetic adult, even when it isn’t my fault. In recent years, I fell into this loop with someone that I love. I was tired of pretending that everything was fine, not seeing accountability from them, and feeling disrespected, but I still felt the familial obligation to enable their behavior. To break this painful cycle, I decided to set clear boundaries for myself. I was too hurt to forgive. However, this resentment began to take a physical and emotional toll on me. Your body doesn’t forget the pain, and holds onto the stress that comes from not being able to forgive. All of the hurts we collect over time, small or large, build up when we do not take time to heal them. I constantly felt anxious, exhausted, and my immune system suffered. 

I want to let you know that you do not have to forgive and continue acting like nothing happened. You are allowed to speak up and work through your pain. You deserve healthy communication and boundaries. 

Over time, I came to realize that the most important step to finding peace is committing to forgiving yourself, and that you can center your wellbeing in the act of forgiveness. When we forgive ourselves, we can release the pain while still acknowledging that it happened. When we can forgive, we feel more free. I am still actively forgiving myself and the person that hurt me, but I am slowly turning towards a greater sense of peace and wellbeing. 

If you are interested in learning about becoming a more forgiving person to yourself and others, enroll in FFCH’s Forgiveness course, which is based off of Everett Worthington’s widely implemented REACH Forgiveness model and workbook. Next time, I will share how the REACH model helped me navigate the path of forgiveness with the person that hurt me while upholding my boundaries and wellbeing.  

Aimee Layo is on the education team at the Foundation for Family and Community Healing and a Master of Social Work candidate at Virginia Commonwealth University.