A forgiveness what?!
It sounds ridiculous at first. Like who needs a workshop to understand forgiveness! We know these things, right? WRONG..!!
Forgiveness is one of the most misunderstood concepts, and our recent workshop led by the exceptional facilitator, Njeri Ndiangui, peeled away layers of misconceptions about it. For six weeks in the months of August and September 2023, Njeri guided 10 participants through the complex subject of forgiveness with remarkable competence and diligence. Layer by layer, concept by concept she broke it down to chewable bites, while creating a safe space that allowed the participants to really reflect deeply on their personal journeys of Forgiving Others, Self-Forgiveness and Asking for Forgiveness. With understanding and compassion she guided the participant through the tough chapters of unravelling the well-hidden wounds and triggers, helping them pull down the veils we all wear to cover who we are and the pain we carry.
She introduced the Subject of FORGIVING OTHERS by expounding on what forgiveness is and what it’s not, the myths and misconception about it. At the beginning of the workshop there was a lot of suspicion about whether all wrongs can be forgiven. Forgiving others was not an easy way to begin the workshop but it’s the root that lays a strong foundation for forgiveness as a whole. One of the participants shared how they were sexually assaulted by a close relative when they were young and how that damaged her life. How her view of men changed and her trust issues with people including her own family began. “How do you begin to forgive such a person?”
Another participant travelled back to a wound that they have carried for many decades. One that still hurts afresh every time he thinks about it. “My mother was killed by her co-wife. She was given poison and since she was breastfeeding our little brother, he died out of the poisoning too. As if that is not enough, my step-mother went to head to kill 7 more siblings out of the twelve. No justice ever happened. And my step-mother lived for such a long time.” The participant shared. “I have carried this anger and pain for so long and it has stolen so much of my peace and happiness for so many years. Sometimes I unfairly take it out on my spouse and children. I feel I haven’t offered them my best due to my wounded and broken heart.” The participant continued and then asked with tears in his eyes; “Is this even humanly speaking possible to forgive?”
The facilitator allowed the participants to vent, to be angry at what made them hurt, to cry for all the reasons they needed to, she created a safe space for expressing all the emotions that came with the burdens people had carried for way too long in their hearts. Njeri reminded the participants that the forgiveness they were giving to those who hurt them was first and foremost for themselves. It was to help them take away the pain that held them hostage. She reminded them that forgiving those who hurt them didn’t in any way mean that what was done to them was right. The painful acts remain unjust and wrong by all means and they have right to be angry. “But why accept a right that will only destroy you some more and grab all your peace?” Njeri posed the rhetoric question. “Forgive them because you need your peace and happiness. Forgiven them not because they deserve it, but because you deserve your inner freedom to thrive!” Njeri added.
The freedom that comes from getting to that place where you say “I know what you did is not okay, right or fair. But I recognize that if I choose vengeance, I will be signing an oath that ties me to you to the end of time ,making me your prisoner. I don’t want to be held captive anymore. I choose forgiveness, I choose healing. I choose me over what you did.”
The subject of SELF FORGIVENESS, which many people rarely think about as far as forgiveness is concerned, was deeply explored. “We all screw up! We all fail. We make stupid mistakes. We have done things in our lives that we are deeply ashamed of. But that is part of being a human being!” said Njeri. “Living with guilt and shame can be very detrimental to our health. We must learn how to forgive ourselves. We must be ready to be compassionate, kind and empathetic with ourselves just like we do with others. We must learn how to be on our own side. How can you forgive others if you can’t forgive yourself? How can you love others if you can’t love yourself?” Njeri expressed.
One of the participants shared how they had to forgive themselves for not having loved themselves enough to respect their moral values and protect their self-esteem and wellbeing. “I hated myself and as such I would sleep around with people of the opposite gender. I am now healing.” they expressed themselves.
The participants all agreed that self-forgiveness was a fundamental key to opening the door for self-love and self-care, self-appreciation and self-affirmations. It is the very foundation to which self-value and growth thrives in.
Then came the subject of ASKING FOR FORGIVENESS, this too is a crucial part of the healing journey. Acknowledging that we have hurt others too is a bitter pill to swallow and a humbling experience. It is much easier to remember how much we have been hurt by others, and to remember nothing about how we have hurt others! But alas! We are human beings. And being human means that even the most careful person will at some point hurt another person either intentionally or unintentionally.
Asking for forgiveness requires us to look inward with a critical eye, to confront our past actions and their consequences, and to extend a genuine apology to those we’ve wronged. It is about demonstrating a profound willingness to change, to evolve into a better version of ourselves, and to mend the broken bonds of trust and connection that may have been shattered along the way. It’s a powerful act of self-reflection and an essential step toward finding inner peace, rebuilding peace and reconciliation with both others and ourselves.
“I took advantage of someone that was romantically interested in me. I wasn’t interested in them. But at some point when I was financially drained and my mother needed money for treatment, I asked the person for money. After I took the money, I blocked him and made sure he could never reach me. I look back and that was so wrong. I need to ask for forgiveness.” Shared one of the participants.
Another participants shared how they had been sidelining one of their colleagues at work. That she would even say hello to everyone else but not to that person. “Moving forward, I will change my behaviour towards them and be a better colleague. The don’t deserve that treatment.”
When the workshop was coming to end, some of the participants wished it could continue. But everything that has a beginning must have an end. They shared what the six weeks had meant for them, what they had received and how the workshop had re-shaped their lives;
“The safe space you created helped me in sharing deep issues that have wounded and burdened me for many years. I have been able to forgive people and issues I thought were unforgivable. I have been able to forgive myself and for the first time I am so refreshed and able to do my job with clarity, focus and passion. I am empowered to serve better. I am a better husband and a better father. I am so grateful to have taken part in this program. I feel at peace.
“This very week I applied the knowledge I have acquired here to resolve a case that has taken the courts and advocates more than 4 years to resolve and clearly there was no hope for a resolution but, in only two meetings with the parties involved, I was able to help them see reason, forgive each other and reconcile. Now a family is united again because I gained some strategic tools in this workshop. I’m confident I have gained the right tools and skills to serve people better. In my 35 years of service, this course has truly changed my perspective and my attitude.”
“In a time when mental health has become such a big issue in our community, I strongly feel that higher learning institutions should adopt this course to be part of their core courses to be taken by every student.”
“I am rejuvenated. These past 6 weeks have been terrific. This course is unmatched and it called for a lot of self-reflection. I have done a lot of self-discovery. I have allowed myself to face my fears; fears of rejection, and fears of being seen differently. There are people I carried for years in my heart and finally, I have been able to forgive them, really forgive them, and set myself free. I am truly happy with who I am right now even as the workshop comes to an end. I’m now okay with being vulnerable, I found my freedom and I can’t let it go. Thank you so much.”
“The workshop has opened my eyes. I need to forgive myself too. I never had thought that I could forgive myself. I have learned that it’s too high a cost carrying a baggage for too long while forgiveness is free, it will cost me less to forgive than to keep on carrying the damaging emotional baggage. This has been a life skill for me. I’m able to set boundaries. I can work with other people better now.”
The facilitator closed the workshop and encouraged the participants to make forgiveness an everyday practice and teach others about forgiveness…..the real forgiveness as it should be.
By Karen Nthambi & Njeri Ndiangui.