Forgiveness in eating disorder recovery can be one of the keys in breaking free of the hold of an eating disorder. So many with eating disorders have been abused, wronged, betrayed, deceived or disappointed by others. These events may have been factors in the onset of the eating disorder and may also occur during eating disorder recovery.
Forgiveness doesn’t just happen. It’s only natural that we want to hold others’ wrong actions against them or desire to pay them back, and thus have a hard time forgiving them. Forgiveness, though, is very freeing for the one who forgives. Although it may seem impossible to do, it’s beneficial in eating disorder recovery as well as in one’s overall well-being.
To forgive isn’t an easy thing. As you try to forgive those who have wronged you in some way, you may want to start by thinking about what forgiveness is and what it is not.
To forgive someone means that you recognize what the person did was wrong. It also means that you don’t want that person’s actions to control you any longer. When you forgive, you can remember the situation without all of the accompanying pain. Forgiveness is one of the things that will help you no longer need to turn to other things such as food-related behaviors in an attempt to numb your inner pain.
As well as what forgiveness does mean, also consider what it doesn’t mean. To forgive someone doesn’t mean that you’re saying what the other person did is okay. It doesn’t mean that this person shouldn’t take responsibility for his/her actions. It also doesn’t mean that you deny what the person did or make excuses for what he/she did. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you necessarily forget what happened. With smaller things, this may occur, but for many of the hurts we endure, forgetting the offense simply isn’t possible.
Sometimes people feel it’s necessary to confront the offender in order to find closure for the situation. If you feel this is something you need to do, I urge you to plan it carefully and to be prepared for possible outcomes as you may or may not get the results you’re seeking. It would be wise to discuss this matter with your counselor.
Don’t see forgiveness as a way to do a favor for the person who wronged you; see it as a way to do yourself a favor. Otherwise, you may not be able to do it. And remember that when you do forgive, you can break free of this person’s control over you.
Something that may help you with forgiveness is to think of others who have forgiven you for something you’ve done wrong. Once you’ve thought that through, determine to pass on that forgiveness to someone else. You may even want to reflect on God’s forgiveness of you and how He would want you to forgive others as He has forgiven you. You can also ask Him to heal you and strengthen you to forgive others. He does command us to forgive so He certainly wants to help us obey this command.
One more thing that may help you to forgive is to try to see yourself once you’ve made it to the other side of this issue. Imagine how you’ll grow as a person once you’ve forgiven others. Picture yourself stronger as a result of having forgiven others. Think of the future and how you’ll be able to help others to forgive and move on from their own painful experiences.
Realize that you may need to forgive the person several times. If you forgive once or twice and the person’s offenses are still eating away at you, don’t give up. Keep forgiving, as many times as you need to, until you’ve truly let it go. Then experience the freedom forgiveness brings.
Forgiveness in eating disorder recovery is a process. Be patient with yourself as you work to forgive others. You may even forgive them in steps. Perhaps you can forgive a person for one offense at a time instead of everything at once. Ultimately you want to be free of the effect of their actions on you, but if you have to do it in steps, then do it in steps. Once you’ve forgiven others, you can be free of their control over you and move forward in your eating disorder recovery. Forgiving brings freedom.
If you have a hard time forgiving, you’ll find more principles, insights, and tips in the Practice Forgiveness lesson in the Christian Eating Disorder Recovery Course.
By Laurie Glass