Unforgivable. Truly, unforgivable.
How many have uttered those words in a flurry of hurt and pain? The heat of a moment often seems to leave no room for a possibility of forgiveness..
In her new book, The Gift Of Forgiveness: Inspiring Stories From Those Who Have Overcome The Unforgivable, Katherine Schwarzenegger takes an honest look at how to move past the pain and find true healing and freedom. The book highlights the experiences of 22 people who had their own reasons to mutter “unforgivable”, but instead chose to walk the road of forgiveness and came out on the other side.
As she dove into the roots of forgiveness, she also invited readers to challenge their understanding of what true forgiveness looks like.
“I truly believe that the research and the insight that [Schwarzenegger] has gotten from the work that she's been doing is probably going to give us the deepest look into this incredible topic,” Jay Shetty said.
Schwarzenegger told Jay Shetty her motivation for writing this book was personal. In the throes of a friendship breakdown that left her feeling hurt and vulnerable, Schwarzenegger found herself wondering what so many others do.
How should she forgive? What did it look like to move on? Would the pain ever go away? She began to give serious consideration to what it would take to mend things with the person who had hurt her.
She also began to wonder if she was alone in this struggle. Talking with family members and friends, she began to understand that true forgiveness was somewhat of a mythical creature. It was elusive and prized, yet difficult to attain in its full glory.
The more she wrestled with her own situation and chatted with others, the deeper Schwarzenegger’s awareness of the power of forgiveness became. Now, more than ever, her book speaks to a world that seems torn and hurting in so many ways.
True forgiveness can go a long way. Schwarzenegger’s book offers a path forward for the road of relationship is seemingly destroyed.
Restorative relationship has always been a way of life for Katherine Schwarzenegger. She lovingly speaks of her close-knit family. From the outside, the Schwarzeneggers were any other Hollywood family. Schwarzenegger told Jay Shetty that real life, family life, goes much deeper than fame and movie roles. Growing up, transparency and authentic relationships were the bedrock of how her family worked.
“I was raised with both of my parents always instilling in us that family is the most important thing,” she explained to Jay Shetty. To this day, Schwarzenegger considers her close relationship with her family, both immediate and extended, one of her greatest treasures. The expectant mother intends to pass that legacy on to her own children.
“It’s definitely something that I fully intend to pass on to my kids: this importance of family and nurturing those relationships,” she told Jay Shetty. “I think, at the end of the day, they are the most important relationships that you have.”
More Than I’m Sorry
Though Schwarzenegger had a foundation of healthy relationships to fall back on, experiencing deep hurt by a friend left her reeling. Navigating forgiveness motivated her to learn what forgiveness was really all about. In the process of writing her book, she discovered a theme.
“I think it goes back to how we all first learn about forgiveness,” she explained to Jay Shetty. “I remember being in kindergarten and having my feelings hurt and going to my mom and saying, ‘I'm not going to be friends with this girl anymore.’”
Schwarzenegger’s mother helped her navigate the relatable experience in a healthy way. The drawback, Schwarzenegger discovered through her research, is that forgiveness is much more difficult – and much less taught – as people get older.
“We learn about it when we're little,” she told Jay Shetty. “But then we don't really take inventory of what it means to us when we're 10 or 18 or 21 or 30.”
What does it look like to forgive more than a playground tiff? How is the process fleshed out for adults with big life problems? As Schwarzenegger wrestled with these questions herself, she heard them echoed in the voices of those she interviewed for her book.
The answer, Schwarzenegger discovered, was both scary and freeing. Forgiveness stories vary just as much as the people who live them, but they all had a common theme.
“I would say the number one most common thing that every single person in this book has is the desire to have forgiveness in their lives, to be open to forgiveness, to welcome forgiveness,” Schwarzenegger explained to Jay Shetty. “And then really from there, how they chose to go about it was so unique to every single person's situation.”
For example, a woman named Deb needed 30 years to arrive at a place of being able to forgive, while Chris lost his entire family in a car accident and was able to forgive the person at fault almost immediately.
“We always put timelines and schedules and deadlines on these kinds of moments in our life,” observed Jay Shetty. “If you got a wound or you broke your arm, you don't set your own deadline for when it's going to heal. It has to heal on its own. But emotionally, we almost feel we can speed it up. We want to speed up the healing process.”
Schwarzenegger reiterated that the two most important points are reaching a point of wanting to forgive and then being committed to it for the right reasons. Following a step by step process or timeline is not effective. Working through the hurt and anger in an authentic way is.
Jay Shetty suggested that immature forgiveness can be almost as harmful as neglecting forgiveness at all.
“It almost has a negative effect,” Jay Shetty explained. “We say that [we’ve forgiven], but then our actions are different. We're still checking their Instagram profile or we're still reading about their life, and we feel a certain way. I think so many people try and forgive earlier than they can.”
“I think that a lot of us want to jump to forgiveness very quickly because we want to move on from something,” Schwarzenegger added. “We want to make a relationship be okay and go back to the way it was. We want to put a bandaid on something. We don't want to sit in our pain.”
“What I learned is that there is no time limit on forgiveness,” Schwarzenegger admitted to Jay Shetty. She admits too that she initially found this frustrating. In some ways, she felt powerless when she wasn’t immediately ready to move on.
“It felt like it was taking up so much of my time and energy,” she explained. “I realized that I needed to go back and do work and give myself time. I needed to be gentle with myself as I worked through that and get to a place where seeing the person didn't give me anxiety or hearing their name didn't give me a heart attack, or that I didn't have these negative feelings associated with the person or the situation.”
This led to Schwarzenegger’s biggest revelation. Forgiveness came when she focused on herself.
Choose Yourself, Choose Freedom
The secret to forgiveness is self. This was the idea that Schwarzenegger kept coming back to.
“The biggest benefit of forgiveness is really freedom,” she told Jay Shetty. “When you're able to practice forgiveness, you feel this enormous freedom and sense of relief from carrying around this cloak of anger and resentment and bitterness every single day.”
“It’s a gift that you give yourself,” she continued. “That, to me, in my own forgiveness journey was probably the most impactful shift to make. This idea that I don't have to wait for someone to come to me and ask for forgiveness, I can do this on my own. I can take my own power back and take control of my life and give myself this gift of freedom and forgiveness.”
Every single person Schwarzenegger interviewed came to the same conclusion, no matter how long it took them to arrive there. The deepest impact forgiveness has is the person themselves being freed from the weight of hurt, bitterness and anger. Jay Shetty agrees.
“We don't realize how much not forgiving someone keeps us in a prison and keeps us feeling like we're locked and trapped and we can't live our best, fullest, and free lives,” he said.
Schwarzenegger’s book is filled with stories that drive home the underlying principle that forgiveness is always about personal freedom. Often, there are hang-ups that come with hurt people and broken trust. Coming to a place of personal forgiveness allows the person to experience freedom whether they ever reconcile with the other people involved or not. Schwarzenegger believes this is the essence of forgiveness, and that it helps us take back control of our own lives and give ourselves the gift of freedom from the pain of our past.
“One of the things I see that I find so interesting is that we always feel like forgiveness is something that someone has to achieve,” stated Jay Shetty when discussing the struggle to let go and forgive for their own sake, no matter if the offending party admits they are wrong or not.
“We have this belief that if they right all their wrongs, or if they apologize enough, or if they make it up to me, or if they change their behavior and say, ‘I'm sorry’ … it's almost like we want someone to achieve forgiveness,” he said to Schwarzenegger. “Whereas the way you talk about it and the way the people in the stories that you're telling talk about it, it's not so much that anyone's achieving anything. It's more so that you're actually receiving forgiveness yourself.”
This is the essence of forgiveness, Schwarzenegger agreed. The key is stepping away from the conditions and expectations placed on other people to focus on personal heart work.
“Every single person has an experience or encounter with forgiveness or the opportunity to forgive,” she said to Jay Shetty. “And we're all in different places on our journey with that. It’s not a pretty or glamorous topic, but it’s such an important one because we all experience it.”
Maybe now, more than ever, Schwarzenegger’s book is a must-read. In a world that seems heavy with so many big issues, her book and it’s message of hope and healing is vital
More From Jay Shetty
Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on “How to Extend Empathy and Compassion on Those Who’ve Hurt You The Most” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at jayshetty.me.