“For me, forgiveness and compassion are always linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?”-belle hooks
It’s difficult to extend compassion to, or forgive, someone who has hurt you or people you know. Grieving should be an experience in which there is an abundance of compassion, love, understanding, and acceptance. However, because of our society’s “get over it” attitude and the tendency to believe vulnerability is a weakness, grieving can become a stressful experience when grief supporters aren’t understanding or empathetic.
When Gandhi described his peace activism (known as Satyagraha, or truth-force), he stated that all of his work was based on the foundation that people can change…we just have to give them the chance. He didn’t believe that people would change overnight, and he never said the change would happen easily. Change is the long-game.
No matter what bad experiences you have with grief supporters, it is important for grievers to extend both forgiveness and compassion. Grief supporters are human. Grief supporters can learn from their missteps and they can change. Perhaps a relationship that has disintegrated now may revive when the grief supporter has had time to really understand the hurt they intentionally or unintentionally caused. Grievers can rethink their behavior in moments where they could have acted differently.
We hold people accountable precisely by extending forgiveness and compassion to them, by giving them the chance to review their own behavior and acknowledge the unkind or thoughtless ways they behaved. Perhaps they will acknowledge it only to themselves and never to the griever, and that’s okay. Compassion and forgiveness may be the motivators that transform someone’s hardness into kindness and love.