If you’ve spent any time reading/listening to psychology, self-help books or gurus, you’ll probably have heard it mentioned.
It’s the answer. The key to enlightenment. A necessary part of becoming a better person.
According to these books, if we don’t forgive, we eventually turn into balls of rage and seething anger, trapped in a life of inner turmoil and destined to self-implode in a spiral of selfishness and stubborn self-destruction.
Well, I should probably get moving on all that, because:
I Don’t Do Forgiveness.
Well, I do do forgiveness, but only for the right people. The people who take responsibility for their actions, the people who will take action to make amends, even if it means facing some tough stuff within themselves.
Even then, there is a ‘forgiveness line’. Once someone crosses that, there’s no going back. Abusive behaviour crosses this line.
By Abusive, I Mean:
Verbally abusive: name calling, swearing directly at someone (e.g. fuck off) or mocking.
Emotionally abusive: demeaning remarks about someone’s height/weight/ethnic background, demeaning remarks about someone’s abilities, manipulation and coersion.
Physically abusive: hitting, slapping, pinching, kicking, hair pulling, dragging, shaking. Or, to rephrase it, touching in any way that isn’t affectionate or for someone’s protection.
Sexually abusive: inappropriate hugging, kissing or touching, inappropriate comments, violation of someone’s privacy.
(Of course, there are many more subtle forms of abuse but the above is a basic list.)
None of these behaviours are acceptable to me.
And that’s why I don’t buy the ‘forgiveness for all’ approach. There are some people I just don’t want to forgive.
What Forgiveness Is
Forgiveness is saying ‘Hey, you did something, I was wronged. But it’s ok. I don’t hold you responsible for your actions now, and I don’t feel upset about it anymore.’
Every adult is responsible for their actions. Forgiveness only comes when they have shown that they recognised their actions were wrong and have taken steps to make amends.
Sometimes, Forgiveness Is Dangerous.
Because it’s a way of letting ourselves pretend that things weren’t really so bad, that we didn’t really feel that hurt, or that scared or that angry.
Here’s the thing: undeserved forgiveness is not only cruel to you, it’s cruel to the perpetrator as well. By forgiving, we are condoning their actions, saying it’s OK for them to behave that way. If we don’t forgive, if we raise our standards and expect more in retribution; that affects their standards too.
The Bottom Line
Forgiveness has to be earned and it’s totally OK not to forgive someone.
There is no ‘should’ – you can choose to forgive or not, whoever is concerned.
There is such a thing as unforgiveable.
Pretending there isn’t is doing ourselves a disservice.
A Few Words From My Pit Of Seething Self-Destruction…
I’m not saying don’t forgive anyone ever. There are very, very few people I have chosen not to forgive in my life. These decisions have been deeply considered and very difficult.
However, contrary to popular belief, I’m not dwelling on the decision every day, listening to heavy metal, painting my walls black and spouting rage-filled epithets concerning said people at anyone who will listen.
In some ways, I’ve achieved what those self-help writers are talking about – I’ve let go of the bad stuff and I feel good about that. It’s just that instead of forgiving, I chose not to forgive. I’ve moved on with my life, they’ve moved on with their’s… we’re just not doing it together. And I’m a stronger person for that.
Do you think forgiveness is necessary for healing? Share your thoughts below.
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