61 In Authenticity

Why Forgiveness is Overrated

If you're feeling pressured to forgive and forget before you're ready, forgiveness isn't the only option. Click the image to learn more about a positive alternative >>>

If you’ve spent any time reading/listening to psychology, self-help books or gurus, you’ll have heard it mentioned.

The F-Word.

According to many people, it’s the answer to most, if not all our problems. The key to enlightenment. A necessary part of becoming a better person. If we don’t embrace forgiveness, the general message goes, we will devolve into bitter misanthropists, trapped in a life of inner turmoil and destined to never achieve our full potential.

The problem with forgiveness

One origin of the word forgiveness is in relation to debt. Forgiving a debt means wiping the slate clean, cancelling it out, and returning the person’s balance to zero. And this is how the personal growth movement talks about forgiveness in relationships too. Although it might sound like a cold metaphor, our relationships are like bank accounts too. Behaviours that foster connection and goodwill within a particular relationship are deposits. Behaviours that distance the connection, have a negative impact on someone, or draw on one side of the relationship are withdrawals. The more deposits we make, the more withdrawals we can make without going into the red. If we make too many withdrawals, we end up in relationship debt. Decisions, incidents, and situations that require forgiveness are withdrawals.

This is where these two definitions of forgiveness: the monetary and the spiritual, diverge.

Can you imagine walking into a bank and saying to your advisor, “Look, I know I’m £100,000 in debt, but I think it’s up to you to be the bigger person in this situation and forgive and forget.”?

Unlikely, but this is the most common approach to forgiveness in relationships. If this were the case, a real bank would enter a dialogue with the customer and ask them to repay the debt (i.e. make amends). If the customer couldn’t, he or she would enter bankruptcy and the debt would be erased. But would that bank lend the person money again? No.

So banks say: “OK, you’ve declared bankruptcy. We won’t come after you for the money you owe us anymore, but we’re also not going to lend you money again until you’ve rebuilt your credit score.”

But spiritual gurus say: “There is no debt. Your feelings and perceptions are merely a manifestation of how unenlightened you are. And, if you don’t forgive this person, you’re denying yourself the chance to be a better person.” Not only that, but it tends to be the case that the bigger the transgression, the more pressure there is to forgive. This is nothing more than spiritual bypassing, plain and simple.

The main issue I have with the conventional personal growth-related message about forgiveness is that it places the responsibility on the wronged person to do the forgiving, overlooking any responsibility on the part of the person who did the wronging. Assuming the best, I understand the potential reasoning behind this: we can’t control other people’s behaviour and we can’t force someone else to do anything they don’t want to do—including make amends. We could waste our emotional energy (and our lives) waiting for a resolution that will never come. But the answer isn’t to just suck it up and forgive and forget.

Forgiveness is earned, not owed. Although we can’t control other people’s decisions or behaviour, it’s not rational or fair to pressure people to put their genuine feelings and experiences aside to placate someone who wronged them.

So, when do we forgive someone?

The simple answer is: when we want to. Since I wrote the original version of this post several years ago, I’ve heard from a number of people who have been pressured from multiple sides to forgive ex-spouses, parents, friends, siblings, and so on for transgressions ranging from serious to life-changing. And most of these people have said the more pressure they’ve felt to forgive, the worse they feel—not only about what originally happened but also about forgiveness.

There are two things that lend themselves to forgiveness: time (and with that, perspective) and the willingness of the wrong-doer to make amends. Making amends is more than an apology. An apology is words while making amends is action. It’s the wrong-doer fixing his or her mistakes and taking their fair share of the consequences.

If this kind of acknowledgement or amends-making is missing, then it makes sense you’re not ready to forgive someone. Even if those things are present, you still need not forgive someone if you’re not ready to, because it’s your choice.

Pressuring someone to forgive doesn’t give them the space and time they need to process what happened and heal. Not only that, but one argument for forgiveness goes something like “You need to accept people for who they are.” When someone is struggling to feel forgiveness or isn’t yet in a place where they’re ready to extend absolution, don’t they deserve that same acceptance too?

Is there an alternative to forgiveness?

Yes: acceptance and, with that, closure. Not thinking a person or a situation should be any different than it is. Acceptance isn’t the same as liking or condoning a behaviour or situation. It’s not the same as forgiveness in the sense of wiping the slate clean. It also doesn’t mean we don’t care about the people in question. As a counsellor I knew once said: “Some people are better cared about from a distance.”

What the conventional messages we get about forgiveness don’t acknowledge is that it’s healthy to have boundaries, especially when someone repeatedly hurts or harms us and doesn’t take responsibility or make amends for this. Having boundaries is healthy. Giving people third, fourth, fifth, and more chances with no acknowledgement, no amends, or active hurt and damage, is not. That’s more like enabling.

It also feels important to acknowledge that not feeling ready to forgive isn’t the same as ruminating and dwelling on the situation or person involved. It’s also not the same as holding a grudge. Rumination or grudge-holding is unhealthy. It’s a drain on your emotional energy, it gives all the power back to the other person, and it prevents you learning and growing from the situation. I think it’s also important to explore our reactions to each situation: sometimes we might feel wronged to a great degree when our feelings are about something else (usually based in the past), not the situation itself. This is especially true if you find yourself feeling angry about day-to-day occurrences and situations. Anger is often a cover for other more vulnerable emotions, like hurt and anxiety.

The bottom line

It’s totally OK not to forgive someone if you’re not ready to. That’s your prerogative; you can forgive or not, whoever is concerned. It’s also important to explore why we’re not ready to forgive someone and what the underlying thoughts, feelings, and experiences are underneath bigger emotions like anger.

There are very, few people I have chosen not to forgive in my life. These decisions have been deeply considered and very difficult. But I’m not bitter, angry, or stunted in my personal growth because of this. I’ve achieved what those self-help writers who advocate forgiveness for all are talking about: I’ve stopped thinking things should be any different from how they are, I accept my own feelings and experiences, and I accept the people involved for who they are too. I’ve created necessary boundaries, I’ve moved on with my life, they’ve moved on with theirs…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.

Further reading: The art of the meaningful apology & Let’s all stop apologising for these things

  • Matt
    June 18, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    Great article! Very enlightening and your writing is very clear to understand, I love the way you structure your articles :) I’m curious about “inappropriate hugging” as it might pertain to some self-work I’m doing – I love if you could explain or refer me somewhere. Thanks!

  • fanficfan
    August 25, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    I agree with your point of view. I think there is an overload of forgiveness in society today and has lead to perpetrators of various acts (criminal and personal) to not only be able to, but to expect to walk away from anything wth a clean slate. In fact, this entire culture of “you have to forgive or be the bad person” to me is just a cleverly disguised “blame the victim” mentality. The thought seems to be that if you don’t forgive you don’t move on, but that is not true for myself personally. I am able to completely move on without ever giving my forgiveness to those who don’t earn it. Sometimes anger is an energizing force that pushes you forward.

  • Norie
    September 8, 2010 at 5:02 am

    thank you!! I’ve been trying to explain this and had no luck stating it so clearly.
    thank you thank you thank you!

  • Oscar
    September 19, 2010 at 2:26 am

    No forgiveness for name-calling?

    That’s a little ridiculous. If the person didn’t mean anything malicious or even if they did but they have changed their attitude, admit to it, and apologize then I will forgive (but it might take me time because I won’t necessarily be convinced right away that they are being honest).

    I believe forgiveness is possible for anything, but I’m never going to force myself to forgive someone or to act like I forgive someone. I will go by my own reason and feelings. If I really feel and if it is reasonable to think if both conditions are met that someone has changed and they apologize I’ll forgive them. But if I don’t believe them whether it doesn’t make sense to or whether it just doesn’t feel right no forgiveness.

    No matter how hard you try to force something your true self always has your own true feelings. It is always better to follow your true self than lie to yourself.

  • Ryan
    September 23, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    I think that closure is necessary for healing, not forgiveness. It is correct that (true) forgiveness leads to closure, which allows for healing. However, determining that an action is unforgivable also leads to closure, as does an assessment that the other person is not going to earn forgiveness for their forgivable actions.

    I think that those self-help books are conflating forgiveness “forgiveness” and “closure.” Those two most certainly are two different things.

  • Rebecca
    December 22, 2010 at 8:40 am

    Thank-you so much for this. Yes I agree. Brought up in a religous family I was taught to forgive people, which I did as a child. I came out the worst for it to as people began to view me as simple and easy!

  • Demi
    January 2, 2011 at 2:25 am

    I’ve found that when outsiders pressure you to forgive someone who has greatly harmed you, those outsiders have selfish motives. For example, your sister pressures you to forgive your abusive father because it’s a hassle for her to see you separately at holidays. I also find that Christians misinterpret forgiveness. Christ forgives those who repent, and He has the advantage of knowing whether that person has truly repented. Christ does not forgive those who are still immersed in their wickedness, and I’ve learned from painful experience that abusers don’t tend to reform; at best they tend to change their abusive tactics. Luke 17:3 Ministries tends to explain this much better than I can.


    Regardless, forgiveness need not be conflated with reconcilliation. You can forgive a still-toxic person from afar and wisely stay away.

    • Robert
      August 20, 2016 at 2:15 pm

      Very good points. Although I do think the spiritualistic notion that forgiveness has a high value in it’s own right also holds merit – the idea being that holding on to resentfulness/bitterness closes off the heart and forgiveness releases it (perhaps you were alluding to that in your last sentence).

  • Lana
    April 13, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    Thanks for this post–it’s helped me feel okay about my own inability to forgive an abusive parent. I don’t cling to the pain of the past, but forgive? It’s just NOT going to happen.

  • Kenya
    May 20, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Forgiveness – don’t understand it, especially in religion. I believe its over rated. I’ve learned to forgive my self for being hurt and giving someone who has no regard for my well being , that power to hurt me. Forgiveness – is for myself not for anyone else. Because even in this imperferct world, it takes effort , more to harm than to respect and appreciate.

  • Caden
    December 15, 2011 at 5:45 am

    This has made my day. I wish all potisngs were this good.

  • Abella
    December 22, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    I definitely see your point.

    And actually really agree with where it’s coming from. Is it however possible that forgiveness is getting confused with reconciliation and excusing ones actions?

    All christ-based religion has made forgiveness the “right thing to do” for the situation, and has adopted the vibe of martyrdom/selflessness/purity being the motivation. But that’s just not true. Forgiveness doesn’t need to have anything to do with the other person really at all. Its all about you. F**k the other person.

    Forgiveness is about accepting what happened to you and compassion for yourself. That’s the hardest part sometimes. There’s almost an anger with yourself for allowing it or not being able to prevent it. In fact you’re so angry over the situation that you don’t want to accept anything about it. You may want to reject that whole time in your life. Or the place that it happened. Or people that look like/remind you of whoever it is that hurt you.

    Which makes total sense, it’s a survival thing, you want to avoid ever feeling like that again. But what needs to happen, as crazy as it sounds, is accepting the whole thing. “YES this happened to me, YES this person was a ____, YES this was a part of my life. Ok then.”

    As far as the whole self-help book thing… what they’re trying to do is get you to feel compassion towards the person who hurt you. WHY the heck would you want to do that? Because in compassion is a complete loving acceptance. You accept yourself, you accept what happened to you, and you’re not trying to fight/resist/avoid anything anymore. In compassion, you see the TRUTH, which is that people who perpetuate the behaviors that even require forgiving to begin with, typically either have a mental deficiency that makes them physically incapable of feeling emotions (some level of psychopath – no, not all psychopaths kill people in cold blood, some just cheat/lie/manipulate) OR , more commonly, have a ridiculous amount of personal pain themselves that they are terrified of and have absolutely no idea how to surmount. So they take it out on you, distract themselves with being reckless. But it’s not personal. It’s NEVER personal. Even when someone tells you “I HATE YOU, YOU ARE UGLY, STUPID, AND WORTHLESS TO THE HUMAN RACE!” really that’s because they feel that about themselves/they are afraid that others think that about them/or someone else has actually said this to them before. Sorta sad huh?

    You can actually watch a mini-diorama of this in action with children. The bullies are always the ones who have awfully mean parents/siblings or some other little kid was super mean to at some point and it hurt them. So now they’ve LEARNED to prevent that by being little hellians to the others.

    Like I had mentioned above, it seems that maybe there is some confusion with forgiveness and reconciliation or condoning. I think this might have to do with the point you come to where you need to answer the why’s.

    WHY did this happen?
    WHY did they do this to me?

    …Which kind of sparks some sort of curiosity and involves communication with this person that wronged us. Who may in fact still be just as much of a jerkface to us, adding insult to injury. So there our forgiveness stops. But here’s the thing… we don’t need the why’s answered.

    The reason we want them is because it’s a heck of a lot easier to move on when you know why this person hurt you. Partially because when you find out why, it removes some of that fear that it’s personal – you find out that it was really about them -, partially because you kinda feel sorry for them now (compassion) and partially because you’ve renewed the sense of safety you lost from this experience… because maybe if you understand WHY this happened, you can prevent it from happening in the future. After all, your mind is designed to protect you.

    The point here being: forgiveness is NOT condoning OR reconciliation. You don’t need the other person to forgive. It’s not FOR ANYONE ELSE but you. Forgiving is accepting… fully accepting… and sometimes understanding… sometimes feeling compassion for the person’s pain that would cause them to be such an jerk, and the fact that as soon as they realize it they are in for a long process of self-forgiving (which if any of you have dealt with, can be far more challenging than even forgiving someone else for an awful pain). But it’s a process. And understanding and compassion will come if/when you’re ready. But this process is 100% FOR YOU. Not them. In the big picture, your world perception is in your mind. And the only use that they serve to you is to not be a fly on the tv screen of your vision/perception of the world.

    Much love to all of you dealing with this. It hurts and it’s taken me some time to come to this conclusion myself, but I am excited because I am now closer to understanding how self-sufficient I am emotionally. We don’t control this world and there is no way to prevent ourselves from being hurt, but we are all powerful beings that can overcome anything if we choose to and inform ourselves of how. It’s all trial and error though!


    • Rosemary
      April 3, 2013 at 12:35 am

      “I definitely see your point.” No, I don’t think you do. The rest of your post gives no evidence of it. You seem to have spent a lot of time spinning a rebuttal that is, in essence, an apologia for forgiveness as it is popularly known.

      If it’s really about “you — fuck the other person,” then why are YOU dashing in so heatedly to challenge the author’s words? What is your stake in anyone else’s decision? You sound every bit as invested in preventing others from eschewing forgiveness as is the worst Bible-study busybody.

      What you’ve said is what every forgiveness cheerleader says. Every one. Almost rote, word for word. They all say “it’s for you, not them,” as they urge you to short-circuit your own process.

      From what you’ve said, you’re a person who sympathizes with the bullies when watching schoolyard violence. You’ve brushed off abuses by urging us to place our sympathy with the perpetrators — to “understand” them — asserting that their eventual process of self-forgiveness is going to be much more challenging (and worthy of care) than ours. This is different from the usual canned forgiveness cheerleading … how?

      “The point here being: forgiveness is NOT [this, that, or the other synonym]. On the contrary, that sure as heck IS what the word conveys to most people. What gives us the right to redefine words for our private purposes, twist them into something they don’t mean? If our aim is to communicate, why not use words as they are popularly understood?

      What you have described at the end sounds much like what the post author described, only with more pastel tones and evangelical fervor. She got to the same place you did, only without using the redefined word “forgiveness.” So I can’t quite see your disagreement with her, other than the fact that she disrespected the F-word. But I’m not at all surprised a forgivophile jumped in on this thread and tried to derail it. I think that when one has been hypnotized into accepting a role, to one’s detriment, it’s downright threatening to watch others refuse the role.

      To the post author: Excellent. Well said.

  • TruthSeeker
    December 25, 2011 at 5:34 am

    Perfect…I couldn’t agree more. Thank you so much. Finally someone is speaking my language!

  • David
    January 31, 2012 at 1:02 am

    I agree, at the end of the day if people haven’t repented, the forgiveness means nothing. If people are repentant then maybe they can be forgiven but if not then, even if you do forgive, it doesn’t mean anything.

    For example, to use an extreme example, if the victims of terrorism forgive Al Qaeda, it means little if Al Qaeda do not give up terrorism and express remorse for their actions.

  • darkflower
    February 18, 2012 at 5:39 am

    Thank you so much. Some things should not, for everyone’s sake, be forgiving. Some crimes (rape, torture, mutilation, aggravated assault, murder) are too destructive to society to allow the perpetrators to return to ‘normal’ lives. Also, the lesser crimes of name calling, intimination and discrimination should not be forgiven as ‘misunderstandings’ as they are often not as commonly believed based on fear and ignorance, but on the prepetrators desire for self-aggrandization at the expense of others. I forgive failings up to a point, but never abuse, and I include being indifference to the abusive behaviour of others a form a complicity with abuse. I try to be a compassionate, civil human being, but I find many people use ‘forgiveness’ as a catch-all solution to extreme social problems such as violent crime and domestic violence. Instead of investing ressources in identifying abusive personnalities at an early age and intervening effectively, we ask the victims and all of society to forgive them, once the blood is on the floor. One big hug to obliteriate the memory of horrendious pain and degregation. The Truth and Reconciliation Committee not save South Africa from suffering massive violent crime in the late 1990s. Forgiveness is not enough. Sometimes human beings have to honestly admit our limitations, and move around them. We are not just our emotions, our intentions and our prespectives. We are also the actions we take, the character we craft (often with acts of courage, great and small) and the knowledge we strive to find. Being good is not as easy as feeling good. Forgiving my unburden a mind, place a period at the end of the sentence for yourself and all of society, but when the pain caused by an action is beyond redress the reaction of the victim and all of society must reflect that. Not forgiving does not negate our humanity or compassion. It merely affirms our right to own our pain, our suffering, our vulnerability as living things, and to chose how we will exist within the limitations of life.

    Thank you so much. I will always be grateful to you for your courage to go against the Oprah and Coles Notes Christain othrodoxy. I respect many tenants of Christainty but I hate the pseudo-religious dogma that forgiveness is necessary for the victim’s salvation, or that all sins can be cleasned through remorse and repentence, or that EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON (rape, torture, murder, genocide, slavery, famines, mass deaths from war and natural disasters). We should all admit that sometimes life is horrific and fight to make our lives counterpoints to the horror, but positive emotions and acts to not erase negative ones. Once a wrong act is done, it is done. If a horrible, or even merely wrong, action can be negated, so can a good one, and human choice is rendered subservient to the gushes of circumstance and fashion.

    If we negate suffering through forgivenss (as many proponents of forgiveness would have it) we force anger underground, where it may explode in uncontrollable ways, harming the innocent and the weak. Our ability to hate, our ability to lay blame, to cast judgement, to not be nice to people who are not nice, are virtues of survival. We must always control them, but we should not be ashamed of them. If life is to be precious, time irretrievable, degregation and terror unquantifiable, violations of life cannot be ‘closed’ through forgiveness unless the victim genuinely wants it. Even then all human beings have the right not to forgive. We are all chained to fortune, frigid and unfeeling as the stars. All we have in our defence is the quality of our characters, our choices, our lives. We cannot abandon our ability to chose the best course because of the moral stipulations of an intellectually catatonic, abominably passive society.

  • GoodGravyBoat
    July 18, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Just the articulation I needed to hear. I have forgiven people who showed no sign of remorse or taken any action to “man up” for the way they wronged me…because at some point I saw their choices in a different light. Not reconciled, but definitely closure and forgiveness.

    I have also chosen to not forgive people who made choices, directly and indirectly, that caused me years of hurt and pain. I get tired of people saying I should forgive. Forgiveness is never somthing a person is entitled to.

    Anyone who truly understands the pain they have inflicted on someone would never ask for (or expect) forgivenss but would simply take actions to reflect their remorse and offer some type of restitution.

    It makes me sad how we have “watered down” forgivenss.

  • lifehurts
    July 31, 2012 at 9:53 am

    I respect your point of view, but i don’t agree with it.People like you who think certain things are unforgivable, usually thinks this until you have done something that someone considers “unforgivable”. As human we all have made mistakes and i believe we all deserve to be forgiven, for we will never be perfect. If someone had hurt you, it says in the bible to forgive them IF they repent, but if someone hurt you and never repents there is no reason for you to forgive them. I believe if someone have hurt you more than once and have asked forgiveness before and you have forgiven them, i believe the second they ask for forgiveness again and they seem sincere about it, you should forgive them, but get them out of your life or get them help, because you don’t know they are going/went through. As human there is NOTHING THAT IS UNFORGIVABLY…if that “human” has repented.

    • Hannah
      July 31, 2012 at 10:48 am

      Hi, and thanks for your comment. I think I see where you’re coming from, and I understand that you would like someone to forgive you if you did something then repented. I totally agree that we all make mistakes and none of us are perfect, and I appreciate that if someone seemed sincerely regretful for their mistake and tried to rectify it, you’d want to forgive them. I don’t necessarily think that if someone tries to make amends, they automatically deserve forgiveness. For me, there’s no obligation for the wronged person to forgive, it’s a matter of personal values and boundaries.

      If I wronged someone in a way that was unforgivable to them, I can’t force them to forgive me – ultimately, I would have to accept that. Equally, if someone wronged me in such a way that I felt that there was no way they could restitute, I can accept what happened, but I don’t think I’m obligated to forgive them.

  • Dave
    January 4, 2013 at 8:31 am

    Forgiveness is simply a way of taking legitimate anger you have for people who have wronged you and turning it inward on yourself. It’s a coward’s way out of acknowledging that messed up stuff happened to you that you didn’t deserve, and that the people who did those things need to be excommunicated rather than excused. The only way you’ll hold on to the anger and resentment you have for those people is if you hold on to the people themselves. If you cast them out of your life instead you can move forward on fostering actual positivity rather than continuing the cycle of abuse, which you inevitably will do if you foolishly go around ‘forgiving’ all these pieces of shit. That’s why people go on Oprah and stuff like that and whine excessively about how horrible their parents treated them and all of this, and then they turn around and do the same stuff to their kids. Because they have all this passive aggressive negativity built up inside as they never casted out their demons.

  • Hannah
    January 15, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    Hi Dave, thanks for your comment. I think it highlights a couple of really important points: that who we surround ourselves has a huge impact on our sense of well-being and our emotions, and that self-awareness is key to not repeating behaviour that was inflicted upon us, especially by family members. Tools like therapy (assuming the therapist is aware of their own past trauma and biases and can minimize the level to which they reflect that on their clients), journaling and other introspective activities are key for finding our own closure, whether we decide to maintain our relationship with the person in question or not.

  • Michelle
    February 7, 2013 at 5:19 am

    Thank you. If feels great to see that I am not alone in my thinking that some people and actions just can’t be forgiven and that’s okay. I am still moving forward.

    • Hannah
      February 8, 2013 at 12:57 am

      Hello Michelle, thanks for your comment. I’m so glad to hear that it feels great to know you’re not alone in thinking that way (and you’re definitely not). I think you make a really good point that it’s possible to not forgive someone, and to still move forward in life.

  • Keela
    February 11, 2013 at 2:13 am

    In my family forgiving the lies, stealing, betrayal and bad behavior of our youngest sister has only enabled her to never change. I will no longer allow myself to be mistreated by someone just because she happens to be related to me. I wish my other siblings would choose to do the same: maybe baby sister would have an epiphany.

    • Hannah
      February 11, 2013 at 2:42 am

      Hello Keela, I’m sorry to hear about your experiences with your sister. It sounds really positive that you’ve set a boundary regarding how people are allowed to treat you, doing so is definitely necessary to protect ourselves sometimes. I think you also highlight a valuable point: that in some cases forgiveness is unfair, even cruel, to the person who wronged you in the first place, as it indirectly condones their behaviour.

  • JJ
    March 29, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    I am SO glad to have read this article. I’ve spent a whole lot of years trying to forgive certain people for abusing me in extreme ways, violent ways, and feeling like there was something wrong with ME because I couldn’t forgive them. So, after having been brutally traumatized, I was then further traumatized by those who were supposed to help me heal when I escaped, who told me that I needed to forgive to heal, and by myself for listening to them and brow-beating myself for my inability to forgive (just how the HELL do you forgive a husband who beat you, threatened you with a shotgun to your head, had a live in girlfriend you had to wait on like a slave, and who literally forced you to live as a DOG for months; eating with the dogs, eating what the dogs ate, and even sleeping where the dogs slept?! HOW?!!!). Finally, after years and years of torturing myself with this forgiveness crap, I found, over the past couple months, that I’ve given up on the idea. This was not so much a conscious choice as psychological self-preservation finally kicking in on this issue. I realized it’s bullshit. That NO, I don’t need to forgive them, and that furthermore, to do so would be the worst kind of betrayal of myself. I realized that I didn’t care what type of “expert” someone was, if they thought forgiveness was necessary for healing then they were nuts and not worth listening to. From there I started to actually heal. No, I don’t sit around and stew about the horrors I experienced all those years ago, but once I dropped the idea of forgiving the unforgivable, I actually began to heal. I’m guessing that has a lot to do with the self-respect that came with my refusal to forgive what was done to me. Reading this short article is a huge validation of what I have figured out on my own. Thank you for writing it.

    • Hannah Braime
      April 1, 2013 at 5:25 pm

      Hello JJ, thanks for your comment. I’m glad the article was validating for you to read, and I really admire your bravery and courage in doing what’s right for you, even if that goes against conventional thinking. Not condoning abuse, or allowing people who have abused us a chance to do it again is the ultimate self-preservation.

  • anais
    May 11, 2013 at 10:26 am

    I very much appreciate this article. I had actually googled “how to forgive” and this came up. My husband thought this would better serve me. A friend that I have worked very hard to keep happy, comfortable, and safe during tough times, and that maybe sometimes I may have been TOO honest to, had recently told me in a text that she could no longer be friends with me because I’m Toxic (ie. suffering from a sort of psychotic problem that cause you to ruin every single life you touch). I’m a mother, I’m disabled due to an accident a couple of years ago, and I have helped her not only by offering her and her family a safe haven for many many months over, lending her a very large (to me) amount of money, which she promised she would pay back). She’s split up with her husband and he stays here during the week, and babysits for her on the weekend while she works. I had only told her a few things such as I refused to kick him to the streets like it seemed she wanted me to do, and that’s when she said that to me. I was heartbroken. I have such a hard time making friends with women, and I thought with her maybe I had it, though I felt she was very harsh on her family members. This entire week I have been so sad that my physical pain has increased immensely, I feel like I don’t have the emotional strength to be a good friend to all my lovely friends who deserve that, and even sometimes with my own family. I keep thinking, if I’m Toxic, why do ANY of these people like me at all? What if I am a life ruiner? I don’t have a single clue who’s life I have ruined, but wow. That’s a very strong and cruel word to use on someone, especially if it’s incorrect. Thank you for explaining that forgiveness, especially with emotional and verbal abuse, is not necessarily something that will happen. Now if I can just make peace with this, I would be okay. I just can’t figure that out yet. :(

    • Hannah Braime
      May 12, 2013 at 6:52 pm

      Hi Anais,

      Thanks for your comment. The situation you described sounds incredibly difficult and I really hear that you want to understand what’s happened. It sounds like you’ve spent a lot of time supporting other people and that’s left you feeling emotionally drained. It’s also really important to take time to care for yourself (physically and mentally), especially during times of emotional stress. It’s understandable that this woman’s comment provoked some doubt in your mind about how other people might experience you too. The process of accepting that someone has behaved in way that we don’t feel able to forgive can be a long one, but I do hope you will be able to make peace with it in a way that is right for you in the long-term.

  • Dave M.
    June 9, 2013 at 4:42 am

    Hi Hannah, I was never a very forgiving person. I had a hard childhood and held allot of strong beliefs about “right” and “wrong” most things to me were black and white with little gray if any. I know this is an older blog but I thought I would post because it is still being read ( I found it). I really thought people were either good or bad people ( I always thought I was “good” not perfect but a good man)and had little forgiveness for those I thought were bad or doing wrong. Like you I didn’t think it hurt me not to forgive when I was wronged even if the person seemed repentant. Well, as I got older I started having back severe back pain and one of the treatments was a medicine that was of the same family of some antidepressants, I took them as I was instructed and took 2 when I was upset or depressed( as I was told). What I didn’t know and couldn’t see when I was taking them, is that they turned me into a terrible mean person. I said awful and hurtful things to my family and in my mind I was justified (I thought I was a victim). I started drinking and taking them as well. I went crazy for lack of a better term. It came to a head when I said some terrible and inappropriate things to my daughter who I truly love dearly and would never hurt in any way in my right mind. I was cast out of my family (as I should have been, I would not have put up with anyone like that). 6 months past and I never got to see or speak to my daughter and I was still taking these meds and couldn’t believe the things I had done to get in this spot. When Christmas came and went,and my family still would not see me, the only way out in my medicated mind was to kill myself and rid everyone of my evil person. I took every pain med I had, (over 60 methadone). God being the wonderful being he is decided not to let me go yet, and I lived through it anyway with major medical damage to myself. I found out in the hospital after being away from that medication and putting two and two together with my doctor, that it was the medicine affecting me that way all along. I am now the man I once was. I have my relationship back with my lord Jesus, and that lead eventually to my sons and wife forgiving me. But my beloved daughter, I had hurt her too deeply, and she still will not have anything to do with me. I pray not just daily but many times a day for nothing but forgiveness from her. I am a truly repentant man. In the past I had no understanding of how someone could kill themselves and considered it weak and cowardly and would have had no dealings with someone who had done that. I also would have had no forgiveness for a man who would have said those things to his teenage daughter and family. But I see now, that men are weaker beings than I thought, there is some “grey” in the world and a good man in the wrong state of mind brought on by many reasons can go bad for a time, and do and say things he would never dream of before in his right mind. I think back to some of the people I never forgave and it HAS hurt me. I pray that I have time enough to somehow heal what I have done, I can’t take any of it back it is done. But I can forgive others and in that way maybe, just maybe earn the right to be forgiven myself. Peace be with you all.

    • Hannah Braime
      June 13, 2013 at 4:01 pm

      Hello Dave,

      Thanks for sharing your story and perspective. I wish you all the best on your journey.

  • Emma Nation
    July 4, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    I read the article below about reconciliation with harm, which gave me a lot to think about with regard to the popular notion of forgiveness. Once a person has moved on and reconciled herself to having been harmed, the last thing they should have to explain to anyone is why they haven’t been able to forgive the perpetrator, particularly one who hasn’t expressed remorse or admitted wrongdoing.

    What is particularly nettlesome is the perpetrator from whom one cannot achieve distance, as in a co-parent who continues to use the courts and public opinion to press more harm upon the victim, after already having destroyed that person’s emotional life and taken away the kids. I am describing my situation, and I’m also describing an abuser who has gained the help of other abusers to keep me from recovering.

    In regaining strength and standing, I’ve had to accept that there are many destructive people in our culture, and the world over, who seek to destroy others in order that they may validate their own lives — a backwards way to live, yet it is so common, and these people operate with such impunity that they are accommodated because it’s too much trouble to stand up to them and because of the danger of retaliation. Also, the fact that one has been deceived by their charm is difficult to admit.

    This thread has been helpful. There are other sites online about psychopaths and sociopaths that help differentiate the abuser from the hapless; rather, those who are eligible for forgiveness and those who don’t merit it, don’t want it, don’t understand it, and wouldn’t know what to do with it.

    There is much victim-blame in our culture because of the premium we place on the appearance of success/failure, but a true success story is one who has recovered from harm without behaving in kind, and that is very difficult to do if one is harmed irreparably. “Moving on” means neither forgiving nor forgetting, but it means you’ve given yourself back what the abuser took: a life worth living. Sometimes it means giving the culture the benefit of your experience. Thank you for your post.


  • Emma
    July 9, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    Thank you for your post. I believe in forgiveness in the proper circumstances, but sometimes it can go too far. For example, I had a friendship with a person who is emotionally abusive and manipulative. Every few years I would realize how negatively they impacted me and how badly they made me feel about myself, and break away. Every time I did this I was happier, but they inevitably attacked me with vitriol and anger and more manipulation. They smeared my name, talked about me behind my back, ruined other friendships that I had with people. How did I respond? By forgiving. By letting enough time pass so that I healed and welcomed them back in my life when they inevitably came back — out of victims and friends — and begged me to have them in my life. And the cycle continued, always the same, always different manipulation, always cruel.

    I am done forgiving this person. I want to move on and accept what happened but not forget, not condone. They have no remorse and have never once apologized. In a year or so when this person tries to reenter my life, friendless, I will stay strong and remind myself that this is not someone I can forgive.

    Thank you. Inner strength is just as important as forgiveness.

  • Kevin Lycke
    August 13, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    I find this approach empowers clients and helps move them through their process with decreased shame, guilt and doubt. The more “traditional” paradigm informed by religion and the now pseudo pop psycho-babble of “letting go” APPEARS rather benign and “sweet” but less authentic.

  • Kathlynn
    August 18, 2013 at 11:19 am

    Hi, I want to say thank you. I’ve been struggling with this for years. It get tiring some times, trying to explain to people that no, I cannot forgive my mother, because there is too much pain. And If I don’t remove her from my life she will continue to do so. And since she doesn’t think she ever did anything wrong, I don’t see how I could ever forgive her or let her stay in my life. I wish I could show people how crazy it is. The closest thing I can think of is comparing the victim to an abused animal. It’s just another area where we treat animals better then other humans

  • Linda
    September 25, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    I’d heard it said before that you forgive to help yourself more than to help the perpetrator/s and it has been suggested (by a religious friend) that I forgive people who have really hurt/abused me in recent times.
    This was getting me in all sorts of difficulty (when I tried to forgive)because I could remember good times with these people and then felt bad for not being more forgiving previously. Then I remembered what I have gone through-including depression and anxiety (I was also suicidal), in part due to the self serving actions of others so I thought ‘how can I forgive’?
    But reading this article here has helped so much as I can see that admitting that I can’t forgive and realising that that is ok can be just as beneficial. Thank you. x

  • Issac
    October 12, 2013 at 11:15 pm

    Ive been learning that doing things for the greater good, such as forgiving my brother and his wife for their downright vile and abusive ways towards myself and my mother only serve to come back and bite me in the end. For 10 years I have been coming back to a relationship for “the greater good” and being forgiving. It hasn’t worked out in the last 10 years, so I think I’ll live my next 50 or so years without them. And yes it hurts to not have a brother, and yes it hurts that we live in the same state and I can’t call him to hang out or play guitar for hours on end, but I’ve accepted who they are and have stopped pretending otherwise. That’s my “forgiveness”, and it still has nothing to do with forgiveness, and religion has nothing to do with it either. I have been labeled the bad guy for not being able to forgive in the socially acceptable way, but guess who label me so, the very people who have blinders on and will probably never see the monsters that are within my brother and his wife. My brother and his wife also try to use my non forgiving ways as a crutch for how I further perpetuate the situation. Ill save my forgiveness for someone who — doesn’t call me a snake, unfit to be around children, a coward, a piece of poo, steals, extorts me for money, calls my mom the C word, and the B word, who says they want to break things over my face, who makes fun of my mothers job, life, friends, religion, who berates me daily with terrible texts and phone calls, who breaks my car window(still not proven, but too much coincidence), who accuses me of ruining their wedding, who yells at me at a level 10 for planting a flower in “their garden”. AND PEOPLE WANT OR EXPECT ME TO FORGIVE THIS, WHAT!!!!!! If I did I’d be asking to be furthering the statistics on domestic violence, who knows, if they think this way about me why wouldn’t they take it further. This is exactly how people end up being hurt or dead. These abusers are dangerous and screw the “greater good”, I don’t want my food or drink to end up being poisoned, or being actually physically hurt, because the only thing coming to me if I go back and forgive is a whole lot more hurt, and right now I’m still standing, I may not be after the next time. I CHOOSE TO LIVE… I HOPE YOU CHOOSE LIFE TOO. Its taken time and it hurts, and its still a process, but I am “free” because I left them, not “free” because I choose to forgive.

  • Anthony
    October 26, 2013 at 9:37 am

    thank you So So SO much for your article , i left an abusive relationship of nine years
    and 9 months down the track i am a lot happier , a lot of people say that i havent moved on cause i have not forgiven him , but why should i ?? why should i , as you have said say i forgive you , its ok ?
    it not ok at all because he still denies that he did anything wrong

    your words and article have been amazing support.

  • memyself&I
    November 2, 2013 at 12:28 am

    You don’t understand forgiveness. I have cut off more or less my whole family and many people from my past who haven’t and never will treat me right. But I’ve forgiven them for it and if I saw them again the energy between us wouldn’t be that bad, at least not on my end. I do it for myself, as much as for them also, and do not require people around me to change. That’s a really selfish way to live.

    You need to learn about the violet flame:

    • Hannah Braime
      November 14, 2013 at 12:21 am

      It sounds like we’re talking about the same thing, it’s just that I think of it as closure rather than forgiveness. I don’t think it’s fair for us to expect anyone around us to change, and that’s why being free to walk away from situations that aren’t meeting our needs is so important.

  • Jenny
    December 31, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    For years I have been hurt and angered by my ex-wife’s affair, her years of lies and leading me on through marriage counseling swearing she had ended the affair when she had not, her emotional abuse of me, constant badgering, calling me a burden even though she chose to take on additional expenses knowing I could not contribute to the household as much as she could (she’s corporate, I’m non-profit), and then trying to keep our child away from me, requesting full custody, and fighting against paying child support. And everyone says, I need to forgive. That the anger is eating at me. Hell yes I am still angry. My trust in her or anyone else for that matter is gone. The future I envisioned for us has been destroyed. And I am supposed to forgive?

    What eats at me is not anger, but the constant message that I need to work towards forgiveness. The guilt that comes with the anger. I feel guilty for being angry. I feel bad about myself because I cannot forgive. Finally I asked myself, do I REALLY NEED to forgive her? Because I don’t want to. And I don’t think she deserves it. And as you said, forgiving her basically white washes all the harm she did and all the hurt that I felt. And forgiveness also says that love is irrelevant. Thank you for affirming that I don’t have to forgive and I should not feel guilty about it at all.

  • Edey
    January 8, 2014 at 4:27 am

    Forgiveness equals peace, every time.
    It is always about the peace it brings you as you release yourself from whatever is being forgiven, pardoned, dissolved.

    It does not mean harm or hurt was okay, it means you can be free of the discomfort and pain holding onto it keeps inside of you.

    With peace, healing can begin and all things become possible.
    Forgiveness equals peace.

    • Hannah Braime
      January 11, 2014 at 9:01 pm

      Hi Edey, thanks for your comment! I think we are talking about the same thing… except you call it forgiveness and I call it closure :)

    January 13, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    I’ve been placed into a situation that has become very difficult to decide whether or not to forgive.
    4 years ago my best friend of 25 plus years (I’ve known since I was 5 years old) became a raging alcoholic. She would call me 3 times daily cursing me out & using every single thing I ever confided in her against me. She was obviously fighting her own life demons and tried placing blame on everyone but herself. I had at the time recently become engaged to my now husband, started a new awesome paying career and finished putting my then fiancé through law school.
    I do believe she had pent up jealousy & resentment towards me because her life was crumbling around her at the time and she thought I felt superior to her. I never said or did anything to even imply that I was in any way shape or form a “better” person than her. I did, however, have a private conversation with a mutual friend of ours about my concern for her alcoholism & her driving her son while being intoxicated. This conversation found it’s way back to her & caused her to become enraged with pure hatred for me. She went as far as threatening me, calling my dead brother a fat pig and texted my other brother’s wife that she had slept with him so that she can get back at me by trying to destroy my family life. This went on for 3 weeks.
    I changed my phone number, moved, changed jobs & disconnected all contact with my ex-best friend & everyone that we both knew. I did not want her to know anything about me because I was afraid she’d carry out her threats.
    Now 4 years later she’s clean, sober & very apologetic. She contacted me via messaging me on Facebook. She wants to meet up again & try to rekindle our friendship.
    I still love this person very much and really wish we could rekindle our friendship, but I can’t take the chance of being hurt like that again and I know our friendship will never be the same. I feel as if she was a sister to me growing up. We were so close for so many years and I miss the good times we had with each other.
    I decided to forgive but never forget. I want this person back in my life but in an extremely limited matter until I know for sure that she will never wrong me again. I’m not ready to rid her of my life yet. I don’t know why I feel so obligated to stay friends with her, but at the same time I don’t completely trust her.
    I’m so conflicted. I just wish there was a way for me to be certain she is genuinely apologetic of her actions.
    Is there anyway to tell if a person is truly being kind hearted and not just lonely for companionship of an old friend?
    I am happy with my life right now, but I often feel that void of her not being apart of it.
    I just wish there was clear cut & dry rules of forgiveness and friendship.
    Maybe I’ll figure it out one day, but I can’t say for sure whether or not forgiveness will be condoning her actions. Four years is a long time not to talk to someone who was a huge part of my life.

  • Serenity
    January 23, 2014 at 8:36 am









  • Simon
    January 29, 2014 at 9:49 am

    I’m sorry, but I disagree with what is written in this blog.

    I think part of the problem is that she misunderstands what forgiveness is, and that forgiveness sends out the message “It was okay for you to hurt me”, “Hurt me again” or “You don’t need to face the consequences of your actions.” That is not what forgiveness means.

    I approach this subject as a Christian, where forgiveness is at the very heart of the Christian faith, Jesus cried out “Father forgive them” as he was being nailed to the cross. In the Lord’s prayer Jesus taught us to pray “Forgive us our sins as WE FORGIVE those who sin against us.” It’s the only conditional clause in the Lord’s prayer. We don’t deserve God’s forgiveness, but he offers it none the less.

    I think the refusal to forgive often ends up hurting the person who hold’s onto the resentment more than the person who has wronged us.

    Forgiveness is of course not easy, that is why Jesus said we need to forgive our brother who has wronged us 70 times 7, in other words, it is an ongoing thing, a daily decision not to allow anger, resentment and bitterness to consume us.

    It’s a topic I’ve spoken on many times before, the following link takes you to one of my talks (sermons) on this topic. http://revbickers.blogspot.co.uk/2010/06/questions-of-faith-what-does-bible-say.html

  • AMM
    February 13, 2014 at 10:08 am

    I agree with this post and thank you for the validation. I tend to differentiate between forgiveness and letting go (which seems to be what you referenced as “closure”). Forgiveness is the same as forgiving a debt that was repaid. If someone harms you, they’ve created a social debt. If they attempt to make recompense for it, you decide if their social debt is met. Letting go is deciding that whether or not that person ever seeks forgiveness you are going to move on and no longer allow the hurt to have power over you. I think the problem in our society is that forgiveness and letting go are often confused. I don’t have to understand why someone hurt me or make sense of what happened to let go. I can accept that it was wrong and it doesn’t make sense, and that’s enough to let go. I found that when I tried to follow the forgiveness formula described in Judeo-Christian traditions that it led to shame and guilt more than peace. Choosing to not forgive and deciding when I’m ready to let go (instead of pressuring myself before I’m ready) is a much more genuine approach to processing for me. Letting go is the outcome not the process and that’s where I think the Judeo-Christian approach is wrong. Telling people to forgive so that they will feel better is backwards. It’s only once you’ve processed it in your own way that you are ready to let go and that could happen a long time after you choose to forgive someone. You could choose to forgive someone and still need time to process all of the emotions you feel before you can officially let go.

  • Ciara M.
    March 10, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    I think that forgiveness is really overrated. Whenever I am wronged I just excommunicate the person from my life like they don’t exist. Our society blames the victim and vilifies them when they don’t forgive people, says stuff like “move on” (a phrase I hate), and thereby frees itself of the inconvenience of having to deal with the issues that cause people to feel rotten inside. Also, I have in mind forgiveness being something like “turning the other cheek”…the literal definition of forgiveness, not the play on words that satisfy self-doubt and guilt and which is, to the more intuitive side of me, not really forgiveness. I guess I don’t forgive, but that’s alright. I forgive myself.

  • Nicole
    March 20, 2014 at 4:16 am

    Love this article. I’m glad I’m not the only one. Forgiveness to me just shows that you dismiss a person’s wrongdoings… whatever it is that they did.. and makes them think it’s okay to do it again. That’s just me. I believe an apology and some closure are necessary, but I turn my nose up at the thought of forgiveness. And no, I am not living a life full anger and bitterness, I don’t dwell on it, and I have no grudges. Forgiveness isn’t manifested in everyone, and that’s perfectly okay.

  • Michelle
    March 21, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    Yes, I believe forgiveness is needed regardless if it is perceived as deserved….I use to feel like you, but now I study ACIM and fully understand that when we judge, we are judging our self, if we forgive, we are truly forgiving ourselves, and miracles do occur if you practice consistantly. Our outside world is only a reflection of our inner world, correct the mind of inner world, and outside changes accordingly….so ultimately, yes forgiveness is the key to getting back to true HIGHER SELF, your true power; LOVE.


  • Linda
    March 25, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    I sit here reading all the replies and find it interesting looking at people’s response to the the idea of forgiving or not forgiving.
    Me personally I have tried really hard to put aside my grief at the treatment received by my family over many years, the lies, assumptions and downright vindictive and nasty behaviours, that I felt trapped by to the point of attempting suicide when in my late teens. I sat in silence for the greatest amount of time and have tried to take the higher road, all this time searching for how to forgive them so as I could be free of the pain in my heart. I became terrific at hiding it all from the world as really, the world is not that interested in my hurt. All the while I kept saying to myself why do I have to forgive these people, they have treated me with such disrespect and disregard for my feelings. I have seen the pure joy on their faces when the arrows have hit home.
    My mother passed away and then only a short two years later one of my sisters followed. The other offender, another sister just older remains out of contact with me, apparently she is not ready for contact………..what thaaaa!

    I would never wish harm to anyone, but this is as far as my generosity will travel.

    I have no desire to forgive bad behaviour. Tell yourself whatever you have to to help you sleep at night. But some things are unacceptable, unforgivable.

    I believe that I have nothing to be forgiving myself over.

    I will not be bullied into forgiving someone who has hurt me so deeply and left lasting scare

    The treatment of a person with so little regard for their feelings is not and should not be condoned, it is NOT Ok!!

  • jay casson
    April 3, 2014 at 11:57 am

    a fascinating and appropriate read. I had struggled for over a year trying to forgive a friend who hurt me very deeply. While I still hurt from what she did, I have decided it is ok not to forgive her.

    She lead me on for sex, then turned it into dating, using our time out to go scout out a new partner to run off on me. We were together a few months, but the night she ran off, she asked me about when Id consider getting married to her, just to turn around and say she never felt that way.

    I tried to preserve the friendship because up until then she’d been a good presence in my life, but then she started asking me to meet her just to not show. She’d lie to me, saying she left me because she was a lesbian and then tell me she was straight and just didn’t care about me. Back and forthing on asking for intimate knowledge of my sex and love life to acting like I was inappropriate for asking her if she wanted something considering the questions. She progressed to calling me so many names I started to believe her insults were true about me, that I was maipulative, evil, a jerk. I started to hate myself but desperately hung on because I thought I could fix this. I came to realize her insults were what she saw in herself and didnt want to believe, I got so upset I did some really stupid things in hindsight. She was totally out of line. No true friend would do that.

    I told her to back off because it was rubbing salt in the wound, making it hard for me to move on, and rather than take it on board she threatened to kill herself and told me I had no right to say that too her because she has depression and people have lead her on in the past. Makes her a bit of a hypocrite really. I ended up realizing if she can treat me that way, she cannot be a true friend and though it hurt, I had to let her go.

    Now she bitches about me and makes me out to be evil and cruel. I don’t care, a sparrow has no right to ask how a falcon rises above them.

  • Elle
    April 19, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    I am a very forgiving person. I have forgiven people who treated me like shit, I have forgiven people who betrayed me, I have forgiven people who abandoned me when i needed a friend the most, I have forgiven people who insulted me, abused me – verbally – and, to tell you the truth, I do not feel better. That forgiveness was one sided because those people did not change their ways, They were not “sorry” or regretful in any shape for what they had done – on the contrary, again and again I had to listen to them try to justify to me why they had to insult me, betray me, abuse me. in some cases, I was even gaslighted and ridiculed, accused of having made it up or exaggerated when I know exactly what had happened. I had people stop associating with me when I confronted them about their hurtful behavior – or gas light me – but they never apologized. And saying later to myself “oh i forgive them” was not enough. It didnt make me feel better. It made me feel rotten and betrayed.

    The thing is, in order for me to forgive, or for anyone, the other side has to be sorry for what they did. They have to regret it and take responsibility. They have to ask my forgiveness. I dont just forgive people into thin air, without them asking for forgiveness or showing regret.

    I think forgiveness is overrated in the sense that, as you say, some people just dont deserve it. They havent done anything to deserve it and to just issue forgiveness towards people who couldnt give a damn either way is not grand and generous, it is pathetic. So I dont forgive and I dont forget either. If someone wants my forgiveness, they have to ask for it and they really have to make amends otherwise, screw them. I am tried of people too nice to people and too forgiving just so they can then stab me in the back later and tell me it is my fault they were that way…

  • Ray
    April 29, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    “Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” typifies the religious basis for the command to forgive.
    There is no wiggle room here for repentance on the part of the trespassers – Jesus demands that we forgive ‘carte blanche’. Moreover it’s a contract that decides whether we are forgiven. Christians gloss over this continually – because how is this grace? how is this salvation?

  • Jeannette Kavanagh
    June 13, 2014 at 10:00 am

    How thoroughly refreshing to read your post.

    I was just about to respond to yet another invitation to buy into yet another course that will help me to increase my compassion and my capacity to forgive. Yes, I’m a work in progress and always happy to grow in awareness. However the simplistic way that forgiveness is presented and valorised in the self-help and personal growth arenas is nothing short of intellectual shoddiness posing as infallible truth.

    That tired old chestnut is always raised. The person who abused you is having a holiday in the Bahamas while you’re in a depressed mess thinking about him and his abuse of you. First, that’s not the only outcome of standing firm and refusing to forgive that abuse. That very refusal to collapse under the weight of the forgiveness police and their ideology, that refusal can be empowering in and of itself. Secondly, forgiveness has absolutely no meaning if the receiver of the forgiveness has no knowledge of it and/or even less desire to make amends. If the bloke in the Bahamas has forgiven himself for the pain and misery he’s caused, perhaps he doesn’t need yours as well.

    Stand tall. Not everything is forgivable and in a quest for a calmer and more fulfilling life, it’s sometimes necessary to query the experts who maintain that forgiveness is the path to enlightenment. Self-acceptance can include knowing why, on rare occasions, one has decided to withhold forgiveness.

  • Gwen
    June 25, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    I am so grateful to have found this site! Finally someone who agrees with me, that some things are unforgivable.

    I am being pressured to “forgive” my sister for years of abuse and drama and turmoil. Over the years I have apologized for anything that I may have done as a child to her. Tried to explain we were both raised in the same dysfunctional family and it was not my intention to hurt her. Well a year ago she crossed the line and said some things that are unforgivable in my books.

    She has not changed, has not taken responsibility for anything she has ever done to me.

    I am now being looked at as the one who is in the wrong now. And that’s okay with me. I will not allow people in my life to abuse me in any way. That’s my bottom line. I feel good about having strong boundaries and forgiving someone who abused me makes me feel like a victim again.

    I have forgiven myself and that’s all I need.

    Thank you for your article….

  • Helen
    August 24, 2014 at 12:23 am

    At last, some common sense! I am sooo sick of all this nauseating BS about how we have to forgive. Forgiving is like saying that its okay for people to treat you badly.

  • Noel
    June 21, 2015 at 9:18 am

    Forgiveness does not mean merely pardoning wrong doing. If it did, there would be no point in having criminal law.

    It means pardoning the wrongdoer after he’s been corrected of his wrong doing. Or pardoning the sinner following purging him of his sins in more religious terminology.

    If the wrongdoer has been corrected is there any point in the wronged then holding on to the original grievance?

    If the wrong doer has been pardoned without correction, it just sends out the message to perpetrators that it’s OK to carry on their wrongdoing as they see fit. That is gives bullies and worse carte blanche to carry on regardless.

  • Phil
    December 4, 2015 at 9:25 pm

    Hannah wrote this very well when she said ” 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”

    Even Jesus does not pray for Judas Iscariot and so “There is such a thing as unforgiveable”

    It takes great wisdom to know when to hold em, when to fold em, when to walk away and when to run!”

    Well done Hannah!

  • leviathanimation
    July 23, 2016 at 3:27 am

    I’m writting a Visual Novel about 2 countries who are at war because of their different views on Justice. One country believes that forgiving is the key to move forward and to be happy (even rapist, killer and terrorist), while the other believes that punishing such people is the right thing to do.

    Your post definitely helped me in my writting!

  • Dana Williams
    August 16, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    thank you for showing the other side of the spectrum regarding forgiveness.