What is Forgiveness?

San Fran 2009 004

Forgiveness is tricky business. So tricky, in fact, that I rarely use the word.  I find that it’s too complicated, too misunderstood, and too emotionally charged to be used very often.  For example, does forgiving someone mean you have forgotten their transgressions?  Does it mean that what they did to hurt you doesn’t matter anymore? Are they free to do it again?

I don’t think so.

Sometimes it is more useful to consider what forgiveness is NOT.

  • Forgiveness is NOT forgetting a past hurt or transgression
  • Forgiveness is NOT something that comes easily or without much thought or effort
  • Forgiveness is NOT something that happens automatically when the transgressor has apologized.  Instead it is something solely in the hands of the person who has been hurt.  It is their decision and action alone.
  • Forgiveness does NOT equal a continued relationship.  Meaning: you can forgive someone of something, and also then choose to terminate your relationship with them.  The two actions have nothing to do with one another.

Forgiving someone else (or even oneself) can be an important piece of mental health, particularly when it comes to some of the bigger hurts in life.  But it can’t be rushed; and it definitely isn’t useful when it is insincerely given, or bullied out of us.  Stay tuned for tips on how to forgive.



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