Forgiveness is sometimes portrayed as the “happily ever after” denouement to a narrative of crime or injustice. The traditional narrative is that someone does hurt, but afterwards realizes their mistake and gives a genuine remorse. “Are you ever going to forgive me?” Then you, the damaged person, have a choice: show them mercy, affording yourself peace in the process, or harbor a grudge for the rest of your life. The option is yours, and many of us believe it begins with guilt and a request for forgiveness.
When you’ve been harmed or misled, it’s normal to demand an apology. In practice, however, this is not the case. Harriet Lerner, a therapist, writes in her book Why Won’t You Apologize?: Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts, the more serious the transgression, the more difficult it may be to obtain an apology from the person who has wronged you. Lerner says that in such cases, “their guilt leads to denial and self-deception, which overrides their capacity to orient toward truth.” Aside from that, there are additional reasons you may be unable to obtain the apology you deserve. Perhaps the other person is unaware of the hurt they caused you, or they have vanished, making contact impossible, or they have died.
Unfortunately, this puts you in a difficult position. How can you forgive someone who isn’t truly sorry or with whom you can’t communicate?
In some ways, defining forgiveness by what it isn’t is simpler. “Forgiveness does not excuse what the other person did; that behavior was, is, and always will be wrong,” This is why forgiving someone does not need an apology or even their cooperation.
“Reconciliation is a negotiating approach between two or more individuals attempting to find their way back to mutual trust,” whereas forgiveness is a one-way street. To put it another way, forgiveness is a step toward reconciliation, but you don’t have to go the entire journey if you don’t want to.
While forgiveness is distinct from accountability, it is not incompatible with the pursuit of justice. “Many people believe it’s either/or,” he adds, rather than both. Forgiving someone can help you see justice more clearly since you’re no longer “seething with wrath,” as he described it.
Perhaps most crucially, forgiveness does not necessitate pretending the pain did not occur, forgiving and forgetting, or ever speaking to the individual again. “When you forgive someone, it does not imply that you must maintain a connection with them.” “It’s an internal change in which you’re not carrying the wound in the same manner.”
Forgiveness is a moral quality. Moral qualities (such as kindness, honesty, and patience) are often centered on how they help others; these are actions taken primarily for the benefit of another person, regardless of whether or not they have “deserved” it.
“Forgiveness is a specific type of moral virtue that arises without exception when the other person has been unjust to you,” “When that person is unjust to you and you choose to forgive voluntarily — it is not forced upon you — you are basically being kind to the one who was not good to you.” You’re attempting to get rid of the animosity by offering some form of goodness: respect, compassion, or anything else that is beneficial to the other person.”
Because forgiveness is described as delivering kindness to another person, it might be difficult to want to get there psychologically – after all, you were the one who was wronged, so why should you now give them something? But keep in mind that you don’t have to physically offer them anything or even tell them you forgive them. Forgiveness does not need to exist outside of you.
“Forgiveness is my safety valve against poisonous fury, which may kill me.” “Waiting for an apology is a misinterpretation of your free will, and it’s a misinterpretation of the medication that is forgiveness, which you should be allowed to accept freely, whatever you choose.”
When you remove reconciliation as a goal, it’s simpler to recognize how forgiving will benefit you just as much as — if not more than — the other person, allowing you to completely break your mental link to them. “Forgiveness begins to assist you sever that link so that you may be free; it’s critical for individuals to finally let go of their anger, fury, and hurt in order to go on in their own life.”
One of the most difficult components of forgiving someone is being willing to let go of the anger and pain. This is especially true when the person isn’t sorry or hasn’t apologized. In certain situations, it might feel as if your wound is all you have: proof that a dreadful event occurred to you and that it truly was as bad as it felt. When you forgive someone, you may feel as if you’re capitulating — as if you’re agreeing with their version of events, even if you know in your heart that they did something wrong.
When someone has wronged you, it’s natural to want to vent your rage. “You may hold on to your anger for a little time because it shows you’re a person of value and dignity, and no one should treat you this way, but then my question is, what is that anger doing to you if you hold on to it?” Yes, it will give you temporary power. But, as is typical, it wears us down with exhaustion, rumination, and makes us significantly more gloomy in life.”
It takes time to be ready to forgive someone who has injured you, as does the effort of forgiving them. It’s hard to predict when — or even if — you’ll be ready. It’s okay if now doesn’t feel like the right moment. “We’re in relationships with a lot of people throughout the course of our lives, and things may change in unexpected and sometimes dramatic ways merely with the passage of time.” Many of the people she’s interviewed have commented about how their sentiments changed as they progressed through life stages; for example, a person who isn’t ready to forgive a parent may begin to see the situation differently after they have their own children.