Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Is Forgiveness ALWAYS the Correct Answer?

I'm 33 years old.  I've been alive for 12,193 days.  Ample time for people to rough me up physically, emotionally, mentally, or any other way they may have been able to dig in a proverbial knife.  I remember everything - mostly.  I can see their faces, hear their voices, even imagine placing myself in the same situations, and coming out the other end, worse for it.

Many religions and other creeds claim that a person needs to forgive.  Some even go further and say to forget.  Wise people attribute their longevity and lack of poor health to a lack of holding in the hurt from their past.  But is that just a misplacement of cause and effect?

I mean...does a person really need to forgive someone who hurt them?  Or, can they just use it as a learning mechanism, feel the pain, know what they don't like, and never allow that to happen again?  

This throws out the notion of "forgetting," which I think is unhealthy anyway.  Otherwise, you're throwing caution to the wind, allowing the victimizer to mess you up again.  

What say you?


  1. Holding grudges makes your blood pressure go up and saps your energy and distracts your attention from more useful pursuits.

    The only thing we have power on is the present moment. This is not out of a book.

  2. There is something to forgiveness, but there's hazards in taking it too far, and allowing the person to harm you again. Sometimes there is no other choice but to break off the relationship with that person, and do everything possible to keep them away from you.

  3. For me when I've been hurt and have gone through all the emotional parts and see it through.. feel it out..when the pain is over and I've done the heart work so to speak.. I usually forgive. If someone is intentional in their desire to hurt I don't forgive... I don't hold it either. I move on and am a little wiser for next time.. not
    always...but mostly...;)

  4. I think it depends on your definition of forgiveness. The dictionary definition is to stop feeling anger or resentment toward someone who has wronged you. It says nothing about loving your offender, continuing a relationship, or remaining silent about your abuse. In this respect I look at forgiveness as a healthy goal though if you've been greatly wronged it is a long and difficult process. I look at it as getting on with your life more than anything else although I do feel it's important to be realistic and not judge yourself or anyone else harshly because forgiveness is still a work in process.

    But in Christianity forgiveness is often twisted to mean pretending like the offense never happened which is extremely unhealthy. The idea of turning the other cheek is dangerous and also this process is expected to take place more or less instantaneously without ever giving victims a chance to heal or process their emotions. I would never recommend this brand of forgiveness to anyone.

  5. I agree with Angela.

    You can forgive someone without welcoming him or her back into your life instantly (or at all).

  6. I think the church (and self-help gurus in general) does over-emphasise the value forgiveness. But the question posed here is a little vague: are we talking about routine slights that inconvenience us or hurt our feelings? Or an act that may produce death, loss of use of a limb or other organ, or the fear of similar bodily disintegration?

    Even when victims of trauma physically recover, these experiences do emotional and psychological damage. In adults, normalcy is often regained in time, but when the victims are children there are unique developmental issues involved. Trauma produces overdoses of fear related chemical hormones that, in the case of chronic abuse, can affect neural connections and chemical regulation for life. There is no trick of thinking that regrows a limb, brings the dead back to life, or allows a human being go back and re-do an earlier stage of physical development.

    There are benefits of forgiveness for everyone--but these benefits are frequently oversold to trauma sufferers. Most of us would be appalled if a pastor or therapist promised a man with no legs that he could grow new limbs if he forgave his mother for using street drugs during her pregnancy. Moreso, if he subsequently blamed all of the day-to-day problems of living without legs on the sufferers lack of forgiveness.

    Yet this is exactly what many religious leaders and supposed experts are peddling to seriously mentally ill child abuse survivors. In many cases (not all), these folks are suffering from brain differences that can't be seen, but can be scanned and subjectively measured with modern electromagnetic imaging. So in the sense that counselors and motivational speakers are offering a spiritual antibiotic to people whose illness is not caused by such an infection, forgiveness as a remedy is is often the cruelest hoax.

    My upcoming novel is an action packed murder mystery, that also delves deeply into the topics of religious child maltreatment, PTSD and recovery, as well as the topics of forgiveness and revenge.