On Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a concept with which a lot of people, including myself, struggle. I know that I have a hard time forgiving someone who I feel has wronged me if they don’t ask for my forgiveness and are seemingly not sorry for what they’ve done. What do you think — is it even possible to forgive someone who has not asked for your forgiveness?

I think in this scenario, the way to conceptualize forgiveness is to consider it as an act of self-care. In other words, that you’re not making the other person a gift — you’re making yourself a gift. You’re forgiving yourself for the time and energy you have put into being stressed and hurt over the wrong done to you, the wrong that you had no control over and didn’t bring on yourself. At the same time, you’re not dismissing their actions as acceptable. However, your strong feelings towards the other person will become more and more muted the longer you aren’t focused on their hurtful actions.

But what about “forgive and forget”? I think that is a smart policy if someone is truly sorry about what they did and shows you they’ve changed. In this instance, I don’t think it’s fair to them or to yourself to hold onto a negative memory that will cause further division between the two of you and only make you miserable. However, forgetting what an unapologetic person did to you can be risky, especially if they must still be in your life (for example, in the case of a relative or coworker). At the same time, this doesn’t mean you have to dwell on their actions and allow them to negatively affect your mood and mental health.

It requires a healthy self-esteem and courage to forgive. It is the act of a fearful and un-confident person to put so much value in what other people think of you that you allow yourself further pain by internalizing and dwelling on their abuse and worrying that further abuse may occur.

How do you view the issue of forgiveness? Do you see it as a way of “letting someone off the hook” too easily? Or as a necessary step in one’s personal growth in order to move on from the pain?