What Forgiveness Is, And What Forgiveness Is Not
How do we forgive and move on? It is certainly a process that takes time and energy. In the lists below, I have made a small beginning by spelling out what forgiveness is, and what forgiveness is not.
- A method (a process) of coping with your hurt and your experience of being treated poorly.
- For your benefit, not anyone else’s; it is not for the person who hurt you.
- A different way to think about your emotions and actions toward the person who offended you.
- A way to let go of some bitterness.
- A way to feel freer from the hurt and offenses done to you.
Here is a definition of Forgiveness that I like.
“Forgiveness is letting go of negative feelings (i.e. hostility), negative thoughts (i.e. revenge), and negative behaviors (i.e. talking badly) in response to genuine injustice against you. You may, or may not, eventually respond positively toward the offending person.”
Whenever I talk about forgiveness in meetings or in groups, someone always asks, “What if I can’t forget?” or, “Does this mean that I have to excuse the behavior that hurt me?”
Forgiveness IS NOT
- Forgetting – you do not have to make yourself forget the behavior or its consequences.
- Condoning – you do not have to say or believe that the behavior was okay with you.
- Accepting its continuation – you do not have to continue to tolerate the behavior.
- Denying – you do not have to deny or overlook the behavior.
*The definition of forgiveness comes from M. Rye and K. Pargament. “Forgiveness and Romantic Relationships in College: Can it Heal the Wounded Heart?” Journal of Clinical Psychology, 2002, v. 54 pp.419-441.