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April 27, 2016
Forgive Someone?….. Why? ….. NO and Never! (part 1)
I recently had a client who voiced a strong repulsion for the concept of forgiveness. The client later sent me an excellent article on how forgiveness was simply “bull shit.” The arguments the author cited explained away several well-known motives for forgiveness; including one that originated from a famous talk show hostess. I contemplated these arguments and why I still believe forgiveness works! I think there are a lot of misconceptions about what forgiveness is and is not. I came to realize that something huge was missing from this authors’ and my client’s understanding on the subject.
In the first part of my forgiveness blog, I will review the well-known arguments for forgiveness that this article sites and make a brief comment. Here is the link to the article:https://sometimesmagical.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/forgiveness-is-bullshit/.
There are a lot of people who write and speak affirmingly about the need to forgive and sometimes those people add to the confusion rather than resolve it. Most of the time, I believe, it is because people hear the end result of a process, and don’t understand that often it can be a long and painful journey. They interpret forgiveness as a decision that they must force themselves into accepting for various reasons that sound good on-the-surface. I will try to help unravel the mystery of why many people strongly believe that forgiveness works for them. But, first let’s talk about those end-result mis-understandings that were listed in the article. The titles below are loosely paraphrased from the article.
Forgive because it will set us free from the hurt or anger ……..
another person ignited within us. Then we can show ourselves to be the bigger person who is no longer the victim. Martyrdom or self-righteousness was how this article portrayed this kind of reasoning behind forgiving another person. I don’t recommend martyrdom, but I do recommend forgiveness as a path to being free from the hurt and anger. It is a process to work, when you are ready.
We should “forgive and forget.”
I had to laugh when the author correctly identified this as prescribing amnesia to get over the pain. I believe the memory of the event causing pain will be at leastnearly forgotten as we go through the process of forgiving. However, I don’t believe forgetting should be our goal. We can make a decision to forget which is what the Bible says that God does as He forgives us. The Bible never prescribes that WE forget. Often times, not forgetting is exactly what we need to do to keep from being hurt again. Also, depending on the event that you need to forgive, it may take time to forget because sometimes there is lasting consequences from another person’s sin/decision/mistake. Please remember that forgiveness is a process! If you need help with forgiveness or trauma, spiritual abuse, or depression, don’t hesitate to give me a call.
Being thankful for the painful event can transform you from
victim to survivor.
The attitude proposed here will be very hard for most people to understand until you have gone through the process. Even then, I don’t think every event, or every facet of an event that has caused pain will be redeemed by or through an attitude of thankfulness. There can be lifelong consequences we will bear for someones care-less decisions. For instance, I have personally experienced, politely stated, less-than-nurturing parenting from both my parents. I have counselees that have experienced less-than-nurturing childhoods as well. As an adult, who has raised children and now has grandchildren; I can see the effects of that dysfunctional parenting on who I chose for a spouse, how I raised my children, and how my adult children are parenting their children. I consider myself a survivor who is stronger and more compassionate because of my struggles, and I am thankful for my journey. However, I don’t wish similar struggles on anyone. Unhealthy parenting is the cause of much social and personal ills in every culture. I think some existential thought needs to be wrapped around this argument in order to give it substance. Existentialism is not popular in the USA, but it is in other cultures where they don’t take such a happy ending approach to life.
Lastly, forgiveness is finding out that what you thought happened,
did not happen!
I’m not sure how that factors into forgiveness. It sounds like self-deceptionor at best being angry with someone just to find out later that they were innocent. I don’t classify that as forgiving them, but maybe I misunderstand this author or the one quoted in her article.
I am thankful to my client for questioning the practice of forgiving people who have hurt her. I also appreciate the article she sent to keep me on my toes about what I communicate about this topic. It made me do some deep analysis of the “why” behind my understanding and belief of the value of forgiving others. I believe it is a deeply personal process where forgiveness is the destination in a journey. Your journey may takes days, months, years or decades of your life. It is a process that involves many steps. Stay tuned for my next blog on forgiveness and a discussion of the possible steps.