Yes it is hard to forgive repeat offenders, like my alcoholic problematic brother that is rushing my mom to an early grave with all his incessant drama crap. And yes it was a holiday weekend and he ended up going on a bender and drinking himself into the hospital. Because mom was having a fun filled weekend with family and friends instead of sitting at home alone crying about him. Yeah a little tough right now to find forgivness for that.
On the other hand forgiving other people for denting my car, or being rude, blowing me off for better plans, not returning my equipment or belongings, flat out stealing from me, damaging my property, etc is very very easy for me. Yup its like almost instantly. I dont want to clog my brain with negative or bad thoughts. So poof gone, on to my next project plans, just like that. What goods grinding an axe?
Now if I could only apply that to my brother.
I think sincere recogniztion is certainly helpful but not at all required! I would not want to hold myself hostage to someone else's epiphany! There are some things I may never be abe to forgive but I hope I would die working on them. In my mind, forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person, really at all. and its kind of none of their business!! Obviously, ifthere is no remorse from the other person, I am unlikely to want to continue with them in my life, although that is not always true either. Sometimes people just see things differently and in many cases, when wrap my brain around getting over the resentment, I feel very differently about them and may indeed be able to show up around them! I hope so!
I think sincere recogniztion is certainly helpful but not at all required! I would not want to hold myself hostage to someone else's epiphany!
Right. That's why Canaqua was correct to point out that people have different definitions of forgiveness. If someone believes that forgiveness means "I will never hold it against you or think differently of you and trust you completely and carry on as though it never happened" then I think of battered women and immediate family members of substance abusers. They are setting themselves up for repeated abuse unless the person really does understand the wrongfulness of their actions and does whatever it takes to change.
To just forgive such a person in your own mind (without continuing to be their victim) is a different definition of forgiveness and it is important to point that out. I see a lot of abuse victims in my job, and too many of them seem to think, "I know that I should should be able to forgive him..." Obviously they are defining "forgiveness" in a different way.
"Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller
I think one of the important parts of forgiving someone is to actually let your self be mad at them and not feel bad about it. Its ok to be mad, but I usually try to limit it to an hour or so. By that time I am tired of being mad and grouchy so I start trying to find the silver lining and putting myself in the other persons shoes.
I also agree that forgiveness doesn't mean forgetting. Its ok to be leary of someone because they did something to you in the past, and if they really make you feel icky there is no reason that you have to pretend to be super friendly and invite them to dinner.
I have a lot easier time forgiving others than I do forgiving myself. I seem to have this feeling that I'm supposed to be perfect, and anything that goes wrong, or that I screw up, is due to some deep inner fault that exists deep inside myself, and makes me a very unworthy person. I can look at other people, and see them as normal, fallible human beings, and, therefore, forgive what is only human nature. In me, that same fault is seen as inexcusable. Sometimes I think that's pretty egotistical of me. Then, I worry that calling myself egotistical is once again finding undue fault with myself. Gaaaaaa.
This kind of double-duty is typical of a certain mentality, which I also have ... I read that Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy could be very helpful and I suspect if one had a sympathetic therapist who wasn't so matter-of-fact "just get over yourself already" it might have "stuck" with me a bit better.
(not directed at Louise here, just the people reading the thread)
However, forgiveness starts with yourself. And it takes a lot of practice. Just practice. It's like a sitting trot ... we need to find a balance in a different posture, and that requires developing muscles we didn't know we even had at the VERY beginning.
Cognitive work can really help us see situations as more than one person was right and one was wrong. Oftentimes we feel wounded by something we know the action, and we feel the consequence, but we have NO idea what the motivation really was. We make things up and then get angry about them.
I just remind myself that everyone has limitations and we're all just doing the best we can with what we have in the moment ... and that I don't need to be angry or hurt in order to decide that the relationship or situation is no longer satisfying to me. I can just, without judgment, move on with my life.
I certainly would not say anyone "has" to forgive anyone else nor should they feel that is it some kind of requirement. For each person, some things may truly be unforgivable (although it is interesting to watch tapes of the Truth and Reconciliation Hearings in South Africa - talk about atonement and, in some cases, forgiveness!). There are some things that for me, would be at least today,unforgivable.
And I agree that there are many definitions, but for me forgiveness is a separate act from whatever action I am going to take withthat person. And it is a very tricky thing to think about without SAFETY first (for battered women), complicated by acts that may not be ours to forgive completely (acts against children, for example). AA, Al-anon et al do a wonderful job of guiding people through the process of cleaning our own house first , then making amends. Its amazing that through that process, it becomes a lot easier to forgive others!!
My 90 year old dad just died and his last act was to write a letter outlining all of his grudges and grievances, aimed at everyone in the family and also his acquaintences. It left me determined to be more forgiving, to try to let things go, and determined NOT to leave that kind of legacy for my children and friends. I refused to read it. One less thing to forgive HIM for, I guess.
I start with trying to remind myself that most people (not all, of course) are trying to do the best they can with the information that they have, and that sometimes people hurt other people without even knowing it.
My husband was very hurt by a friend's father who made a flippant comment 20 years prior (and hadn't talked to that friend since) until I pointed out that perhaps his Dad had meant something else by the statement entirely which was a point he had not even considered. He carried that one for 20 years!
I also think that apologizing can mean that you're sorry that things are felt that way...so, if I offend you by telling you "the truth" I may not be sorry I said it, but I may feel sorry that it was hurtful.
Similarly, when I forgive someone, I may not be forgiving their action (as in condoning it) but rather acknowledging that they probably didn't mean to hurt me by doing whatever it was. Then I can address the behavior (or not, depending on how many times, who they are, what they did). Usually for me it is repeat offenders that I reach the end of my rope with.
Sometimes I think that's pretty egotistical of me. Then, I worry that calling myself egotistical is once again finding undue fault with myself. Gaaaaaa.
That was my only way out of it. I knew I didn't want to be self-absorbed, so when I'd hear myself mentally start to wallow I'd go - crap! Self-absorbed again! I think both hypersensitivity and people who constantly blame others come from the same root issue, a difficulty in seeing that what they do (in particular the mistakes they have made) and who they are are not synonymous. It's a hard one, and has taken me years to figure out (and I still slip!)
I have no answers, but I really appreciate this thread, as I'm terrible at forgiving people. Including myself.
I am the same way.
I agree with the poster who said forgiveness is as much something you do for yourself--for your own health--as for the person you forgive. That is ... I agree with it until it comes to forgiving myself! I am really much harder on myself than I am on other people (I hope!).
Something that makes sense to me, and what you seem to think too, is that forgiveness is a decision rather than only a feeling. You can forgive someone without ever intending to set yourself up to be wronged by that someone again. Even if it's someone you have to "live with" (work with, ride with, associate with, etc., not just live with). I think it is good to forgive the other person for their sake as well as one's own sake.
As I have gotten older I have found I am more able to apologize and seek forgiveness -- it's not any easier, I just seem to be able to do it despite its being very hard for me. I have learned that being wronged by another person can really really really injure me, causing pain and longlasting scarring; I have also learned that seeking forgiveness can really really really hurt me but maybe avoid some of the scarring or heal it.
Hmmm, I'm not one to hold a grudge... it's just not my nature, and a genuine apology goes a long way with me. Aside from that, I just don't care that much about what other people think or do; this makes it pretty hard to offend me in the first place and pretty easy for me to forgive/ignore all petty bullshit that people do from time to time.
How are your communication skills? If somebody does something that you feel warrants an apology, do you talk to them about it in a rational and constructive (non accusatory) way? Sometimes hearing the other side of things will help put a situation into perspective and reduce your anger/hurt... even if the other person doesn't exactly apologize.
Also, how good are you at admitting it when you are wrong and asking for forgiveness from others? Admitting fault can be an ego-bruiser, but putting yourself out there with a genuine apology when you are in the wrong may help you forgive others when they are in the same position.
Having a beer (or three) at the end of a hard day always helps too.
I guess I'm the outlier here. I don't count small slights or things that may hurt but aren't malicious as stuff that needs forgiveness. Something easily handled by an apology is good and life goes on. I'm also willing and able to admit if I'm wrong and apologize for it.
The big stuff though, when I have been deliberately and seriously hurt by another person, is not, and will not be forgotten or forgiven. I will wait patiently for the Karma bus to come rolling around the corner. When it does my reaction is best described as schadenfreude.
Contrary to current thinking my anger doesn't hurt me. Really, I love to think up ways that I can exact revenge while staying on the right side of the law. My blood pressure is fine, I don't let it consume all my time, but the second I see a weakness, I'm going for it.
My take on all the touchy-feely forgiveness stuff is that it was thought up by someone who did something really egregious and wanted an easy out. They can try to "sell" forgiveness with all the self-help books and Dr. Phils out there. I'm not buying.
Forgiveness is giving up your right to be angry. Anger is not in and of itself "bad" as it simply describes an emotion. It is what you do and how your character develops as a result of said anger that truly counts.
Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people. W. C. Fields
I find it very easy to forgive because it's so uncomfortable to be angry at people, and because I was raised Catholic and have that training in feeling guilty and responsible for everything. Kick me and I have a little piece of my brain going "Now, vacation1, did you get in that poor kicker's way?"
Do I think this is a virtue? Somewhat. I think everyone needs some understanding and some tolerance from time to time. Giving people a pass a couple times of hurtful behavior is probably sensible. There are some behaviors I don't forgive, and at some point, repeat offenders become an issue. You may be thinking of criminal behaviors, but I don't encounter many pedophiles, so it's more subtle. People who use aggression, shame or humiliation to demonstrate their power over me get a quick pass to my Not Forgiven list. I'm a reasonable person, and meek enough, so pissing on my head to make a point 20 seconds after you meet me is a clear sign you're a psycho.
My nephew is a serial abuser. He has been enabled by my sister, [his mother], my mother, and his girlfriend. He lived with my mom for two years and paid not a dime for rent. I won't go on but you get the picture. Near hatred of him burns in me. I am a Christian, and I am SUPPOSED to forgive, and forget. This wasn't even directed at me. I feel if I forgive him, he is getting away with it, which isn't for me to say anyway. I am also beginning to realize it is hurting me. I will be watching too.
I've mentioned this book several times on CoTH, so ignore if you've heard this, but have you read The Sociopath Next Door? Whether or not your nephew is one, the book is very insightful and can really help you view him more dispassionately. It's not a matter of forgiveness, rather a different way of looking at someone (kind of like seeing him as a bug). It's a very readable and actually entertaining book, while being informative.
My first thought when I read the original question was "I don't really forgive people. I may appear to be nice to them later on, but really, you get one chance with me and once you've blown it, you're done." But if that was really true, there would be a whole lot of people who never move off the sh*t list and that's not actually the case. So maybe once enough time has passed that I can't even remember why I was mad at them, I've forgiven them for whatever it was.
And I do think family falls into a different category. My brother is the family screw-up and he and my mom just feed each other, over and over again, but as long as I can stay out of it and it doesn't affect me, I can let it roll off. But when his screw-ups affect me, I don't hold back, I'm not nice, I'm not polite, and I don't apologize later. I have to think that if he'd been held accountable for his mistakes a long time ago, maybe he wouldn't be making them over and over again... but that's not my role and there's no way I'm going to change him now. If he were a friend rather than my brother I wouldn't have anything to do with him. But he's not...
I do not feel any need to forgive the person who tried to pull my husband down and could have ruined our marriage -- but I work hard at putting it behind me and not think about it, or even talk about it or mention the name in our house.
It works for me and gets better over time. At least we are all fine, not so sure about them.
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