Please don’t Tell me to “Forgive” Again

you may have to fight a battle more than once.PNG

Forgiveness is a difficult, and somewhat touchy, topic. It’s something we are ‘told’ that we ought to offer others. But ask anyone, and you’re likely to hear that forgiveness is a struggle if you’ve been hurt and betrayed.  And perhaps its not surprising that this should be the case.

Here are some of my thoughts on the matter.

  1. Feeling that it’s hard to forgive and start again (even if, in your mind, you really want to forgive) is a primal, instinctive, self-protective response. The reason’s not surprising: if we let the barriers down and open up our heart, then our trust could be betrayed. So our brain seeks to protect us from further injury.
  2. We fear that forgiveness – or too quick, or forced, forgiveness – could have the effect of minimising the betrayal, and the extent of the damage and the pain that it has caused. Irritations and annoyances don’t really damage us so it’s relatively easy to move on, and let those go. But betrayal devastates us, and changes who we are. It’s a wound that’s hard to heal, and a serious injury.
  3. When we’ve been wounded by betrayal, it is not a single wound. Yes, there’s a major breach of trust; but there are other losses too. There’s the loss of hopes and dreams, of reputation and respect, the loss of peace of mind, and the life you thought you had. Also, there may be serious risks to health due to unwanted STDs, to PTSD, or stress-related illness. So the losses can feel endless – which makes them hard to forgive. It can feel too overwhelming when you’re in a fragile state.
  4. Related this, there are triggers we are battling, and which stop us in our tracks. They remind us of the fact that our healing’s NOT complete.

Although being able to forgive is liberating in the end, as it means we’re less attached to the emotional pain, it’s ridiculous to think that it should happen “just like that!”

It’s going to be a journey, and will take a lot of time, and it won’t mean that the anguish won’t resurface constantly.

Let me finish with some final thoughts from the book Out of the Doghouse:

Forgiveness is a process, not an event. It doesn’t happen all at once, and it is usually given only when earned, rather than when it’s requested. So if you want forgiveness, you can apologize a million times hoping it will appear, but you won’t get it until you’ve earned it … Forgiveness is not something you should ever expect or demand from anyone, let alone your betrayed spouse. Forgiveness will come when she has done hating you and when trust is restored.

For you, forgiveness may mean, ‘Phew. She loves me again and we are moving on.’ To her, though, it means letting you back into her heart that once again puts you in a position to either love or hurt her. That’s a pretty big difference … You will have to feel the pain you have caused, experience your consequences without becoming defensive, and become rigorously honest in all aspects of life. If you can do that, she will eventually forgive you.”

Maybe …. Hopefully …. Eventually.

12 thoughts on “Please don’t Tell me to “Forgive” Again

  1. Reading this just made me realize something. I was proofreading the hopefully last draft of my book coming out in December. It’s about learning your husband/boyfriend is a porn addict and what to do next. I don’t think the word “forgive” appears in the book. It never dawned on me until you just brought it up. I guess that makes sense reading your entry.

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    • Yes. You make an important distinction here. Forgiveness is really a decision … and it can be an unemotional decision … or it can be made when everything inside us is resisting offering forgiveness. It is also something we may have to choose again and again when the pain resurfaces. Trust may never be re-established, and that might be self-protective and appropriate.

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  2. Forgiveness needs to be earned. I like that ‘forgiveness’ starts with the person that needs
    1. to apologize
    2. show insight
    3. tie actions to the words of the apology.
    In that case you should be forgiving, is my opinion.

    Sometimes I feel like it’s the other way around: the person who hurt you, expects to be forgiven without any sign of future ‘security not to be hurt again’ for me. And I need to be the bigger person. Forgiveness is a beautiful thing but it requires work before it can enter the relationship.

    I think you wrote a very nice post on an important subject. Thank you!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you for your comments! I think it is very hard to forgive the betrayer if they don’t really seem to be sorry, and if they don’t seem to “get” how totally devastating it is for the person who’s been betrayed. I also think there is something to be said for the concept of restitution where you demonstrate your desire to make it up to the other person. If that is demonstrated and offered freely, then I think it can be very healing.

      Liked by 3 people

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