Why is it so hard to forgive?

“Everyone says forgiveness is a good idea until they have something to forgive.” – C.S. Lewis

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 a few 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’s 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 catching STDs, or to PTSD, or stress-related illness.

Because the losses can feel endless, they are so hard to forgive. It can feel too overwhelming when you’re in a fragile state.

4. Related to 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.

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

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

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.         

13 thoughts on “Why is it so hard to forgive?

  1. It is most difficult to forgive betrayal

    I think we all have different experiences, my childhood abuse makes betrayal even more damaging.

    I have an extremely hard time forgiving as your description of the betrayed wanting forgiveness.

    Something you Should never expect after you betray someone

    That kind of says it all

    I know forgiveness is healthy and liberating

    Those two benefits do not overcome my resistance, unfirtunately

    Forgiveness means she loves me again, and we are moving on, No way ever again

    After my initial betrayal with my first girlfriend, I never trusted a woman again except superficially

    You have to see through the giggling and innocent demeanor, I have no idea what to look for, how to pick a loyal mate.

    What does a loyal mate look like, act like?

    How do you know?

    How do you trust again?

    I stopped trusting to protect myself and in that pursuit also limited myself.

    I fear betrayal much more than attaining love, whatever that is

    So what happens to love when he/she betrays you?

    Is it a mistake?

    Does loving that person stop.

    How many betrayals are enough before we leave?

    Is betrayal an invisible prison for the betrayed?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Forgiveness can be such a loaded word for me. I realize that it’s important to my own healing so I can release myself from the event and move forward. It’s not something I need to give to the other person who may have betrayed me, that’s their work and something they need to work out within their spirit. And in terms of any harms I have done to others, again the forgiveness comes in my changed behaviors, and working on forgiving myself. I don’t need to be dependent on someone else forgiving me. That really has no healing power if I haven’t forgiven myself first. Just my experience with forgiveness and it is a process for me as well.

    Liked by 2 people

    • This is a really great response. Thanks for adding to the post and the conversation, cmartzloff! I find forgiveness to be a very loaded word as well. I think it is something we need to process and work through in our own, and in a way that feels meaningful and appropriate to us. It can’t be imposed from the outside in by other people, or society.

      Liked by 2 people

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