Forgiveness is powerful. It has the power to heal and to change the future of relationships, whether they are between people or nations. Forgiveness can ease the burden of guilt on the offender, and it can free the offended from the burden of resentment. Like anything powerful, however, forgiveness can be misunderstood and misused. It is a process, and it doesn’t come cheap. Forgiveness cannot occur without the offender first asking for it – and then taking responsibility for the harm done. But when a person’s “I’m sorry, forgive me!” comes without a commitment to changing the offending behaviors – then it is an apology not worth the paper it is written on. A need for forgiveness indicates, among other things, that trust has been broken. Re-building trust is a long and labor-intensive process, one that must be initiated and maintained by the individual who has broken the trust. The person who has been hurt chooses whether or not to remain open to the process. Receptivity and openness to a person who has betrayed our trust is very difficult and needs to be recognized as such. The offending party is always “over it” before the offended party, and may attempt to guilt-trip the latter for not “moving on”. While a responsible apology creates the possibility for dialogue and renewal, real forgiveness can only occur at the end of a successful process. Finally, forgiveness must not be confused with forgetfulness. The only way to forget a betrayal is to enter into denial, which is a self-defeating defense mechanism. Forgiveness means letting go of the desire for revenge and receptivity to transformation, but it does not involve memory loss.
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Dana Schwartzenbur says
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Garret Tedeschi says
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Ryan Kalmus says
Enjoyed looking through this, very good stuff, appreciate it, Ryan
Allison P. says
Amen! Forgiveness is often talked about, but more often than not, it’s misunderstood.
All excellent points. I and likely many others too easily forgive those who hurt us and and hope for a better outcome next time. This is especially true when the individual doing the hurting is a family member and we forgive for that very reason alone. Here no forgiveness is requested nor does the family member make any attempt to change his or her offending behavior. We want to believe that this family member will change but only find that we are setting ourselves up to be hurt again and again.
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