The Difficulty of Forgiveness (A No Easy Answers Post)

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No Easy AnswersSomeone hurt me this weekend.

It was like a sucker punch to your most vulnerable spot. It felt calculated. Cruel. And completely unnecessary.

I reacted as most of us do when we are hurt. I got angry. So angry. I stewed over it, prayed over it, lived with it, and over and over I came to the conclusion that no response was appropriate or even possible. I simply had to forgive and move on.

But forgiveness is a hard, hard concept. It is an act of will, and in the face of repeated injury, will fails. There’s a reason the saying is “forgive and forget.” The only way to move forward in relationship is to truly leave it behind, to start anew, without the baggage of the past changing the shape of the future.

And yet there’s a line, a point at which you have to flip into self-preservation mode. Or is there? No matter how you spin the numbers, that Gospel passage is pretty clear: seven times seven times, seventy-seven times—in Biblical numerology, seven is the perfect number. There is no upper limit. There is no line of self-preservation.

We’re just supposed to forgive.

But after a certain point you can’t forget anymore. And then the question is: if you haven’t forgotten, if you’re still hanging onto it, if you’re just waiting for the next injury to drag it all to the surface again…have you really forgiven at all?

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8 thoughts on “The Difficulty of Forgiveness (A No Easy Answers Post)

  1. Forgiving does NOT mean forgetting. I read an excellent book by a priest / professor on this topic: ‘How to forgive’ by Jean Monbourqette. I highly recommend it! Roughly, he says: Forgiving is fully acknowledging that the other person did what he did and not holding it against him anymore, but you still have to take care of yourself and protect yourself. For instance, if a man has stolen money, you can forgive him, but you should also make sure not to let any money laying around if you know he could / would do it again.

    • The question is, how do you not hold it against him when you know you cannot defend against the particular hurt, and it is virtually guaranteed to happen again?

      On Mon, Sep 28, 2015 at 8:34 AM, Kathleen M. Basi wrote:

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  2. Great post. Always need to see others views on this. I like Ciska’s answer.
    As an incest survivor I have dealt with this a lot. One whole chapter in my memoir deals with this.
    We do need to forgive. It is really healing to do so. But some things can’t be forgotten. Deep rooted pain just does not go away. Reminders are always there. Especially if the one who hurts you keeps hurting you in other ways. In my case, my abuser isn’t speaking to me. That is actually a relief. And it makes it a little easier to forget. Until Fathers Day rolls around.
    And though I have forgiven him, I often have to renew that forgiveness, if that makes sense.
    God bless you.

  3. Kathleen, I’m so sorry you are suffering with this. I always understood forgiveness to be something you do for yourself, releasing your feelings of anger toward the person who hurt you. It doesn’t mean condoning the behavior or saying what they did is OK. The key to your post, for me, is this: “in the face of repeated injury, will fails.” If this person has repeatedly hurt you, s/he does not respect you or your feelings. This is a sign that it’s time to step away from the relationship; its damaging effects have outweighed its benefits. As hard as it may be, take consolation in knowing you have done all you could. It is the other person who chose to keep hurting you, and s/he no longer deserves access to your tender emotions. Forgive and release yourself, continue to pray for them, but move on.

  4. Jen

    Forgiveness is not a one-time action — it requires daily repetition. I’ve got people I am still working to forgive 10+ years after the original wounding.

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