What does 'forgiveness' mean to you?

(30 Posts)
Thistledew Sat 06-Jun-15 23:54:09

My own view is that 'forgiveness' is mainly beneficial for self-serving reasons. That it is not healthy to carry around anger, bitterness or lingering hurt over something that cannot be undone. That it is beneficial to one's own state of mind to dwell on the past, and that we should try and recognise that we all behave in less than ideal ways from time to time but that does not mean that we are fundamentally bad people- and so we should recognise that in others too.

However, I don't see forgiveness as behaving as if the hurt had never been caused. It is perfectly possible to 'forgive' someone but to make sure that you don't give them a second chance to hurt you again. Or at least to give the person who has wronged you the chance to show that they can be trusted, but not to be giving of that trust until they have shown that it is deserved.

What does 'forgiveness' mean to you?

mercia100 Sun 07-Jun-15 06:55:50

Forgiveness is too tainted with christianity to be palatable to me.
I don't need to forgive in order to heal myself.

I have someone in my past that I wouldn't piss on if he was on fire. i haven't seen him in many years and he rarely enters my mind. I don't want to forgive his actions, but I don't carry any bitterness or anger. I have a very happy life.

Thistledew- are you affected by this issue? Why do you ask the question?

IsItStupid Sun 07-Jun-15 07:03:58

I am conflicted. I feel like forgiveness should mean moving on and letting someone back into your life, but in reality (in my own life) I count it as forgiveness if I let go of the resentment (and especially if I wish the person well) even if I want absolutely nothing to do with them ever again.

IsItStupid Sun 07-Jun-15 07:10:18

Though I have just looked up the dictionary definition and it says "to stop feeling angry or resentful towards (someone) for an offence, flaw or mistake."

Which is what I would agree with, really.

However, I don't see forgiveness as behaving as if the hurt had never been caused. It is perfectly possible to 'forgive' someone but to make sure that you don't give them a second chance to hurt you again. Or at least to give the person who has wronged you the chance to show that they can be trusted, but not to be giving of that trust until they have shown that it is deserved.

I support this.

Atenco Sun 07-Jun-15 07:46:55

Mercia, forgiveness is an element in all the religions I am aware of as well as being a necessary part of mental hygiene as the OP says.

capsium Sun 07-Jun-15 07:54:50

I agree in that forgiveness does not necessary mean you have to give that person the same opportunity to hurt you again. In fact that could be detrimental to them, in that it would be putting temptation in front of them to do more wrong.

I agree forgiveness benefits the person forgiving in that they can let go of the hurt done to them.

However I do think forgiveness also benefits the wrong doer in that it gives them good opportunity to change for the better. If they are not forgiven and are being punished indefinitely for their wrong doing any character reformation would not be acknowledged and may never come to light.

mercia100 Sun 07-Jun-15 07:54:52

It is easier to forgive some things than others though
I can forgive my OH for scraping my car, I dont really want to forgive someone who raped me and smashed in my face.

capsium Sun 07-Jun-15 07:55:01

I agree in that forgiveness does not necessary mean you have to give that person the same opportunity to hurt you again. In fact that could be detrimental to them, in that it would be putting temptation in front of them to do more wrong.

I agree forgiveness benefits the person forgiving in that they can let go of the hurt done to them.

However I do think forgiveness also benefits the wrong doer in that it gives them good opportunity to change for the better. If they are not forgiven and are being punished indefinitely for their wrong doing any character reformation would not be acknowledged and may never come to light.

mercia100 Sun 07-Jun-15 08:03:24

We don't need to forgive in order to heal.

niminypiminy Sun 07-Jun-15 19:53:31

I wonder what our world would be like if there were no forgiveness?

Holding a grudge would be normal, socially approved behaviour. People would not only never forget something done wrong to them, but they would continue to blame the person, to wish them wrong, and to act on their feelings.

Feuds and vendettas would be socially approved behaviour. A wrong is a wrong always, and no one should walk away from vengeance.

'An eye for an eye' would become the founding principle of justice. It would make no sense to separate victims from the administration of justice.

So, what is forgiveness? It's not saying 'it's ok' when someone hurts you. But it is letting go of the grudge, and it is accepting that when justice has been done that is an end.

The Forgiveness Project might help you understand what forgiveness really is.

niminypiminy Sun 07-Jun-15 19:59:18

And if there were no forgiveness, then the word 'sorry' would be redundant. What would be the point of saying sorry to someone if they were never going to forgive us?

Italiangreyhound Sat 13-Jun-15 00:59:06

Ninnypinny was just coming on to say about the forgiveness project.

i think forgiveness is cutting that person who hurt you loose from your thoughts and not allowing them to continue to occupy space in your head. It does mean you don't hold against them the hurt they caused you.

I think forgiveness is healthy but I also think that no one can require is to forgive others, it is our own personal journey.

mercia100 I don;t know if the example you gave was true for you or someone you know. If so, I am very sorry. of course it is true for someone and indeed I feel no one should attempt to get us to forgive past hurts, but sometimes for some people it does release them from continued pain.

Thistledew hope all is well with you.

DioneTheDiabolist Sat 13-Jun-15 01:26:46

For me, forgiveness comes when I learn from the experience, accept my part in what happened and learn from it.

That way I release myself from the other person and release them from me. IYSWIM

PtolemysNeedle Sun 14-Jun-15 09:59:04

I pretty much agree with your understanding of forgiveness OP. I'd add that to me it means a deeper understanding of a situation or person, and it recognises that good people can sometimes do bad things. It is very much about the person doing the forgiving rather than the person that is being forgiven, but the way forgiveness shows itself can come in many different ways.

I have a situation where I have forgiven someone who hurt myself and someone I love a long time ago. It makes no difference to that person whether I've forgiven them or not, I haven't seen them in years, and it makes no difference whether they are sorry, or if they even recognise that what they did was so hurtful. In this situation, the only person that can benefit from my forgiveness is me, but the feeling if being able to genuinely forgive has been quite empowering.

LondonZoo Tue 16-Jun-15 15:59:39

I don't think it is "self serving" - certainly no more than eating nutritious food is, or exercising, or saving for the future.

I also think that it cannot be self serving. For me, any act which was founded on a bed of self serving motives wouldn't be self serving.

I think part of it is choosing to set down the 'baggage' of the offence. To get to the point where the benefits of holding the grudge are tiny/negligible in comparison to the emotional cost of holding. That requires time and lots of thinking

LondonZoo Tue 16-Jun-15 16:05:44

For me, any act which was founded on a bed of self serving motives wouldn't be self serving should obviously be forgiveness

cheapskatemum Tue 16-Jun-15 18:01:44

I'm sorry, LondonZoo, I've read your last post though a few times and I'm afraid I still don't understand it. Could you put it a different way for the more cognitively challenged? I was trying to get to grips with it because it might well be similar to what I'm posting.

One of the ten commandments (Jesus' second most important one) says to love others as ourselves. If forgiving someone is self serving, it could be part of a process of loving ourselves: we deserved better, we didn't get it, by forgiving the person who wronged us we acknowledge that.

Also, not allowing someone access to wrong us again could be seen as loving ourselves, as well as practising the gift of discernment.

pocketsaviour Tue 16-Jun-15 18:19:21

I think the terms "forgiveness" and "acceptance" are used interchangeably sometimes, and it causes confusion.

Letting go of angry and bitter feelings, of pain and shame and fear, is part of both acceptance and forgiveness.

There are some crimes which I don't think can be forgiven, especially when the perpetrator has shown no remorse. But as the survivor of those crimes, we can reach a state of acceptance that it happened, we can stop asking Why me or saying It's so unfair. We can accept that our lives have changed as a result, and that it's now okay to put down the burden of those feelings. I do think that is a part of healing, as the emotions become more manageable.

I can forgive my son for running up a £100 mobile bill being stupid and love-struck.
I can forgive my ex for sleeping around behind my back.
But I'll never forgive my dad for molesting me. I've accepted that it happened, and I've worked through the anger and pain and rage and fear, and I've accepted that he'll never be punished and will live his life in comfort and financial security, but I will never forgive him.

LondonZoo Wed 17-Jun-15 00:06:38

Cheapskates, I think my trouble is with the definition of self-serving:

1.preoccupied with one's own interests, often disregarding the truth or the interests, well-being, etc., of others.

2. serving to further one's own selfish interests.

Therefore a self serving act is a means to a further end at someone else's expense.

Forgiveness to me is an internal process, mental hygiene as pp said. I cannot think of an instance where forgiveness would happen knowing that it acted negatively on someone else- perhaps a lack of my own imagination.

I do agree that the primary beneficiary of forgiveness is the forgiver.

Hopefully that helps a bit.

keeptothewhiteline Wed 17-Jun-15 07:34:06

It is interesting to read that those posters who seem to think forgiveness is essential are the ones who haven't had anything really bad happen to them.

Very patronising.

I forgive people regularly, my family, friends, those who do little things that upset or lie to me.

I won't forgive my ex who raped and abused me however.
But I have a very happy and fulfilled life. Forgiving my ex is not something I choose to do, but the events rarely cross my mind. Me not forgiving him is in no way damaging my life. My scars have healed and I am a stronger and better person because I have chosen not to let the events impact on my life in a negative way, I don't hold on to any negative emotion from it.
I actually think I have learned and grown because of what happened to me, but forgiveness doesn't enter the framework.

cheapskatemum Wed 17-Jun-15 17:38:13

Thanks, LondonZoo, that certainly helps. I was being too literal in my understanding of self serving: The Bible doesn't encourage selfishness.

Keeptothewhiteline and pocketsaviour I agree that, since I haven't experienced such bad things as you, I'm not in a position to tell you that you must forgive and how much better you will feel for it. You both sound as if you have done amazingly well to get over such traumatic events.

niminypiminy Wed 17-Jun-15 20:28:48

"It is interesting to read that those posters who seem to think forgiveness is essential are the ones who haven't had anything really bad happen to them."

I don't think you can know that, can you?

Also the forgiveness project has plenty of stories of people who have forgiven after having appalling things happen to them - abuse, rape, murder of close family.

The forgiveness challenge has research about the effects of forgiveness. It's a programme that helps people learn to forgive.

cheapskatemum Thu 18-Jun-15 22:01:29

Thanks for the link, niminy, I'll have a look, though they were right about me, compared to what others have suffered, I haven't had anything really bad happen to me.

keeptothewhiteline Thu 18-Jun-15 22:04:19

nimin- I admire that you can have had such awful things happen to you ( I assume) and still be so keen on forgiveness.

niminypiminy Fri 19-Jun-15 09:53:58

I haven't had the same things happen to me as you have, keeptothewhiteline. But I didn't say that I had, merely that you can't presume that no other posters have had really bad things happen to them merely because they think that forgiveness is possible and even essential.

cheapskatemum I am not sure that I think it's always a good thing to think 'I haven't had anything really bad happened to me'. Bad things, damaging and awful things happen to everyone sooner or later. What maybe life-destroying for one person may seem trivial to another. Although it's important not to think that your own (and my own) misfortunes are the worst thing that could happen to anybody, anywhere, we still need to deal with the effects in our own lives of the bad things that happen to us.

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