Is it OK to not forgive? Because sometimes we just cannot!

Do I really have to forgive people?

No, you don’t.
“Forgiveness” is muddled with confusion though. So it is helpful to be clear what it is and what it is not.
There are 4 aspects:
  1. Hurt: When someone hurts you. You feel pain. You are angry. Especially if you cannot retaliate.
  2. Forgetting: Forgetting that the painful event ever happened. Usually not possible. The memories bubble up sometimes. Question is: Do those memories cause the same pain, the same anger…the same emotional experience?
  3. Forgiving: Forgiving is realising that if I keep reminding myself of the hurt they inflicted, and the anger that I hold, and the vengeance that I feel – then I am damning myself to feel the same experience over and over again. They wounded me once. Now I vow to keep scratching that wound forever.
    Once I realise this, I let go of the vengeful thoughts. The wound now has a chance to heal. The memories surface of course – but they lose their emotional punch.

    Note that you are not condoning the hurt. You are not saying that “It is OK that you hurt me”. You are saying. “You hurt me. And that is not OK. But I refuse to keep hurting myself now”

  4. Reconciliation: Deciding to trust the same person again, to be vulnerable again – to that person. This is again a separate question. Forgiving need not result in reconciliation.
To know whether you have forgiven someone, ask just one question:
“Am I still experiencing the same emotions of hurt and anger, long AFTER the event has occurred?”
If yes, then you have not forgiven. And you have the right not to. It might not be productive though.

1 Comment

  1. This is very helpful.

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