How do I forgive someone without speaking to him or her?
How to forgive someone who doesn’t know they’re wrong?
Should I forgive when an apology isn’t given?
My search logs for On the Other Hand have been blowing up lately with questions about forgiveness. These are just a sample of them.
I grew up in religious traditions that heavily emphasized forgiveness. My parents grew up Mennonite and passed many of those values down to their children. Turning the other cheek is the definition of that denomination.
When I was young my parents attended/pastored churches that believed in stuff like demonic possession. One of the ways demons were thought to gain a foothold in your life was by latching on to something in your life (some people call these doorways): an unconfessed sin, a traumatic experience, reading or listening to the wrong thing, a sin committed by your ancestor, etc.
People who were thought to be possessed by an evil spirit were encouraged to purge their lives of anything that might draw negative beings near them.
Of this is that I grew into an adult who very rarely holds a grudge. If anything I’d bend over backwards to restore a damaged relationship even if the other person hadn’t done anything to show that he or she was truly sorry.
Is this a bad trait? Not always. It’s much hard to make an enemy of someone who is (virtually) always willing to reconcile.
My challenge in my 20s, though, has been and is to find the balance between reconciliation and setting boundaries with people who run roughshod over them. In the past it’s been hard for me to say, “it really hurt me when you did X.” My first impulse is to forgive and forget without ever really talking about it or asking for different behaviour in the future.
This isn’t good.
How Have I Changed This?
By getting pissed off.
There comes a time when you’ve had enough. My definition of that term probably isn’t yours in any given situation. And I’ll admit that I’m still learning how to be more assertive. Each step in that direction is a small victory.
But when I’ve had enough, I’ve had enough.
I’ll forgive but I won’t forget.
Internet searchers, this is what I recommend you do as well. By all means forgive for the sake of your own health but remember that you have options. Forgiveness isn’t a free pass for anyone to keep causing harm to you.
You can forgive and never speak to that person again. You can forgive and take a giant step back from them. You can forgive someone without giving them your trust again.