• Robert Clarke MFT

The Paradox of Forgiveness

Forgiveness can be hard. When somebody caused you pain, whether just once or many times over years and years, letting go is a challenge. If the person is still around, you can always hope for an apology. You might tell yourself (or others), “I’ll forgive when I get an apology.” Unfortunately, the only person this is hurting is you. If the person who wronged you is feeling bad, then you might get an apology, but if they aren’t, you will probably be waiting for a long time to be released from your hurt. If you are so angry at this person that you have cut off contact with them, don’t expect them to reach-out and apologize.

If the person who wronged you has passed on, you will certainly be waiting a long time and it should be obvious that you won’t get a verbal apology. It that case, it should be clear to you that the only person who is holding on to the memory is you.

A number of years ago I had the misfortune of being on both sides in an anger/forgiveness situation. When the target of my anger died suddenly from an eating disorder, I was left with nothing but my anger and memories. At the same time, at her funeral I learned that there were several of her friends who were angry with me. Though I later went out of my way to apologize and talk through it with them, it soon became clear that there was nothing I could do to get their forgiveness. I eventually came to the conclusion that they were holding onto grudges that really had nothing to do with me.

Unfortunately, I was not so quick to think through my own anger. There were many therapy sessions, many broken dishes (and other things), and lots of thinking before I realized that I was not going to get what I wanted. I could not go back in time and remedy those wrongs – regardless of whether she had lived or not.

Two Important things I learned from my experience:

1. The power to forgive is held by the person who feels wronged. Apology or not, it’s your choice if you want to let go or hold on to your anger. Holding on might feel like the easier and stronger choice, but it is in fact the weaker choice. Each day you hold on to a grudge you are allowing the other person to keep hurting you.

2. You can’t force someone to forgive you. If you feel bad about something, apologize and let go, but don’t assume you are going to get forgiveness. If someone doesn’t want to forgive you, that is their choice. There may be in fact nothing that you can do to get forgiveness. This is not your burden. Let it go.

The Paradox of Forgiveness:

Each day you hold on to a grudge you are allowing the other person to keep hurting you.

Forgiving means taking your power back and moving on.

Have you found yourself holding on to a grudge? Forgiving may be hard but ultimately it means your freedom.

Welcome to my blog!

My posts are purely my own thoughts and opinions and are not meant to give you advice, but instead to give you insight into some of my thinking. My hope is that you will find useful information here as you navigate your life and relationships.