Why it is Hard to Forgive

Posted by on Jan 6, 2006 in Clinical Examples

A  PASS woman, badly mistreated in childhood, is about to write and send her first Letter of Reconciliation.  All members of Hope Alive groups are asked to consider all the reasons they might not want to forgive a Perpetrator or Observer.  These are the reasons that came to  her mind.  We hope they will be helpful to you when in the same situation.

Name withheld, January 9, 2006

I am hesitant that they (the person) will take my forgiveness as an excuse for them to continue, or as a viewpoint that I am a pushover or weak. I also fear that they will think that it means that they get off easy…. and that they are not accountable, or do not have to be, or that I am not holding them responsible. Which brings me to a thought, when I forgive then whom do I hold responsible? God? I don’t want them to think that they can just get away with it, without realizing and coming to terms with the pain, the hurt, and the effect/impact their actions or words have caused.

It’s hard to let go because my mind wants to resolve the problem. It is hard to forgive, (observers/ perpetrators) for partly this reason. It is hard to forgive because I do not want to be perceived as gullible or naive. I do not feel satisfied with bringing things to a close without me being able to ask them (The observer or the perpetrator), directly, “Why didn’t you do anything to help me?” I feel they should know, that they have to know! Not being able to communicate this denies the existence of my feelings and denies my need to feel them. And in turn, I feel, denies me as a person. It dehumanizes me.

I feel as though it says to me, “Your feelings are feelings, yes, but they are not as important. Put them away now.” Reflecting back to these times when my parents and/or others would tell me to forgive so-and-so, instead of actually listening to me or validating my pain and real emotion. It was a pat answer and even though I knew I had to forgive it did not satisfy me as an answer. A cknowledge my feelings/pain/hurt! Acknowledge me! Listen to me! Stop using that term as an excuse! Do not tell me my pain isn’t real!

I would pour my heart out, and cry and all you say is “Well, you know that you have to forgive what’s- his-name, so just do it then and stop feeling sorry for yourself, you’re not the only one who’s been hurt.” Yes, I know I am not the only one who has been hurt, but now I am faced with another conflict of whether or not I have the right to feel this pain, or whatever it may be that I feel. My family and the church have used the “term of forgiveness” as manipulation against me. For example, if I bring up an issue or confront someone they might say abruptly, “Well, God’s forgiven me of these/those things, and he doesn’t hold them against me, so you can’t either. So I don’t even want to continue this conversation. You have no right to bring that up about me etc, etc.” My mom used this ploy often. My dad did also but he was more verbally abusive. The church also refused to acknowledge situations and circumstances, my depression and sorrow, my pain and condition. They would only just pray with me once over the phone, and tell me to forgive, but not really hear me, or want to. Again a quick excuse, a pat answer. When used like this, telling someone to “just forgive” without becoming acquainted, or “getting involved” doesn’t work. It’s like trying to patch a cut artery with a band-Aid. They have to feel my pain and also become acquainted with it as I have, know my tears as I have and what I’ve had to work through to get to this point.

I do not say this out of pride, of wanting revenge or wanting them to suffer as I have suffered. I say this out if wanting acknowledgement, recognition, coming to terms with things instead of trying to run around them or brushing them/me aside. I say this out of validation – out of need for validation. I want to forgive, and I know that I need to but this is what I face. Additionally, I find it difficult to forgive myself because the crisis inside tells me that I should have known better. I’ve been pushing ideals that perhaps could not or cannot be. Part if me doesn’t feel right if I don’t force myself to suffer for it even a little. Maybe it’s just the way it is. If I suffer a bit maybe then I’ll have a right…. The right to feel? The right to be? It’s hard to tell. Maybe if I put a bit of suffering on myself then others will leave me alone.

It is hard to forgive God…but that is a weird concept. Forgive God? I thought there was no such thing. How can one forgive God? Isn’t that pride? It is us who need to be forgiven. However, I hang on to resentments at times because of one reason or another. I want assurance from Him of His connection with me, His protection and love. I’m tired of guessing. How many times I’ve prayed for Him to be there in a tangible way, or for my agony to stop, and asked for it not to return. I never have total assurance or peace, only bits and pieces here and there. It leaves me amidst the unknowns, the waves and endless torment of thoughts and reasoning’s, subject to the “what ifs” of my imagination…so often I have felt that God appears inconsistent, distant, and impersonal. This great God, the Creator. The only part of Jehovah that I can see as personal is Jesus Christ. I do want, and need Jehovah’s forgiveness. Everyone does. Yes, forgiveness is a gift. I know this.

Finally, I feel pain and rage because even when I forgive I am still the one who has to live with/deal with the consequences, the circumstances the way that they are now, and I don’t know how. I feel helpless and discouraged, very scared and anxious.

A cry inside myself says to me, “I know I made mistakes, I didn’t know what I was doing, etc, at the time. Forgive me! Just forgive me please!” But then there is a part of me that says, “Yeah, but I still have to live with the repercussions and consequences.” I don’t know how to do that. I am one contributor now who has to live with the sum of these hurts, mistakes, actions and pain…and I can’t do it alone. I can’t escape this, run away or pretend it isn’t there – which leads back to pain and anger and why it’s hard to forgive.