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What forgiveness is not: A reflection

 By Jed Nykolle Harme


We often think that forgiveness is just a one-time, big-time decision for us to release our resentment and thoughts of revenge to those people who hurt us. But it doesn’t go that way. 




Forgiveness is way too broad and there are a lot of misconceptions about it. Now, let me point out what forgiveness is not.


Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgive and forget.

I know that this is tough stuff to digest, but forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. It doesn’t imply a message that what someone did to you was OK when in reality, it never does. It just means that you are letting go of the anger or guilt towards someone. But that can be easier said than done. 


Remember the ‘wrong’ the person has done to you and then learn from it. Because if forgetting was easy, then everyone would be doing it. 


Forgiveness does not mean excusing a wrong.

Maybe there were times that we couldn’t accept the fact that someone hurt us. So in order to make ourselves better, we justify their mistakes and make excuses for it. It is usually dressed like ‘maybe they did it because they have personal reasons’ and that’s off.


Excusing a wrong isn’t healthy. We have to realize that it is not our responsibility to excuse them for hurting us. Recognize that they did something wrong and that hurt us, period. We can forgive the person without excusing the act. 


Forgiveness is not in denial.  

Forgiveness is learning not to deny the things that brought you pain and grievances in life. You shouldn’t deny the fact that what someone did to you doesn’t hurt, you knew it in yourself that it does.


You must stop yourself from saying that it didn’t bother you. Rather, allow yourself to express hurt as hurt rather and hurt as anger. Pretending like it didn’t happen or like it didn’t hurt is called lying. Forgiveness is a decision to release a debt regardless of how you feel.


Forgiveness is not a pain-eraser.

Forgiving someone does not mean you can no longer feel the pain of their offense, sometimes it is still there. What hurt the most is that maybe in some circumstances, pain can be found even in our happiest times.


They say that the only way to get through pain is to endure it. So you can choose to remember every detail that hurts because it’s totally fine. Let sadness be with you, embrace it. Maybe forgiveness really requires pain, maybe we should hurt ourselves first, until it won’t hurt us anymore. 


Forgiveness doesn’t need an ‘I'm Sorry’ to come first.

I really believe that forgiveness is a choice and sometimes, it is appropriate to quietly forgive someone without saying anything or without them knowing you’ve forgave them already. 


You forgive them even if they didn’t ask for an apology because forgiveness is not really for the person you are forgiving, it is for you to free yourself from sadness, grief, and anger. It is for you to protect your peace and mental health at all cost. 


Forgiveness is not impossible.

Whatever your tragedy is, eventually you must go through a healing process and that includes forgiving. Yes, it may be hard as it was to hit bottom and maybe you will realize that it is more difficult than the tragedy itself. 


But one thing is for sure, forgiving is a process that cannot be hurried or skipped, but it doesn’t mean it is not possible. 


As you continue to take your baby steps toward forgiveness, you are honoring yourself and affirming to the universe that you deserve to be happy. Step it up as you admit in yourself  that you need to forgive. It often begins by recognizing the difference between what forgiveness is – and what it is not.