You don’t owe anyone forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a gift you give, but it’s for yourself as much as it’s for anyone else. And when a person asks for forgiveness, it’s never a requirement that you give it just as it’s never a requirement that you accept an apology just because it’s offered. It won’t change the original action or undo the harm. Even if the apology is sincere, you don’t owe anything to people who have wronged you, especially if they did that harm intentionally.
So what do you do when a person stops harming you? For me, it depends on why they stopped harming me. Did they realize what they were doing and immediately stop? Did they apologize, try to make amends in whatever way they could? Did they go about trying to find ways to do and be better? to avoid making the same mistake ever again?
I tend to be pretty quick to accept sincere apologies. And I tend to forgive easily and often. Probably too often. My reasons vary but sometimes it’s that I feel like it’s expected even if it doesn’t feel right. So am I really forgiving if I have reservations? if I’m not sincere? Probably not. That’s lying to myself as much as to the person I’m supposedly forgiving even though I want to mean it. But society puts a lot of pressure on us, especially on women, to be sweet, amenable, to forgive and forget. Perhaps this is where some of our resentment comes from, our own poor choices due to pressure from society.
But what about if someone stops doing the harm because someone else takes away their power? Would they still be doing that harm or looking for another way to do the harm to me if someone else hadn’t stopped them? When you take away a person’s power to harm you, but they still want to harm you, that doesn’t mean it’s time to forgive them. On the contrary, if they still want to harm you, if they want to keep injecting the poison – are maybe even actively looking for a way to go back to harming you – the last thing you should do is pretend the danger has passed and forgive them. They’re holding the syringe of poison and looking for an opportunity to use it again. And, obviously, an apology in that circumstance is a lie.
Before we go any farther, this isn’t just about our hateful neighbors and people in the news hurting and killing PoC, LGBTQIA, women, Muslims, etc. because they can. This is about the people representing us who encourage the behaviors, the violence, the division. This is about giving too many concessions to bigots. It’s about pardoning people who’ve done terrible things using some sort of excuse about healing the nation. Excusing bad behavior doesn’t heal anyone; absent negative consequences, it encourages more bad behavior. The Electoral College is a concession to bigots. It still harms us today. Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio. Trump encouraged the terrorists who tried to run a campaign bus off the road in Texas. Trump said aloud that Nazis are “fine people.” Society has been looking past their racist/sexist shit or using excuses about free speech to protect hate speech and hate crimes for too long. Hate is taught. It’s passed down. This hate doesn’t stop until we, as a society, put a stop to it.
I’m not talking about hating them back. I don’t hate anyone, and I’m not interested in revenge. I wonder if I should be sometimes, but I’m not. It’s not my way. I want only what each of us wants: equality. Power over my own body and my own choices. Justice. Consequences for bad behavior and for crimes.
At the very least, to even consider accepting an apology, it must be sincere and it must be accompanied by remorse and/or atonement, understanding of their wrong, and clear efforts to never repeat the action that caused the harm in the first place.
Even if the danger has passed, and the person is no longer trying to harm you, forgiveness is not an obligation; it’s a choice. It’s your choice. And you’re not obligated to rebuild relationships with anyone who has harmed you. Even if you accepted an apology. Even if you have forgiven. All of that is entirely up to you. You decide if you let an abusive person back into your life.
For those who are asking if it’s time to forgive so that we can heal, I ask, “why do you want to forgive?” Nobody is asking for forgiveness, and the reason some stopped doing the harm (for the time being) is because the Abuser-In-Chief will soon be leaving the office he’s been desecrating for four years. His cult members are unsure if they still have permission to do that harm. They don’t know what will be acceptable in a post-Trump society.
They may feel that they don’t have the power to spread the poison like they used to. But they haven’t asked for forgiveness. And they’ve not offered an apology. And we have no reason to think they aren’t holding that syringe, looking for another opportunity to stick it in and squeeze the plunger.
The choice is yours. You owe them nothing. If it helps you to forgive, that’s up to you, but I see none of the prerequisites. When and if I see sincere apology, clear understanding of the wrong – how and why it is wrong and harmful to fellow human beings – as well as obvious steps to right the wrongs and genuine progress, taking steps to be sure to never repeat the actions that lead to harm, then I might consider accepting an apology. That would probably go a long way toward healing, for me, for all of us. But I see nothing that resembles remorse. Nobody new has learned anything about hate, about bigotry. The results of the latest presidential election are evidence that at least 71 million Americans are still all in on the hate, on the cruelty.
As for forgiveness or pardons, that isn’t even near the table until heartfelt apologies start, until atonement begins in earnest. I will begin my own healing without it. Unity in this country will not come from those who are abused and oppressed once again sucking it up, forgiving, taking more abuse. It’s absurd to even suggest we forgive or that we pardon the criminals. I will not forget what they have done, what they’ll continue to do to us as long as they think they can. And I’m not forgiving. Nobody’s asked; for the time being, none will be given. That is my choice.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this. I hope this post made you think about the requests being made of us, these expectations of forgiveness. We can’t keep letting bad behavior go, and we can’t be expected to automatically forgive abuse and oppression or it will continue to poison us all. Do what you need to in order to take care of yourself, to heal. *hugs*
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Link: “Why You Don’t Always Have to Forgive: Self healing must always come first.” – by Deborah Schurman-Kauflin Ph.D. in Psychology Today
Link: Hate is Ugly – by E. Brooks of Gray Matters
Link: Through – by E. Brooks of Gray Matters
Link: Hi. My Name is Gray. . . – by E. Brooks of Gray Matters
Link: Only Love – by E. Brooks of Gray Matters
Link to featured image, poem called “roots…” by butterflies rising.
Link to original Tweet from ISpeak4theAnimals.
TL;DR: I do not owe anyone forgiveness. Nobody has apologized, and nobody has asked for forgiveness so I have no reason to consider granting it. You don’t either. I will begin my healing anyway.
Edited 10 November to include a graphic and a link.