General Question

creatrixe's avatar

Does anyone else think they have trouble with forgiveness?

Asked by creatrixe (56 points ) April 5th, 2009

I’ve been enmeshed in feelings of animosity for over a month towards someone who treated me in a way that I did not want to be treated. It’s finally become clear to me that the only way I can be free from constantly ruminating over it (I have to see this person every day) is to forgive. But I don’t know how to forgive, as far as I can tell. I’ve read that it’s an act of will, that it’s impossible to forgive anyone using the same platform (emotions) that are causing angst. Can anyone comment on this? Is forgiveness a theme in your life?

What happens after you forgive? I don’t want to like this person; I think he has a bit of sociopathology going on. Will I “like” him after I forgive him? How can you forgive someone and still protect yourself from them?

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26 Answers

ubersiren's avatar

I’m not a forgiver, so I can’t really help. I’ve been told to put yourelf in their shoes and try to rationalize why they did it… I’m no good at it though.

Vincentt's avatar

I don’t think you can forgive this person as long as you know he did whatever he did on purpose and doesn’t really regret it. Perhaps a good talk would help.

Though often I just forget about whatever someone did. But perhaps it is still lingering below the surface. And sometimes I just move on and make a mental note that I don’t like this person for this or that reason, and just avoid depending on that person.

filmfann's avatar

There are two issues here. One is forgiveness, the other is self preservation.
Forgiveness is simple. Realize that you yourself have done bad things, and you will find it easier to forgive others.
Once they are forgiven, you are not under any obligation to like that person. Forgiving them simply means you don’t wish them any harm, or hold a grudge against them.
I have forgiven people who have done terrible things against me and my friends, and I mean them no harm, but I also protect myself from them by not associating with them.
Having said all that, I will admit that forgiving myself for things I have done is much harder.

oratio's avatar

Have you confronted this person? Forgiving and forgetting something that you don’t agree with seems to be paying for it in it’s weight with self respect. Maybe this person and you can come to an understanding? “This is how I feel…” going both ways.

I don’t know what the problem is though.

Judi's avatar

Forgiveness is just letting them off the hook, giving up a sense of some right to revenge. It is not putting yourself in a situation where you can get hurt again. I am speaking from a Christian perspective, and I don’t know your persuasion, so feel free to ignore this if you can’t relate. When you forgive, and give up your right to revenge, it is an act of trusting that God is in control. It doesn’t mean that you trust the person completely. It just means that you release the person from any responsibility you may feel they have to make amends or to be punished.

creatrixe's avatar

@filmfann Thanks for pointing out the two aspects here. I am not sure I cannot maintain my need for self-preservation without reminding myself that I know what this person is like; which reminds me of my dislike for him. Can I dislike someone and still forgive them? I don’t know how to separate these things out for myself, and now wonder how people learn to forgive. Maybe it really is just so undeveloped in me that I can’t process all of these components to any great effect.

I appreciate all of these answers. @oratio I can see what you mean. We did have a talk, and I decided how I feel about him and this issue; for his part, he wanted me to agree with his version. We disagree, quite simply.

@Judi I don’t think I need to be Christian to give up your right to revenge, but I think you hit the nail on the head there as well. The struggle to determine whether revenge should be taken has been exhausting, fruitless, and self-imperiling! I am content to forgive, and though as I mentioned I want to protect myself, I will hope that if I surrender my right to revenge, that these other bits will fall into place. If anyone can comment on that, I would be pleased as well.

oratio's avatar

@creatrixe Ah. Yes. That can be a problem, him not budging at all. Do you want to share what happened? Make a decision, where you feel that you can can respect, and be friends with yourself.

Judi's avatar

@creatrixe ; I didn’t mean to imply that you had to be a Christian to give up your right to revenge, I just don’t want to be preachy or disrespectful to those who don’t share my faith perspective, so when speaking on a spiritual issue I try to prerequisite my answer to respect the feelings of others. I hope that made sense.

Mr_M's avatar

There’s another way to stop ruminating over it – convince yourself that it’s ok to hate this guy for the rest of your life. You DON“T have to forgive. And even if it DID stop your ruminating over the thing you’re mad about, because of the personality involved, you’ll be ruminating over a NEW hurt from the same person soon after. What for?

creatrixe's avatar

Sorry @Judi – I didn’t mean to sound critical and I appreciated your preface. @oratio I don’t think I want to put the situation out in public, though it would probably make my question more comprehensible.

@Mr_M I think it’s been my conviction for the last month that I don’t have to forgive him, and it’s been valid, as you suggest. But I’ve found it a very bumpy ride—it keeps our relationship functioning constantly as a power struggle. I don’t want to worry about who’s got power, who’s right, who’s wrong anymore, I’m worn out with it. You know?

Zen's avatar

@creatrixe Reread what @filmfann wrote. Now just do it.

Mr_M's avatar

@creatrixe, you can be civil with a person, yet, inside, hate his guts.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

Time heals all wounds, and ultimately wounds all heels.

Ultimately, you have to decide how big is the fundamental difference between you? From your question and your posting, I’m seeing two differences at hand: first, whatever the act itself was, and second, his failure to acknowledge your right to your feelings about the decision and his determination to have you see things his way.

The second is far more serious than the incident itself, because it indicates that “winning” is prized above the relationship. Perhaps the “forgiveness” comes in the form of, “I accept that you have a different perspective on this, and you are certainly entitled to it, but I can no longer be your friend because I realize that our relationship is of little value to you.”

hearkat's avatar

I have pondered the issue of forgiveness for quite some time, relative to the perpetrator who molested me as a child, and my mother’s failure to realize that something was wrong under her own roof…

I think it is a matter of semantics, and I find that the best word to describe what has worked for me is acceptance. I accept that I can not change what happened. I accept that my perpetrator didn’t and doesn’t care one whit for anyone other than himself. I accept that my mother is clueless and shouldn’t have borne children. I accept that both of these people are incapable of accepting responsibility for what happened because they could not bear the guilt. I accept that they will have to deal with it in some aspect at some point in time, but that there is nothing I can do to manifest that.

I accept that I allowed my victimization to lead me to have low self-esteem and to make poor decisions. I have forgiven myself for the mistakes I’ve made while I lived with a victim’s mentality. I accept that I do not need to be ashamed for having been victimized, and that it has given me a sense of compassion and insight that I might not otherwise had. I no longer blame them for what is wrong in my life. I accept full responsibility for my actions. I live by my own personal values and choose to distance myself from those who are harmful to me.

I have let go of the hurt, anger and rage that imprisoned me in shame and misery for decades. I have decided that ‘living well is the best revenge’—in that I no longer define myself by my victimhood, and have thus denied their attempts to vanquish my spirit. I will never forget… but does that fact that I relinquish any claim to pass judgement or to exact revenge on them mean that I have “forgiven” them?

skfinkel's avatar

I have issues with forgiving as well, but I realize from @filmfann‘s insightful distinction, that I do forgive in the sense that I don’t stay angry, but I have no real interest in maintaining any kind of friendship with a person who has treated me poorly. Not too many people in that category over a lifetime, but a couple.

filmfann's avatar

I had a boss, years ago, who was just an awful man to work for. He was cruel, maniacal, conniving, and wicked. I was so glad when I transfered.
Years later, I heard his son died of a brain tumor, and I felt so bad for him. It was only then that I realized that I had forgiven him long before.

wundayatta's avatar

I don’t think your issue is forgiveness. I think it’s figuring out a way to work with this guy, even though you can’t stand him. Forgiveness won’t help. You still have the distrust and the loathing you face every day.

Forgiveness help you stop dwelling on something. It’s fine if you want to give up your anger, then you can seek to find forgiveness in you. However, it can’t be fake forgiveness. You can’t just say it. You have to actually let go of your anger and your dreams of retribution. This takes time. It can’t be forced. You have to come to see a more human side of him. Until that happens, you can’t forgive. So I wouldn’t worry about forgiveness. It’ll come or it won’t.

Meanwhile, you should focus on practical things. You’ve got to see this guy every day (is it work?) and you need to do whatever it is you do with him. The best thing is to focus on the task at hand. Just be purely professional. If you need to trust him for something, don’t. Work your way to a deal you can handle, so trust is not an issue. In other words, put enough restrictions on him, that he is forced to be trustworthy.

Eventually, he may get tired of this, and he may rethink his position, and may decide to apologize for what he did, and then explain it to you. If that happens, forgiveness will be easier, but not a given. But don’t wait for him to apologize. Just get on with your life in a practical way, that assured you don’t get screwed over by him again.

creatrixe's avatar

That makes a lot of sense. I’ve been putting myself through the wringer trying to forgive him. Unfortunately, it’s a very small office, and I am literally never out of his sight; agonizing. Today I considered asking for a wall.

I have tried to be professional… I’m not sure to what extent I’ve succeeded, but very fortunately, we do not have reason to have many conversations. No one has commented on my avoidance of him over the last month, so I think I’m doing okay on the outside, but inside I do deeply distrust hm. I think he should go to hell, quite honestly, and he knows I feel that way. As far as I can tell, he is split in two. I haven’t found what makes him human, if that makes sense. Sometimes I feel like I’ve punished him enough with my avoidance (I was always seeking him out prior to the “offensive action”), but then I remember that I don’t get a sense of his humanity, and worse, I’m afraid he might not have much. With that being the case, I hope it takes my avoidance out of the realm of the passive aggressive, or anything else I might accuse myself of, and be identifiable purely as self-protection.

I’m grateful for all the answers here; I’m going to keep forgiveness in mind, but put it on the backburner for now.

TheKNYHT's avatar

A pastor friend of mine said something that I will never forget:
Always live life in a forgive-ready mode. Don’t wait until such a time when you get offended or hurt to exercise forgiveness.Let it be your mind set throughout each day, that whatever may happen, just as Christ forgave us, we will extend that mercy towards others.

Of course forgiveness often means putting my emotional baggage and yearning to pound the violator to pieces aside, and ask that the Lord would empower me by His Spirit to take that step of faith and unconditionally forgive.
Once you lead by faith in this manner, the feelings will eventually come.

I agree 100% with Judi in her statements as well; forgiving others doesn’t necessarily restore the relationship. That is left to the perogative of the offended.

wundayatta's avatar

@TheKNYHT: Your comments made me wonder what Christ would do with forgiveness, if the situation kept on being the same, over and over.

Like, if, after resurrection, he stuck around, and was doing his thing, and once again, he was arrested and tried and sentenced to crucifixian. Would he be forgiving all the people who are involved in his death again? Or would he do things differently the next time, so as to avoid execution and to continue to do his work?

Of course, it’s not a question anyone can answer, but I think Christ, even if he was a bit whacko, still was a pretty sensible guy. I don’t think he’d want to be crucified a second time, if he could avoid it.

So, forgive, sure, but protect yourself, also. Forgiveness doesn’t mean trust. It doesn’t mean everything is fine. Things are not fine. You’re just not out to get them any more, or to pay them back. You are moving beyond that to the next stage, which is figuring out how to get on with your life.

filmfann's avatar

Christ’s work would not require a second crucifixion. It did require the first. Also, while on the cross, he asked God to “forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
The Lord also said to offer them the other cheek. I know this is difficult, and I fail at it often, but it something to work towards.
I am a Christian, but not a Bible-thumper, so excuse me if I come across that way.

wundayatta's avatar

@filmfann: we all know what the history says happened. I don’t think it’s necessary to repeat that. I’m just playing what-if history. It’s not possible to ever know what would have happened if something had been different, but that’s what makes it so interesting to speculate on and discuss. If you don’t accept the premise of the discussion, you really can’t participate in it.

Judi's avatar

@filmfann ;
If what was required was for Jesus to do it all over again (and it does not) I am confidant that he would do it all over again. It was Jesus, who when asked, “How many times should I forgive my brother, even up to seven times?” Responded, “Up to seven times seventy.”

Judi's avatar

I guess that last post should have been @daloon, not @filmfann

wundayatta's avatar

You think Jesus would deliberately let the same thing happen to him a second time? Is that what forgiveness means? Letting someone screw you over again? I think that too many people think that’s what it means. And I most emphatically do not believe that forgiveness means making yourself vulnerable again, at least, not in the way you were the first time.

You know what they say, “Once a cheater, always a cheater.”

Judi's avatar

Jesus wasn’t “screwed over.” He knew exactly what he was walking into and could have stopped it at any time. He CHOSE to go there in the same way, if your child were dying from cancer and there was a way for you to die and save her (knowing you) you would do it. His death was to shield US from death. It wasn’t the Romans or the Jews that put him on the cross. It was my sin. That’s why he said, from the cross, “Forgive them father, for they know not what they do.” And that’s how I know that if that’s what it took to save me, he would do it again. I know it as sure as I know I would die for my child, over and over to save them.

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