Archive for Forgiveness

Forgive, even when they’re not sorry!

One of the biggest myths about forgiveness is the belief that someone must first be sorry. Why should someone have to be sorry for us to forgive them? Naturally it is much easier to forgive people who are totally repentant and committed to reform, but this is not a requirement. Such a conditional attitude towards forgiveness completely misses the point. We must learn to forgive people who are not sorry, people who are convinced they are in the right, and people who may even think that we are the ones who should be sorry.

Many people object to forgiving an unrepentant person because they feel that this somehow excuses the original action. They feel that if the person does not unreservedly acknowledge that their action is wrong, then forgiveness is granting them permission to do it again. If we are holding back our forgiveness out of such fear, we must realize that forgiveness does not mean automatically giving someone another chance and letting them back into our lives. For example, if our partner cheats on us, we can forgive them and still choose to end the relationship. The difference is that we would not be ending the relationship due to anger and a lack of forgiveness, but rather from the awareness it is flawed and that we would be better off apart.

The next thing we must realize is that whatever harm someone has caused us, they have caused more harm to themselves. Nobody wants to be miserable, and if they hurt others then misery is what they will get. Thus, we forgive people because we know that they act out of ignorance. If they are unrepentant, we should hold even more compassion for them, because this same ignorance may cause them to do the same thing again and again. Remember, however much they are harming us, they are harming themselves more! But once again, as mentioned before, the choice to distance ourselves from this person is always open to us. Forgiveness does not have the requisite of continued close contact.

Often in relationships we claim that an event from the past continues to hurt because our partner will not apologize. Although their apology would clearly mean a lot, we should also consider that the hurt continues because we refuse to forgive. We do not have to wait for their apology to do this. If we find that forgiveness does not come, and that we continue to hold anger, then that is OK. With patience, we will get there, and in the meantime we can forgive ourselves too.

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Removing guilt from our relationships

Too often in relationships, we try to make our partner feel guilty. We point out ways in which they made us suffer – perhaps that they kept us waiting for 10 minutes, that they forgot our birthday, or that we do most of the housework. Although it is sometimes important to say such things, it is all too easy to make this a habit. If we are not careful, we can actually find ourselves seeking more ways to make our partner feel guilty.

Why would we want our partner to feel bad? Don’t we love them? Deliberately making them feel guilty is not something we usually do at the start of a relationship. Initially, we do everything we can to win their heart. Why might this habit change?

Generally, we try to make our partner feel guilty in the hope that they will treat us better. However, such an approach not is not grounded in love and will always backfire. If we use guilt as a weapon to attack our partner, the only result will be a loss of love and trust. Although it is sometimes legitimate to explain why they upset us, actively looking for ways to make them guilty is harmful, foolish, yet all too common.

As well as making our partner feel bad, the habit makes us feel bad too. Think about it – if we are continually reciting the hardships we suffer, it will not take long to conclude that life is terrible. To make matters worse, we blame our suffering on our partner, thus ignoring the true cause. We cannot feel good again until we acknowledge the real problem, which is our tendency to focus on our hardships and try to make our partner feel guilty. We must then make an effort to turn this tendency around.

There are a couple of ways to do this. First, we can recognize where we use guilt, and understand that it is a harmful and unloving act against our partner. We can ask ourselves why we do it – what are we really trying to achieve? If our goal is to make our partner love us more and treat us better then we should think of more effective ways to bring this about. Second, we should think about our own mistakes, either in this relationship or in past relationships. Realize how easy it would be for someone to make us feel guilty about all that we have done! When we become aware of all of our own shortcomings, we are more forgiving of our partner’s, and ultimately, forgiveness is the quality that we must display.

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