February 28, 2017

The Misconception of Forgiveness

“Forgiveness” is a topic that pops up fairly frequently around here and rarely fails to get a fairly wide array of reactions. And, understandably so.

I thought I’d chime in and give my two cents, from the perspective of my own personal experience of choosing forgiveness.

I think forgiveness can be a very misunderstood choice and action. Also, note the words I just used – “choice” and “action” – both of which can only be controlled by the person making the choice or taking the action. (I.e. YOU)

I think the first line of Wikipedia’s definition of “Forgiveness” makes this same point (that’s where I stopped reading though, so I can’t vouch for the rest). And yes, to the annoyance of every teacher I ever had, I just used Wikipedia as a source! Yessssss! It feels so good to break the most basic of writing rules sometimes!

Matt: 1, Matt’s Teachers: 0

So, here’s where the misconception is: We tend to think that “to forgive” means that the person who has wronged us is suddenly off the hook and is no longer at fault or culpable for their actions. But, really, this has absolutely nothing to do with forgiveness. They’re completely separate things.

Forgiveness is a choice. And it might be a choice you will continually have to make (or not make – it’s totally up to you) over time.

Forgiveness simply means that you no longer lay claim to the actions of another. You choose to no longer carry anger, or bitterness, or hatred (which, by the way, only hurt YOU). It means that, while the offender is no less at fault for their actions… you choose to let it go, to move forward with your life, to spend your emotional energy on things that bring life.

When I chose to forgive my offender back in 2009 for actions he committed when I was 6 years old, it was tough at first… but, it was SO freeing. It meant that his actions no longer have any say in my life. Why should they? His actions are minimized and I’m now free to focus on things that bring me joy and make life awesome. He has zero control over this and I have 100% control.

My offender is just as at fault as he ever was. But… I’m not going to let it negatively effect a single moment of my life ever again. What good would come of it? Life is way too precious.

In fact, Speak Your Silence likely wouldn’t exist had I not chosen forgiveness.

So, any time I hear someone proudly or defiantly say, “I’ll never forgive him/her.” I think, “Man, that’s really too bad. How unfortunate for you (and everyone around you).”

Forgiveness is a choice. It’s yours and yours alone to make. And, what a powerful, freeing choice it is.

Trust me.

PS – I tried to illustrate my thoughts on forgiveness by asking, “What if I cut in front of you in line for donuts?” And then I wrote about how if you forgive me for cutting in line for donuts, I would be no less a butthead for having done it. The example seemed a bit too silly for the context, so I ditched it. But I still like it. It also made me really hungry for donuts.


Here’s another post I wrote last year on the topic of forgiveness.