To forgive, according to the online Oxford English Dictionary means to:
- Stop feeling angry or resentful towards (someone) for an offence, flaw, or mistake.
- No longer feel angry about or wish to punish (an offence, flaw, or mistake)
- Cancel (a debt)
- Used in polite expressions as a request to excuse one’s foibles, ignorance, or impoliteness.
We are told by many people that in order to heal we need to forgive the wrongs that have been done to us and the wrongs we have done to ourselves. But, perhaps controversially, I don’t think that’s always the case.
Peg Streep, in the article, When You Should and Should Not Forgive, says that, “For all that we culturally admire the ability to forgive—it’s associated with magnanimity, spiritual growth, and, of course, religiosity—it remains a somewhat thorny issue from a psychological point of view. In layman’s terms, the ability to forgive is widely seen as evidence of how high humans rank in the chain of being—animals don’t forgive, after all—so it conveys a moral superiority.”
Forgiveness is seen as the ultimate goal, the only one true way to heal. We are expected to forgive and whilst many times this can prove beneficial to us, it’s not always the case. Sometimes we simply cannot forgive despite all the pressure put on us to do so. Does that make us bad? Does that mean we cannot move on?
No. It doesn’t.
Forgiveness isn’t always the answer, especially in manipulative relationships.
Someone close to me hurt me very badly. I will state now, it’s not my husband, he has only ever been a rock to me. I will not name the person, nor will I tell you what they did because that doesn’t matter. I forgave that person. After all, we’re only human, we all make mistakes.
Then that person hurt me again. By doing the same thing. And again. And again. Despite what people say, I cannot walk away. Why? It’s complicated.
In this instance, my forgiveness of that person allowed the hurt to happen again and again. I’m not blaming myself because I’m not responsible for what that person did to me. But, I am responsible for my reaction to what they did.
Sometimes in narcissistic or manipulative relationships forgiveness will not do. Forgiveness makes you a target because, in part, you think that person will change, will not want to hurt you in the future now that they know they’ve hurt you. In these types of relationships, forgiveness can make you the victim again and again. To the manipulative person, forgiveness is a weakness to be exploited.
So, what can you do?
I found that acceptance has helped me.
I’ve accepted that the person in question is a shitty person, that they will keep doing what they do and they will keep playing the games they play. That’s on them, not me. And, I don’t forgive them for what they’ve done to me but, I’ve accepted it’s happened and will happen again if I let it. Acceptance has made me stronger, it’s given me back the power. What has happened has happened, but I won’t let it again. I’m in control of how I respond and how I deal with the other person. I can’t control them, but I can control my response. I don’t forgive them and that’s not just okay, that’s bloody beautiful! I’m free from expectation. I’m free from the forgiveness trap. I’m free from anger!
That’s not to say you shouldn’t forgive if you need to. That’s your call. All I’m saying is, there is another way. You can move on and heal without forgiveness.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Pinterest (not mine, but I can’t find anyone to attribute it to); “Sometimes you have to accept things the way they are and move on.”