There is much to be said about forgiveness. We struggled as to what page of our self-help and positivity site the topic should occupy. Is forgiving people a depression hack? Is it good advice? Both of those pages would be appropriate, since it is important to your mental health to let go of negativity; however, after much consideration, it seems as though the topic of forgiveness fits best on our Venting page. Surprised? Don’t be. Read on and you will understand.
Somehow in today’s society, forgiveness and one’s ability to grant or withhold it, has come to be used as a weapon against the victim. We don’t know how this happened or why, but it has. For some reason, the wounded party has become “required” or “expected” to offer forgiveness to the culprit of the offense. If the victim doesn’t forgive, they are said to be holding a grudge, not letting go, bitter, vengeful or harboring resentment. They are looked down upon for not showing mercy and reaching out to their offender. On the other hand, it makes news headlines when the widow graciously forgives the murderer on death row for mutilating her husband and child. She is donned a hero or a Saint for making the bad guy feel better. Are you kidding me? Where’s the justice in that?
Why should Jane Doe forgive her cheating husband for going out and breaking their wedding vows, committing adultery and consequently destroying their lives and the lives of their children? Why?
Why on earth should Joe Shmoe be forgiven for molesting little girls in his elementary school classroom? Tell me why.
Why would a mass shooter, senselessly killing innocent people deserve forgiveness from the victims’ loved ones? Why?
These people have committed punishable offenses. There’s no logical reason why the victims should forgive them. The victims can internally deal with the offense to help themselves, but that does not have to involve the perpetrator whatsoever. Even little offenses like a snub on Facebook, a petty theft or little white lies don’t warrant what forgiveness has become. The perpetrators need to face the consequences of their actions and live with it. They need to learn from their misdeeds, not be absolved of them.
It doesn’t make you a bad person, hard-hearted or self-righteous to choose NOT to forgive. It doesn’t mean you are ruminating about the offense, poisoning yourself with negative thoughts or holding hatred in your heart. It’s just your prerogative. If you feel the need to forgive someone to make them feel better about what they did, go ahead. If you don’t feel that need, don’t. It doesn’t change anything about you or the situation.
Don’t let society or religion or “the universe” make you feel like you have to forgive. You don’t. Forgiveness does not empower you to be a better person, because you are already a good person. You are the victim, not the culprit! You can release your hurt, anger and pain without offering up forgiveness to the person who did you wrong.
Wikipedia says that forgiveness is not condoning, excusing, forgetting, pardoning or reconciling, but rather a “voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense . . . with an increased ability to wish the offender well.” Why would you want to wish the offender well? Tell me why. We don’t believe that you should wish them any ill-will, but by no means should you feel as though you need to wish them well. You don’t need to wish them anything. Just deal with it however you choose to and move on. You are not required to respond to their offense.
I suppose it’s what the word “forgiveness” has come to mean, it’s connotation, that we take issue with. Forgiving has become a way to let the bad guy feel better about himself and what he did to you. The word itself implies everything that Wikipedia says it’s not. It implies condoning, excusing, pardoning, making the offender feel better, and saying all is well. Basically, in today’s world, forgiveness has come to mean letting the culprit off the hook. It is a misconstrued word that lets sinners sin and then feel vindicated of that sin. Don’t buy into the warped sense of “goodness” that is supposed to result from forgiving. You can still be free of resentment, grudges, and ill will toward the culprit without “forgiving” them. We need to come up with a better word to describe this freedom, because the word “forgiveness” is misused and misunderstood.