I forgive you

I call it forgiveness, but it’s not. Not really.

Intellectually, I can say ‘I forgive you’ and I can even think that it’s true and that I mean it. You are sorry, I see that, I’m a generous person, I want to move past it, I forgive you.

But the emotional truth is that I don’t forgive you. I don’t think I’m capable of it, or at least I don’t think so anymore.

If it’s big and hurtful and egregious, if you behaved poorly, if you lied, betrayed my trust, did something terrible, I will never truly forgive you.

Once you have broken this delicate web that we have painstakingly spun between us, it’s broken.

I will remember not just the fact that you broke it, but that feeling of looking at you with new and startled eyes, that revelation, that fundamental change where a moment ago I knew you, and now I don’t. Now that I know what awfulness you are capable of, you are an entirely different person from the one you were five minutes ago. Suddenly you are a stranger who did The Bad Thing and I rewrite our entire history with that new knowledge in hand.

I don’t say ‘I don’t forgive’ as some kind of badass statement of chest-beatery. In all honesty, this is a surprise to me.

In the aftermath of someone doing The Bad Thing, someone I care about, I have said ‘I forgive you’. I meant it. I thought I meant it.

But in my heart, I strip the person of their rights with regard to me, I see every interaction through a filter that I can’t clear.

This may *look* like ‘you have to earn my trust back’ and that’s fair. But it’s more than that.

It’s not intentional: It’s not a punishment, it’s not anger, it’s not resentment, or a grudge that I deliberately hold onto and wave around like a stick to beat you with.

It’s like a wound that never properly heals. It’s not gaping wide and bleeding all over the ground, but any pressure on it will split it open again. It doesn’t even hurt. It’s more like ‘oh yeah, that’s where you stabbed me, that’s The Bad Thing’.

My go-to thought process going forward is not at all that of a person who has forgiven.

‘Wait, you’re pissed at ME about some issue when you did The Bad Thing?!’

‘No, you don’t get to demand that of me when you did The Bad Thing’

‘You’re trying to hold the high ground here after you did The Bad Thing?!’

‘Well you might think that’s unfair, but in light of The Bad Thing, you don’t get to complain’

I may not say it out loud, but it comes quickly and unbidden, and poisons both of us. I keep The Bad Thing close, it’s a dark shadow cast over everything from that point forward, just there in my peripheral vision.

That’s not what forgiveness looks like. It’s not even close.

I have been lucky, so very lucky. I have lived a life where I really haven’t had many experiences of people I care about doing wrong by me, but it means that I have no experience dealing with it. Mostly if someone treats me poorly, they are relative strangers, not worth the time or effort to deal with, I just cut them out of my life and I’m done.

But when it’s someone close to me, someone I value… well, I have no map to navigate it.

So yeah, apparently I won’t forgive you.

Even if I really really want to.

I won’t.

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13 Comments

  1. When you get stabbed by the Bad Thing, it’s terrible and awful. But, you can’t tell someone you forgive them and still stab them back with the Bad Thing at every turn. That is emotional torture. It is unfair to both parties.

    Tell me if the following scenarios make sense or sound reasonable:

    Scenario 1:

    You: *stubs toe* YOU DID THIS.
    Them: OMG. I’m so sorry. Are you okay? How can I help?

    Scenario 2:

    Them: *stubs toe*
    You: I’m the one that stubbed my toe 6 months ago. You don’t get to have a stubbed toe!

    “Wait, I’m the injured party” when you are trying to salvage something, is not fair. You have unconsciously given yourself an endless deck of “Get Out of Jail” cards that you hoard for yourself. (We all know you’re a hoarder. There are support groups for just that, you know)

    Their past deeds don’t exempt you from future harm-doing. Just like to you, their future good deeds, don’t make let them be exempt from their past deeds with you. That’s not how it works when someone hurts you first; that’s not how love, like, friendship, life, etc, etc works. Not for a minute.

    You know all this, you know it is unfair. You know it is not rational; you said so yourself, maybe not in those words but you certainly implied it. Yet, here you stand.

    Ultimately, what you do with the information you know about yourself is up to you, of course, however, your “forgiveness” needs to come with a disclaimer for the time being.

    Another note: have you heard that forgiveness is never for the person that wronged you. It is for you.

    So, even if you do not think there is anything of which you should be forgiven, I’m sure whomever injured you and is now injured, forgives you. I’m sure they care for you deeply and miss you terribly.

    1. “When you get stabbed by the Bad Thing, it’s terrible and awful. But, you can’t tell someone you forgive them and still stab them back with the Bad Thing at every turn. That is emotional torture. It is unfair to both parties.”

      You seem to want to argue with me, but I agree with you.

      I explicitly wrote: “That’s not what forgiveness looks like. It’s not even close.”

      It IS unfair and it’s absolutely not forgiveness. That’s my point.

      I thought I could forgive, had forgiven, but apparently I can’t and hadn’t.

      And it’s not a conscious choice where I am raging at the sky over it. There’s no anger in it.

      It seems like the wound has healed, it looks healed, I keep telling myself it’s healed, but it never really heals: It just grows a thin skin over the top that hides it, but it keeps opening up over and over with every little bump.

      Ferns

      1. I was reiterating your point and adding a ridiculous example in the hypothetical sense. I apologize if it seemed as if I was arguing.

        However, I did make other points you did not address in your reply:

        “Ultimately, what you do with the information you know about yourself is up to you, of course, however, your “forgiveness” needs to come with a disclaimer for the time being.”

        “Another note: have you heard that forgiveness is never for the person that wronged you. It is for you.”

        And let’s not forget my (apparent) feeble attempt at reassurance:

        “So, even if you do not think there is anything of which you should be forgiven, I’m sure whomever injured you and is now injured, forgives you. I’m sure they care for you deeply and miss you terribly.”

        Again, I apologize that my previous comment seemed argumentative.

        Forgive me? *cheeky bastard* :D

  2. If you make me stub my toe, I will cut you, so bad it’ll make forensic history! Pay them no heed Ferns, forgiveness is for the weak *nods wisely* Kill them all I say and then kill all their families too as a lesson.
    *looks around*
    Why are you all staring at me. . .
    Again
    Coug

    1. Well, or end the relationship. If forgiveness is impossible, end the relationship.

      And, despite the aphorism, forigpving is NOT forgetting.

      1. @Regina: Yes, I agree on both counts.

        You can’t move on if you can’t forgive. And no, I think equating the two is weird. You don’t forget things that hurt you, they just soften over time.

        It’s hard for me to separate the two, to be honest. When remembering manifests as the sharpness of resentment or blame or some other bitter flavour, I haven’t actually forgiven anything, no matter what I tell myself.

        Ferns

    2. @Coug: Obviously people are staring because there was no cattle prod in that scenario and now they are confused…

      (I could have sworn I replied with this exact same comment before, but it’s probably relevant in multiple contexts, so that seems entirely likely)

      Ferns

  3. I wonder if there are a couple things being combined here? For example, I think there is a difference between forgiving and losing trust. People make mistakes, I recognize that and can forgive them for making a mistake.

    However, the mistake may shine a light on a behavior that they exhibit which shows me that I cannot trust them. That may never get changed, trust is not easy to rebuild, and if they are now known to be untrustworthy, and they do not work hard (or we do not have enough interactions to demonstrate a change) to demonstrate that they are trustworthy despite that mistake, or have changed and see the problem and are working to correct it, then my trust level may stay low for them.

    I may always think them untrustworthy, and that would be sad, stressful, the relationship may never get back to what is was, may be over. But, I think I will still forgive them, in the sense that I realize humans make mistakes, and/or I may not have understood the real them until that event happened. But they have lost my trust, and that is a very big thing for me.

    Just a thought. BTW, a very good Talk on Trust by Brene Brown, that may be worth watching:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agOgnVpr2eg

    1. I don’t think I’m confusing or combining forgiveness and trust.

      I think it’s reasonable for them to go hand in hand, to expect someone to rebuild trust before someone will forgive them, though I’m not sure it’s *necessary* for some people.

      Some people can forgive and the trust gets rebuilt in that lovely warm environment of forgiveness.

      Someone else might not be able to forgive UNTIL trust is rebuilt.

      And some people might not be able to forgive DESPITE trust being rebuilt and I think maybe that’s where I sit in this.

      I thought I could do the first, I believed it. But I’ve never been tested. So it’s kind of a surprise to learn that I can’t. That it sticks in my craw, the thing they’ve done, and it scratches from the inside.

      I want to add, also, that I understand ‘made a mistake’ as in ‘did the wrong thing’, but the language of it bothers me. If it’s in the ‘Bad Thing’ domain, then I’m talking about something that they made a conscious decision to do, and often they kept making that decision over time, and that’s not ‘a mistake’.

      So when you say “I realise humans make mistakes”, I think “I realise humans make bad/hurtful/selfish decisions’ better reflects the situation.

      Thanks for the link, I will take a look :).

      Ferns

  4. I think I am guilty of saying that I forgive people and then I never really forgive them. Like you, it’s not that I don’t want to forgive them and it’s not like I don’t try to forgive them but I just can’t. No matter how hard I try I see that person through new eyes, clouded by the wrong doing. If I’m being honest I know I do it and people often point it out. I will hear all the time “but you said you forgive me and yet you’re bringing it up”. Or I may not even mention what they did wrong ever again, but you can feel my guard up around them from that point on. I no longer trust the person, no matter how hard I try.

    I think with me though, possibly, the reason is not just that the hurt never fully heals but because I never allow it to heal. I keep the hurt there, just under the surface, as my protection, so it can’t ever happen again.

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