Thursday, May 13, 2010

On the True Nature of Forgiving

Forgiveness is a process not an event. An action not a pronouncement.

If you expect the words themselves to usher in a guilt free future for the perpetrator and a freedom from real and metaphoric nightmares for the victim, then you are expecting a four star meal at the MacDonald's window.

Letting go is something a victim can do without the cooperation of the perpetrator. While forgiveness is a cooperative venture and demands that the perpetrator asks for it.

Forgiveness for victims is icing on the cake of healing... but they can heal without it or, in some cases, they can learn to function in spite of the pain of what has been inflicted. Some wounds are permanent, physical, emotional and spiritual: to deny that is to offer too rosy a picture of what is possible in the real world.

For some victims letting go is a natural event that signals how the brain itself heals from trauma. Healing will happen without forgiveness, but may be sped along with it. To rely on it exclusively or to have greater expectations from it than it can deliver is the game of politicians and perpetrator denial.


Anonymous said...

This is the best commentary I've ever read on this topic--distinguishing between forgiveness and letting go is a tremendously helpful way to think of this. Thank you.

Bob Vance/ Sightline Coach said...

Thanks for this. I've always been bothered by the magical and unrealistic power many people give the act of forgiveness. I have thought about it for a long time and through my work with hurt people, dying people and grieving people I have come up with this. I am glad it touched you.