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Do I Forgive...Or Not?: The difference between personal growth and being stuck in the grudge rut.

Updated on June 6, 2011

Forgive, Forget...or Learn?

The concept of forgiveness is a curious subject indeed; one that many people hold up high on the pedestal of righteous goodness yet also, often times, avoid committing to when cornered. What makes forgiveness a more viable option than revenge? Does forgiveness come from a higher spiritual command or is it the ultimate sign of true human growth and inner clarity?

Many people are lugging around bruised egos and hurt feelings caused either by their own misguided good intentions or the inconsiderate actions of others. Some of these actions are knowingly committed while others are innocently inflicted. Yet, the reason many shy away from truly experiencing the “healing power” of forgiveness is because hanging on to anger and dislike of those who have caused deep hurt and offense seems to be a more deserving “just-deserts” than any form of compassion.

A grudge holder that refuses to forgive may wait years for that magical apology from the one that has caused them pain but, in reality this rarely happens so who really gains from keeping a tight grip on resentment? During the course of those years are they living life to the fullest or did their "offender" surpass them in the happiness department while they were still distracted by anger?

The power is in your hands...

"Forgiveness is much stronger, not to mention much wiser, than vengeance or retribution, and it dispenses the best kind of justice. Forgiveness is not a sweet old lady but a strong, seasoned veteran of many wars. Forgiveness bears a greater burden than vengeance ever could. Vengeance lets hatred rule you. Forgiveness overrules hatred. Forgiveness is not only stronger; it is much more clever and wise than vengeance or retribution. Forgiveness takes intelligence, discipline, imagination and persistence, as well as a special psychological strength, something athletes call mental toughness and warriors call courage." –Lewis B. Smedes

To forgive, or to be drawn to release anger and hurt from your heart, one must go through a few essential steps before the word "Forgive" can ever pass the lips and those steps start with the recognition that…

1. Forgiveness is not easy and you won't just wake up one day and say, "Today I will forgive the one who hurt me when I was in my most vulnerable state of being."

2. Forgiveness is not forgetting. Those who forgive and forget are setting themselves up to be hurt again by the same person or type of people. To forgive while holding on to the lesson learned from that betrayal of trust is not only smart but a wise way to bring proper perspective and peace into your life.

3. Forgiveness never overlooks evil nor does it allow one to place themselves in harm’s way over and over.

4. Forgiveness should not be destructive, either to ourselves or to the person that requires forgiveness in order for us to move forward.

5. Forgiveness is not approval. In fact, the reason that offenders need forgiveness is because we don't approve of their actions and find them to be, many times, morally reprehensible.

The first five seem logical enough but then the last few steps toward true emotional freedom from grudge holding become more difficult to follow. Many are steps most aren’t even sure they can accept at times, which explains the intense struggle with the idea of forgiving anyone who goes out of their way to take what they want while leaving nothing in return except for outrage, disbelief and disgust for the recipient. That can seem pretty hard to move forward from and the anger and pain of that experience keeps many people stuck in the land of unforgiving resentment.

Which steps are the hardest for you to accept and follow?

6. Forgiveness is based on recognizing and admitting that people are always greater than their faults indicate or show. In other words, don't define people just by the way they have treated you. There is more to their lives than would hope.

7. Forgiveness is being willing to allow a person who has hurt you to start over again. This doesn't mean you should necessarily allow them back into your life though because being around the one who has caused so much emotional and physical pain is neither safe nor healthy and the best place for that type of forgiveness to remain is in your heart and mind.

8. Forgiveness recognizes the humanity of the person who has wronged us and also recognizes our own humanity and our own shortcomings and our own part in what went wrong. This does not mean that in cases of physical and mental abuse the victim helped cause what happened to them but it does mean that they do have power over how they allow that pain to affect them from now on.

9. Forgiveness surrenders the right to "get even." Does anyone really walk away feeling "even" or do they just feel the need for continued revenge? Let go of the desire for revenge because it is counterproductive and damaging.

And, finally...

10. Forgiveness means we wish the person or the group that has hurt us well. In fact, we wish them the best because this is what we would want for ourselves.

“With a little time, and a little more insight, we begin to see both ourselves and our enemies in humbler profiles. We are not really as innocent as we felt when we were first hurt. And we do not usually have a gigantic monster to forgive; we have a weak, needy, and somewhat stupid human being. When you see your enemy and yourself in the weakness and silliness of the humanity you share, you will make the miracle of forgiving a little easier." –Lewis B. Smedes

The main conclusion that can be drawn from the basic, healthy need for forgiveness is that this is a very dramatic way to both cleanse your soul and grow as a human being. Yet, it is only done when we damn well feel ready to let go of the pain, because it no longer serves a purpose in our lives, or when we have found something/someone positive to replace the negative flash-backs of those who have wronged us. It is always a matter of replacement; one good experience for every bad one until the balance returns, and it is never done one second before we are ready either!

In a world so full of petty arguments, minor annoyances and the ignorantly unnecessary acts of small minded, often times narcissistic people, learning what to let go of should not be so hard because while memories may be long…LIFE IS SHORT! Let those words echo through your brain each time you have to decide between forgiveness and revenge because quite frankly the person in need of forgiveness gets revenge on you each time you refuse to grant the release of their poor actions from your life.

To turn away from forgiveness is to turn away from life.
To turn away from forgiveness is to turn away from life.


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    • Elleasku profile image

      Elleasku 5 years ago from In your imagination.

      A little reminder: Send spam as a comment and it gets reported. Attempt to dominate the comments or purposely be a douche bag and your comment gets deleted. Keep it respectful or feel free to take your dark cloud attitude elsewhere. Pretty simple right?

    • Elleasku profile image

      Elleasku 5 years ago from In your imagination.

      I said nothing about waiting for some other entity to come along and provide a magical "gotcha" to those that wrong others. That is fool-hardy thinking and not once did I mention such a thing and condoned none of what you mentioned. Heavens people, this is about taking your life back and refusing to let hate filled fear pushers rule over us! Agree, disagree, live with hate or do not, this is not my concern.

      I lived in the land of grudges and anger for years and turned into a very stifled, sullen and entirely no fun to be around kind of person. This was all because I let some little piss ant take my life power away each time I would dwell on how they did me or others wrong and "always" got away with it. I dreamed about them getting hit by a bus or dying in some other horrific manner and each time I did I didn't feel guilty and I still don't but I did feel like I was wasting valuable time that could be spent living an amazing life of my own. My hate consumed me to the point that this was all I thought about and suddenly I realized, "Boo-hoo," this is how some people operate in life and I can't wave a magic wand to make them stop but I sure as hell can control how happy or sad I am going to be based on my reaction to their behavior. In wishing them well as I walked away I had no expectation that they would change, it was the final act of letting go of that bag of bullshit they had me dragging around day to day and nothing more. It was for me! Forgiveness to me means I release the chains I allowed others to put on me but also never forgetting the lesson from that experience. Forgiveness never means I will just roll over and let someone kick me again and again. The power I gained keeps users out of my life now because they know I will not tolerate it. That is the true power of forgiveness.

    • Elleasku profile image

      Elleasku 5 years ago from In your imagination.

      Thank you. The sooner people figure out that even though anger can be a motivating energy it can also eat away at your soul from the inside and all we are doing is allowing another person to hold our heads under water indefinately.

    • profile image

      Judith 5 years ago

      Elleasku I totally disagree. I see it as shirking to say someone else/God/Kama will dole it out. They won't. Life is replete with people getting away with it and that's what you're condoning.

      I honestly feel no guilt for not taking the high road. All the people saying you'll only feel guilty later, I don't agree. I never have.

      All that happens when you forgive is they get away with it. Either they live happily with never a consequence of their actions or they actually gloat and think either "gotcha! See you can't touch me even when I maim you" or else "I don't feel guilty after all it can't be so ba I'd you got over it so well, wheres the harm?".

      Both are manifestly unjust and having to give up on any skerrick of justice is just another crime against you, this time inflicted by yourself!

      I have forgiven lesser crimes and felt no lightness. I have failed to forgive worse crimes and revenge is indeed sweet. My sisters husband cheated and she took "revenge" by ensuring her entire family knew especially her husband. I helped by actually telling the husband so he didn't get to meet my sister. He left her. The woman committed suicide. I am overjoyed and my sister and I feel no guilt. She totally had it coming.

    • Baby Ferlyn profile image

      Baby Ferlyn 5 years ago from Singapore

      Totally agree with you Elleasku.

      "Forgiveness means YOU HAVE NO POWER OVER ME ANY LONGER!" We're done and I'm moving forward without bringing you along. =')

    • Elleasku profile image

      Elleasku 5 years ago from In your imagination.


      Sadly, a LOT of people think forgiveness is about giving in to the wrong doer. I respectfully say that you either did not read carefully or are just too invested in your grudge to let it go. How exactly is "evil" rewarded when I decide to forgive some asshole that treated me poorly many moons ago because, quite frankly, their memory in my head is now just wasting space? Forgiveness means YOU HAVE NO POWER OVER ME ANY LONGER! It ain't about them, it's about me and what I need and that includes wishing them well because when I don't I have the potential of becoming just as much of a miserable and unhappy person as they are. No one is giving up or "calling for the check" as I think you were saying. Wait, I'm not exactly sure what you were saying in that last sentence but I will just assume this was the analogy you were attempting to make.

    • profile image

      Judith 5 years ago

      I can't agree with this. Forgiveness is what she wants so by not giving it I am not cooperating with her need fr absolution. After a lifetime of seeig evil rewarded I think all that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to say its up to someone else to call for the check.

    • archana srivastav profile image

      archana srivastav 6 years ago

      Awesome............ U expressed your views very well. I agree with you. Really we must forgive, but should not forget what happened, and what hurt. I enjoyed.......

    • archana srivastav profile image

      archana srivastav 6 years ago

      Awesome............ U expressed your views very well. I agree with you. Really we must forgive, but should not forget what happened, and what hurt. I enjoyed.......

    • Elleasku profile image

      Elleasku 7 years ago from In your imagination.

      mybabytia1, thank you very much.

    • mybabytia1 profile image

      mybabytia1 7 years ago

      Great Hub!!!

    • Elleasku profile image

      Elleasku 7 years ago from In your imagination.

      Ruchira, thank you. Forgiveness is a mindful state of being yet many view it as a weakness and run from it like fire. To live a contented life, forgiveness is as necessary as water, air and love...without it we stop growing.

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 7 years ago from United States

      Beautiful topic and well written hub supporting it :)

      I feel forgiveness is so rare and that can be seen in the sad state of our planet but, little do we realize that there is so much beauty in forgiving which makes us grow internally and peacefully!!

    • Elleasku profile image

      Elleasku 7 years ago from In your imagination.


      I make it a time honored practice to never assume anything so I will not state that every person that has had the misfortune of "feeling" more than others (which includes feeling unloved, unheard, disregarded, misunderstood, hurt or otherwise tainted in some way whether it be real or assessed as imaginary), does so because of something their mother has done to them.

      Based on my own experience I can say that having a hurtful relationship with my father made me very distrustful of men and I hung on to the resentment for years before I accepted that he was a flawed human being but still human none the less and that I was now in charge of building myself back up, no one else. I let go in order to live and...because I was healthy enough to do so. You are correct that the word "abuse" may seem overused in some circles and because of this many may become too afraid to utter their truths because the world has grown bored with the latest "buzz word" and look the other way with a yawn. We live in a world that appears to empathize on the surface but deep down, there is the opinion that it also just wants everyone to "get over it" and fall in line. It becomes confusing for anyone to truly know what to say, do or think anymore.

      Some people do choose to assign blame, whether it is to their mothers, fathers, brothers or next-door neighbors, because they just don't have the insight or courage to do anything else. The fact that your son has a father that has been diagnosed with a mental disorder may very well be more of an issue here than anything else since your other children do not share the same view of you as a mother. Have you considered that option? Your son is sensitive and that may make him more susceptible to depression or even a more pronounced personality disorder. Bipolar disorder has a strong genetic influence, I have been told, and of those diagnosed, approximately half of them have a parent with a history of clinical depression. I am in no way an expert and am only aware of this possibility because I worked as a psychiatric case manager but another route to take in regards to your son could be to consider that his behavior is due to an undiagnosed chemical imbalance that he would have little control over without the proper help from a licensed professional.

      You are in a tough spot because he has essentially cut you out of his life by marking you as the cause of his distress and he isn't able to see your attempts to reach out as caring concern. That may change in time so please don't give up. Does your son have contact with his other siblings? You mention him disowning you both, which would include his father as well...does your son possibly focus the brunt of the blame on you because he sees you as the stronger of the two in the parent scenario and more able to "take it" ?

      I truly feel for you, as a mother myself, and wish I could offer more than possibilities but just know that not all adults with rough childhoods automatically blame their mothers, as depicted on daytime talk shows. I honestly wish you well and hope your son finds a way to summon the help he needs in order to live a peaceful life, one that includes all of his family.

    • profile image

      Siobhan 7 years ago

      Hello Elleasku:

      I enjoyed your article about pushing people away in relationships..One of the common themes among those who responded was a neglectful or abusive mother. You made a statement about those who live in a "beige" world and their tendency to show less emotion, to neither catastrophize nor minimize a situation that might have a much more profound impacet on a more sensitive person. In your opinion, do you think that it is fair to assume that every person who feels that they were unloved, neglected or heaven forbid abused, often by their mothers (which in my opinion is a word that is very much overused today)was mistreated by a parent? I appreciate your openness and willingness to aknowledge that all human beings make mistakes..sometimes as a result of their own personal histories and familial legacies of child rearing practices, (which from generation to generation seems to change depending on the newest brand of child psychology in the media and on the bookshelves) adults look back on their childhoods and blame every problem in their current lives on good old mom. I am not talking about cases of horrific treatment, such as physical or emotional trauma, but rather parenting tactics that may have affected a more sensitive child negatively.. while having either no affect or even a positive affect on other children within the same family. I have five grown children. One son has disowned us stating that he never felt loved or cared for. He uses terms such as "dysfunctional" to "scapegoating", saying that he served that role in the family, and that he was blamed for all the family's problems. These claims are disturbing, primarily because it saddens me to think that he feel that he was not loved. Also, I did not ever even suggest that he was responsible for his father's problems. My husband was a war veteran diagnosed with PTSD and depression, and this was difficult for the family. I made sure that the children knew that my husband was ill, During the teen years, when all young people have their moments of rebellion, and immature or unsafe behavior, I addressed the issues as they occured with consequences (revoking privaleges) and I will admit that both my son and his older sister were more rebellious and impulsive than the other three, and therefore required more attention in the way of guidance and discipline. We did not strike our children. I wrote to my son and asked him to tell me exactly what actions on my part caused him to feel this way, that I was extremely sad to know he felt unloved because contrary to his perception of my feelings, I loved him very much and always would. He has ignored any of my attempts to contact him, to attend counseling together, and he has not allowed me to see my three grandchildren, who after three years no longer remember me. I understand that whether or not I intended to hurt my son, he feels that I don't love him and all the discussion and defensiveness on my part won't change that. His four brothers and sisters have a different view of us as parents and they are very much a part of our loves. In all honestly, despite their different personalities I do not love one of my chidlren more than another..they were all a gift from God as far as I'm concerned..this is the most painful feeling I have ever experienced and it feels like one of my children has died..the son I thought I had is filled with anger and resentment toward me, and I truly don't know why. You mentioned some sadness in your upbringing as well. I'm sorry to hear of this, although you seem to be doing a good job of looking within and having some empathy for others. My son seems to enjoy hurting me in this way. Do you believe, that in every case of an Adult having problems in his/her relationships, that it's always the mother's fault? Do you think that it's possible that in some cases, an extremely sensitive child (sensitive about himself...less about others) might use an empathic mother (one who has tried to understand, tried to make ammends, reached out and been continually rebuffed) as a convenient receptacle to dump their negativity and insecurity? I would give the world if he could love and respect himself, but I think he has very low self whether I understand it or not, I must have failed him, and do feel a sense of responsibility. Knowing this doesn't seem to matter to him. He does not want to have a relationship with me. I would appreciate any feedback you could offer me.


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