Forgiveness is the ultimate shit sandwich– not only do you have to eat it, you then have to pretend you enjoyed it — Me
tldr: There is NOTHING spiritual about forgiveness. There are much better ways to let go of anger/hate towards people who abused you
Every victim of abuse, violence (sexual or otherwise), narcissitic psychopaths, will at one point be shamed by some holier-than-thou asshole: Can’t you just forgive and move on? Forgiveness is divine blah blah blah
I first found the problems of this “forced forgiveness” from a Subreddit on Narcisstic parents. There were multiple posts about how victims, many of whom suffered horrible abuse as children, were shamed by their therapists/coaches/priests into “forigivng” their abusers, saying they cannot make progress “until they forgive”. If you search for forgiveness in that forum, you will literally find hundreds of posts about people saying they don’t want to forgive.
I will share one long post I really liked:
victims are expected to bestow this without any remorse or change shown on the part of the abuser. Worse, we are further injured by the implication that to not do so is a failure on our part and preventing us from healing.
I want you to understand that this is utter bullshit. You are under no obligation to EVER forgive anyone and those that suggest you MUST are abusive and do not have your best interests at heart.
The whole post is great, go read it: https://old.reddit.com/r/raisedbynarcissists/comments/6dukv3/tw_on_multiple_fronts_tips_for_dealing_with_calls/
There are multiple great posts there, I will link to one more great one.
Forgiveness as a form of gaslighting
Most people who push forgivness on you won’t even agree on the defintion of forgiveness. Is it only letting go? If so, why not call it letting go?
The way forgiveness is pushed down our throats (in the media, movies, books etc- think of all those Christmas movies), forgiveness includes reconciliation. You not only have to forgive the abuser but invite them over for a warm cup of coffee. It’s Christmas after all!
Some people try to claim forgiveness doesn’t include reconciliation, only letting go of negative emotions, but like I said above, just call it letting go or acceptance then?
This is one of the problems– the definition of “forgiveness” keeps changing, sometimes even with the same person. Which is why I call it a form of gaslighting.
From this article that calls most forgiveness toxic:
I’m supposed to forgive whoever I’m angry with to release the animosity and therefore toxicity in my body. Once I do so, sincerely releasing my grudge, I give myself a psychic detox, open my chakras, raise my vibration, do as Jesus did, walk in Gandhi’s footsteps, become a role model, lower my blood pressure, and restore clean energy to my body (my vessel!)
In this scenario, I’m not concerned with whether the other person has sincerely apologized, changed their behavior or shown a pinch of remorse. The act of exoneration is good for me.
Toxic forgiveness is blanket statement advice that falls into predictable patterns. The advice is hard to argue with because it sounds logical, and hard to call out because we can too easily be written off as eternally angry or bitter for doing so.
It is merry and cliché while posing as a soul-searching endeavor
As Dr Ramani says, forgiving a narsicist doesn’t mean they will suddenly become all nice. Instead, they will mark you down as an idiot they can abuse again and again.
Forgiveness needs to be earned, it is not a Get out of jail card
The main issue I have with the conventional personal growth-related message about forgiveness is that it places the responsibility on the wronged person to do the forgiving, overlooking any responsibility on the part of the person who did the wronging. Assuming the best, I understand the potential reasoning behind this: we can’t control other people’s behaviour and we can’t force someone else to do anything they don’t want to do—including make amends. We could waste our emotional energy (and our lives) waiting for a resolution that will never come. But the answer isn’t to just suck it up and forgive and forget.
Forgiveness is earned, not owed.
Forgiveness comes from Chrisitianity, but even there it is not a get out of jail card. To get forgiveness, one must show remorse and repent. One must make amends for the harm one has caused and stop the abusive behaviour. Here is a quote from a Christian site:
God forgives everybody who REPENTS, not everybody who doesn’t repent, and continues sinning. Repentance means turning from one’s sinful ways and changing one’s LIFE. It does not mean continuing on as before, and it also does not mean stopping just one or two obnoxious behaviors while continuing all the rest, or even finding some new ones.
It might surprise such self-righteous offenders to learn that God does NOT forgive “everybody”, and that he does NOT tell us to, either. In fact, there is NOT ONE INSTANCE in Scripture of the Lord forgiving anyone who remains “stiff-necked” (stubborn) and unrepentant.
Ignore the religious language and you will see how clear the message is: forgiveness isn’t automatic and isn’t always given, even by God. It is certainly not given to stiff-necked or unrepentant people. In non-religious language– people who have shown no remorse for their actions.
Forgiveness to Destroy
Finally, most forgiveness taught today is what the Course in Miracles calls Forgiveness to Destroy. Marianne Williamson described this in a great way in her workshop:
Fake forgiveness is when you say “Oh you are such an evil bastard but I forgive you because I am sooooooooo spiritual”.
Most forgiveness taught today is a form of Spritual Arrogance, where the goal isn’t to forgive but to make yourself feel better by mentally one-upping yourself. Instead of saying “I am richer/sexier than you” you say “I am more spiritual than you, and so I forgive you. See, told ya I’m better than you.”
Dr Ramani calls this “Pseudo-Forgiveness” and (talking specifically about abusive relationships) she says it can take a hard toll on the “forgiver” and leave them in a vulnerable state.
Better alternatives to forgiveness
Instead of forgiveness: Acceptance and Letting Go
Accept that shit happened. Accept it may not have been your fault.
And then choose to let go of the hate/anger/disgust. Note: Only let go of the emotions. You can still go after them legally, in a criminal or civil court. Or break all contact. Or choose from a myraid of other options.
The important thing is to let go of the story. If a dog bites you, you might think the dog is an asshole. You might sue the owner. But you won’t sit there years later with a story in your head “Man that dog ruined my life. If only…”
So yes, while I agree letting go of hate and anger is important, what pisses me off is the timeline we are given. You can let go at your own schedule and not when some asshole new-agey guru says you should.
Practically speaking, this might take years. Or never, and that is fine.
A meditation I find useful: Imagine the person who wronged you, imagine there is a string going from your tummy or heart to theirs. Mentally cut the string and create a white light around you so the connection cannot be recreated. You might have to do this a few times before it has an effect.
And if you must forgive someone, forgive yourself. Compassion and forgiveness must be for YOU and not other assholes in your life.
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