“The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.” — Thomas S. Szasz

I struggle with forgiveness. The concept of condoning, indirectly or by inference, the unacceptable and hateful behavior of others is hard for me to swallow. Forgiveness seems to take two equally unsavory flavors: letting things go that still need to be accounted for, or an artificial, overly pious high road in the attitude of “You don’t deserve it, but I forgive you anyway”, which is in essence a statement of superiority instead of genuine forgiveness.

I have worked hard to prevent resentment and the venom in others’ actions from poisoning my own heart. Is that necessarily the same as forgiveness? I condone nothing. I will forget nothing. But I will not let the shadows across other hearts cast a darkness over mine.

The hardest actions to forgive are those committed against people I love, especially when the intent of such actions was blatantly to cause harm. I agree with the quote above that forgetting would be foolish, and that even as I curb my resentment and anger, staying on guard is an act of self-preservation, and protection of my loved ones.

The hardest part of forgiveness is that I want an answer to “Why?” Why was it so important to hurt me or someone else I care about? Why did ugliness supercede goodness or simple decency?

Years ago, I reached out to help a friend struggling with multiple issues, though in hindsight the fiercest fight was within himself, and he was woefully losing. I gave him a place to stay, helped him financially, helped him find a job, supported him emotionally when the road got tough. He responded with contempt, as if the love and the help were owed to him somehow, as if he was entitled to the contents of my soul. The verbal lashing he got for his efforts could have drawn blood if I hadn’t hung up on him first, and we have not spoken since. I have cooled down over the years, but to be honest, I believe any contact he attempted to make with me would stir up my resentment and release more anger. Does that mean I have not truly forgiven him?

One of the dictionary definitions of “forgive” is to cease to feel resentment against: to forgive one’s enemies (source: In this regard, I am at least striving for the release of the anger in my heart, and to halt the infection of my own heart from the diseases of theirs. A work in progess, sometimes, is an accomplishment unto itself.

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” –Mahatma Gandhi

About TheSmirkingCat

I am endlessly trying to make sense of a world that has completely and unapologetically lost its mind.
This entry was posted in anger, forgiveness, quotes, resentment, struggle, wisdom. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Forgiveness

  1. Mean Stepmom says:

    I find it difficult to forgive someone who is still a present threat to my world, my loved ones and our peace. While I try not to let my fears consume my every thought, I am always on guard. I don’t think that leaves much room for genuine forgiveness.

  2. lucky13 says:

    great post. i used your szasz quote on my gmail for the day. you’ve gone through some ugly things as of late. i don’t think immediate forgiveness is expected of you. when we are wronged, it’s a long road back to getting past the whys, the anger, the simmering resentment…that’s why i find that quote to be perfect. yes, you may eventually forgive, but you will not forget and that is what will guard you in the future. and forgiveness to me does not imply condoning heinous behavior. it means that the wronged party has closed the door to the injury and has moved on. the memory will always be there, that’s hopefully what keeps us guarded.i’m sorry you’ve sustained such injuries. work on healing yourself and stay strong. i have a feeling you’ll prevail.

  3. What a great post! I have to say that it is really hard for me to forgive. And I’m not sure that it’s ever a complete forgiveness. It’s like I hold a little kernel of that hurt way down deep and if you do something to hurt me again- POP! it explodes into that same old feeling. The definition version seems doable, but when I define forgiveness, there are just so many other feelings associated with it.

  4. Stephanie says:

    “I have cooled down over the years, but to be honest, I believe any contact he attempted to make with me would stir up my resentment and release more anger. Does that mean I have not truly forgiven him?”I’m not sure that it would stir resentment if he were genuinely contrite and changed. I think it’s facing the same actions, repeatedly, that make it hard to let go of past wrongs. If the person isn’t different, the relationship won’t be either. I bet that if he called and apologized, and showed that he has made strides, you would be grace-filled.

  5. dragonmctt says:

    I am totally with you on this one! For me, part of the problem is that the trauma is ongoing. There is no escape from it, unless I give up those that I love. I think it would be quite unreasonable to expect a hostage to “forgive” their captor while still being held captive. I think forgiveness can only come after being removed from the situation and having the time needed to build up inner strength again. Ghandi or Mother Teresa may have been able to do it, but I’m not made of such stuff. While I as well have to walk a fine line between allowing my anger to give me the strength to fight back for what is sane, ethical and right, and also putting the anger aside to prevent it from consuming my life, I certainly am nowhere near forgiveness. Not when I know that our “captor” hasn’t learned a damn thing or changed in the least. I agree with you that to forgive someone for behavior that he/she continues to exhibit is no less than condoning the behavior. And until we are no longer at the mercy of our “captor’s” hurtful behavior, forgiveness is not even in my vocabulary.

  6. I understand completely. That is exactly how I feel about my brother. Every time we think he is making a true effort to stay clean, we have attempted to help him “get back on his feet”. We are repaid with the attitude that we owe it to him, and of course he has always turned back to his old ways and left his family behind to pick up the pieces.I love the Gandhi quote. Forgiving isn’t always easy.

  7. KiKi says:

    Well there’s always fake forgiveness. But why walk around with a great big smile, “I am so over that!” instead of dealing with something and really getting over it. You’re not sitting around resenting the guy – and I bet if he reappeared in your life and made an attempt to reconcile, at a minimum, you’d hear him out. That’s the person you seem to be. But if he came back being rude and nasty, you’d blow him off. The fact that you don’t hold any malice towards him is forgiveness enough, if you ask me. The injury you feel as the wronged party doesn’t mean you haven’t forgiven -it just means you were hurt.

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