When You Shouldn’t Forgive

We are told that to err is human; to forgive is divine.

But is that always the case?

Are there times when forgiveness actually harms you rather than setting you free?

Read the article. It made me think. What does it say to you?

For all that culturally we admire the ability to forgive—it’s associated with magnanimity, spiritual growth, and, of course, religiosity—it remains a somewhat thorny issue from a psychological point of view. In layman’s terms, the ability to forgive is widely seen as evidence of how high humans rank in the chain of being—animals don’t forgive, after all—so it conveys a moral superiority. But from a psychological point of view, two key questions remain: Why do humans forgive and, when they do, how do they hope to benefit? Read the rest on Psychology Today.


I know one of the reasons that I chose and have been able to forgive my ex is that he is not a presence in my life. I’m forgiving a memory of a person rather than actual flesh and blood. I don’t know if I would have made the same choice if he was still an active participant in my life.

Thank you for sharing!

24 thoughts on “When You Shouldn’t Forgive

  1. This is such a well presented article on the nature o forgiveness. I’m tempted to sent it to my own ex…he’s commented on my ‘lack of forgiveness’ and how he believes it is ‘holding me and the kids back from positive experiences’ …honestly, I have accepted who he is and what he’s done to me within our relationship enough to believe I HAVE forgiven him in many regards. I just don’t have to forget or go back to acting like whatever he does doesn’t affect me and everything’s roses and sunshine. I’m a realist. Don’t want to live in the fairy tale land of ‘what ifs’ any longer…
    And most days I WISH I could forgive an absent person…I deal with him on an almost daily basis.
    Thanks for the great post.

    1. He is trying to hit the reset button so that things are better FOR HIM. You sound like you are looking after yourself by forgiving him internally but not externally. Nice one!!! I think you’re awesome being the way you are. Sucked in to him (assumption made he did something horrible to you), he can’t get you to alter your ways for HIS convenience and HIS peace of mind.

      Hold your ground! That’s where I found my self esteem. Sticking to my guns.

      1. I agree with your perspective of my ex completely. Thanks for the supportive words…and yes, he cheated, but more importantly left me before that for his first mistress (his job) and tore our family apart…or rather, threw us in the garbage in favor or his own needs/wants/desires.

        I’m in a good place. Finally. It took awhile, but I am comfortable with things and I have come to terms with life as I know it now.

      2. I have to frame your reply as you just hit the nail on the head for me! Everything has been about him; leaving me, not wanting to try, the divorce. Now that the divorce is final(June ’14) he wants to be “amicable” meaning that now we should be able to spend “family” holidays, birthdays and get togethers together. He can say that now since the divorce is final because he feels safe that I won’t misconstrue it to mean getting back together. I haven’t seen him since May, 2012 and do not want to ever see him. He is going around telling everyone that I should be able to do this “for the family” as if I am wrong for not wanting to bow to his wishes. Again, it’s all about him. NO, I am standing my ground! You are so right; he can’t get me to alter my way for HIS peace of mind and HIS convenience just to make him feel better about what he did. It was his choice back then, it is MY choice now.

  2. I struggle with this one a lot because I do have an ex who is present just enough to continue to hurt me. But for a long time I was so focused on what he had done to me that I couldn’t move on. I don’t think forgiveness equates condoning the behavior at all. My ex has done a lot of hurtful things, none of which I have excused or condoned. But he sure as heck is not going to use it to control me or my life. For me, it means choosing to not let that other person’s actions affect you anymore, and move on from that action and/or that person.

  3. I agree, it’s easier to forgive when you have moved on. I guess that’s why they say “forgiveness is a gift you give yourself”– I actually never understood that till this very moment.
    I’m not at that stage yet. I am still deeply effected by the consequences of my ex’s actions.

  4. I love Janis Spring’s book How can I forgive you? Because it lets us all off this stupid thing we aren’t obliged to do, and which isn’t necessary to move on (with or without them).

    1. Becca – Fraser Valley, BC, Canada – Undergoing a massive life change, I quit my job in 2013, moved, and five weeks later my husband left me. The phoenix process is well underway now, and I am anticipating good things in my future as I become more aligned to my authentic self.
      Rebecca Makeham says:

      totally agree. Was going to recommend this book to the readers. We don’t have to forgive, we just have to accept.

  5. I am really struggling with forgiving my stbex. We have kids and he has to come over every morning to get them ready for school. It would probably be easier to forgive him if I didn’t have to see him everyday. Constant reminder of what he’s done to our family. I’ve been told to “let go of the hurt, anger, sadness. Forgive him and you will be happy.”

    But how? How do I forgive? I am not ready to. Maybe when enough time has passed.. (20, 30 years lol)

    I never thought I could HATE the one person I loved.

  6. this is an interesting article, but it depends what you have to forgive I guess. For me, I can forgive the affair but not the family break up. What I was left to deal with, including 2 young children, it’s something I just cannot forgive. But everyone is different, that’s what makes life great

    1. I agree completely…I forgave the affair almost instantly, but the family demise, that is the biggest inexcusable offense.

  7. Very good article. The first time I read validation if I choose not to forgive. He made the choice to continue go back to her when I did exactly as he asked and told me over and over how wonderful WE were and she was bad, bad. An adult knows when they are doing something hurtful and wrong. 30 years and he turned into a stranger who threatens our kids, lies to everyone and blames me for his troubled relationship with his kids. Enough. Not giving him any form of forgiveness. Glad I share my new life with a wonderful man who keeps me grounded and following a path of honesty, respect and love.

  8. This was good for me to read because I’ve been feeling…guilty?, weak?, shallow?…for not being able to forgive my ex. The emphasis these days on the need to forgive those who have caused us harm is a heavy burden to lay on someone in my situation.

    Thank you for posting this.

  9. Becca – Fraser Valley, BC, Canada – Undergoing a massive life change, I quit my job in 2013, moved, and five weeks later my husband left me. The phoenix process is well underway now, and I am anticipating good things in my future as I become more aligned to my authentic self.
    Rebecca Makeham says:

    What a fantastic article. Really enjoying your writing. Thank you. Here is an article I wrote about forgiveness on my blog: http://itwasneverjustanaffair.blogspot.ca/2014/03/the-timeframe-of-forgiveness.html

  10. elizabeth2560 – ABOUT ALMOST SPRING Two and a half years ago my 37 year marriage ended suddenly through no choice of my own. I survived the heartache. I have taken control of my present. I am planning my own destiny, which is moving onwards to a life of purpose and meaning. This is my journey.
    elizabeth2560 says:

    There is a lot in this post. I ‘forgave’ early on (because that is what divorce books said I should do). It was not the right thing to do for me. At the time I did not think of what the right thing was for me as I was acting out of what I thought would be expected of me in order to be a “good” person. One thing I learned through that exercise was that forgiveness made me focus on him and what had ‘happened” to me. It cast me as a victim. In order to heal, I found I had to focus on myself and get myself out of that victim role. Once that healing took place and I became stronger, there was no need for forgiveness of him for that that event (the sharp ending of our marriage) as my focus had turned to me and my future.

  11. since my soon to be ex said that he was not sorry for what he did (as the song says, he’s only sorry he got caught), he doesn’t deserve forgiveness.

  12. BecHanson – I am a woman who likes to discuss relationships, pop culture and life. I find the interplay between the sexes a fascinating puzzle.
    BecHanson says:

    I agree with this, forgiveness is beneficial if the perpetrator is remorseful and ceases acting in a negative way. If the behaviour continues and they don’t recognise it as unacceptable, then forgiveness can be seen as encouragement. If both people are still interacting then there is a problem for the person doing the forgiving and can make them vulnerable and open to continued abuse.
    I am still in contact with my ex-husband as we have children (although I keep the contact to a minimum and it will cease when the children are older) so I found this a very interesting perspective and will keep it in mind, thanks.

    1. I think is is so different when the person is in your life versus only a memory. Once they’re gone, you can manipulate the memories however you want. If they’re still in the picture, you have to be careful not to be manipulated.

  13. I’m at the point right now where I’m beginning to accept what happened. The party in question has long been out of my life (1.5 years), but I…I will never forgive him. I mean, I guess letting go and moving on could be defined as forgiving him, but that’s not what it means in my personal lexicon. Actively forgiving him in the past, when he was still in my life, only led to more cruelty, so refusing to forgive him this time is, ironically, not for him, but for myself.

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