The Science Of Forgiveness

Why is forgiveness so hard?

Is it that our pain screams to be heard and validated?

Is it because we feel entitled to an apology and reparations for any wrongdoing?

Is it coming from a belief that any attack was targeted and any forgiveness is simply showing weakness?

Is it based on a conviction that forgiveness is only owed to those that deserve it?

No matter the reason to withhold forgiveness, there is no debating the fact that finding forgiveness is hard.

Damn hard.

Perhaps the hardest thing you’ll ever do.

And perhaps one of the most important.

I read this synopsis of some studies today that explain the link between forgiveness and physical health. It turns out that holding onto anger and victimhood literally makes you sick.

That seems like as good of a reason as any to work to achieve forgiveness.

The piece above discusses many of the same strategies I talk about: depersonalizing, reframing and seeing the person who harmed you with compassion.

I worry sometimes about the uptick in people characterizing their exes as narcissists. Yes, there are people in this world that are all-bad and have no qualities that are relatable or redeemable. But those people are very few and far between.

Most of our exes, although they may be assholes of the highest caliber, are not monsters. And I worry when they are characterized as such because it often leaves the labeler holding the anger.

And, as discussed in the attached study, the sickness.

Don’t forgive because they deserve it.

Forgive because you do.

Related:

What Forgiveness Is (And What It Is Not)

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9 thoughts on “The Science Of Forgiveness

  1. I know the rational reasons to forgive. I know the toll it takes on me to hold on. I’ve gone through studies and exercises and rationalizations within my own mind.
    I still can’t seem to let go.
    I think a big part of it is a feeling that forgiveness excuses the wrongdoing. That I’m saying it’s ok…that I should have been marginalized and treated with disregard…and in turn, I must have deserved it if it’s ok that it happened.
    I know it’s not healthy.
    I know it’s not productive.
    I’ve tried to force forgiveness. When I have little to no contact with my ex, I can move negative feelings about him from my mind…but when there’s an issue (with kids, with settling the marital property, etc) those defenses rear their head.
    I know it makes me feel less than.
    I know it makes me feel hopeless.
    I don’t know how to change the thoughts. I spend way too much time in my brain already…I know that.
    It is widely expressed that toxic people should be removed from our lives…what do you do when that’s impossible? I recognize the toxicity he presents to me, and I’m trying to deal the best I can, but I struggle. Significantly.

    I don’t know what it is about the people, like yourself, who are strong and positive and can ‘mind over matter’ behaviors to a path of inner peace. They have something I don’t believe I posses. I’m really not trying to feel sorry for myself…or point fingers…I just wish I were in on the secret.
    Thanks for always being positive and pointing the direction to healthy. Your posts always give me more food for thought.

    1. That makes me sad that you don’t think you have what it takes. It’s true that it is easier for some than others because of biology, past experiences, support systems and general circumstances. But I really, truly believe that we can all get there. Some may need more time or more help and that’s okay.

      I think you see the strength in others and the struggle in yourself. We all have both.

      Hugs,
      Lisa

  2. I have learned over the last two years as I’ve tried to forgive and move past my wife’s betrayal that forgiveness is not a one time event.

    It’s a daily process and just because some days, maybe months later, you’re still angry or hurt at times, doesn’t mean you haven’t forgiven. It just means you’re human and you are entitled to the emotional blowback from the offense against you. You have to keep working at it.

      1. I should add that when those moments happen and the person who you are trying to forgive senses your momentary setback of emotion, that person needs to acknowledge that its part of the price they pay for wronging you.

        One day when I was having a particularly bad day with emotional fallout, my wife actually said to me “when are you going to get over this?”. I remember thinking “well your affair was 18 months long and it’s only been 3 months that I’ve been trying to work through it. I don’t have an answer for you except ‘i don’t know'”

        My point is that the person who is being forgiven needs to just accept that these moments will happen and acknowledge that forgiveness has been given but it’s not easy for either person. Too often, the trespasser wants the whole matter buried quickly to alleviate their guilt and doesn’t like these moments when it comes back to the surface. Sorry. That’s just part of the price of what you’ve done. Be glad I’m willing to help pay it with you.

  3. Forgiveness has been the hardest and best part about my recovery. I’m talking about affair recovery. I never thought in a million years,my relationship would end up where it ended two years ago and I never thought I would be a women that works through something like that and stay. But I have to tell you, the forgiveness thing for me has been a hard a long process. I’ve had the help of my church, counselors and yes, also my husband. I’m to a point in my life…years later that I have peace and feel free. I think that’s the best part about it, the freedom of obsession and thought, just being able to let it go…

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