Can You Forgive?

Years ago I had a ‘discussion’ with two coworkers.  One might call it an argument.  Okay I called it an argument because I did not agree with them.  Mostly because they were wrong.  But partly due to me being a little bit oppositional defiant.   It has stuck with me.  Because I still think they are wrong.

I don’t know what situation we were arguing about.  But the part that started the argument was when I spoke about forgiving someone.

And they told me I couldn’t.

I was a bit taken aback.

Why couldn’t I?

Their argument was that the person we were discussing (long since forgotten but not necessary for this, make up something if you would like) never asked to be forgiven.

I still didn’t get it.

To me, it didn’t matter if the person didn’t ask me to forgive them.  It was something I needed to do.  To not carry around all of the angst that one carries when they feel wronged or angry, hurt or belittled.  Or whatever.

No.  I was wrong they said.  How can I ‘give’ forgiveness if the person does not ask for it.  Or the person feels they weren’t wrong.

Because, I argued, it’s something I do internally for me.  Whatever I felt wronged about, I needed to let it go and forgive the person.

No.  No.  They both said.

Yes.  Yes.  I said.

No.  They tried to reason with me.  They explained that I cannot give to someone what they have not asked for.

But I’m not going up to the person and saying “I forgive you”.   It’s something that is within me, that I am letting go of.  That I am forgiving them for.

They said I can’t do that.

By then I was getting frustrated because they were not understanding me.  And angry because they were ganging up on me.

Why do I have to wait for someone else to ask me for something that I am willing to give.  And need to give.  And though it has the word “give” in it’s name I don’t feel it’s something I need to actually give to someone else.  Sometimes it might be about giving forgiveness to  someone who asks for it.  But sometimes it is giving up unwanted feelings of anger, bitterness, disappointment, hurt and so many other feelings.  Letting go of something you harbor towards someone because you don’t want to keep anything like that stored in you.

They both gave me one of those condescending looks as they leaned back and glanced at one another.  Funny how I can remember that but not the incident that started this argument.   Maybe I need to forgive them for that.  Because obviously it still bothers me.  But, they have never asked to be forgiven.

41 thoughts on “Can You Forgive?

  1. I agree with YOU.
    The last line is the kicker, “But, they have never asked to be forgiven.”
    So did you, considering you wrote about it? I think you are discussing a situation and you are washing yourself of this argument?

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    • Oh my. Well. I truly feel they are “wrong”. And I am one who believes there are most often more than one way to see something. But on this, I feel forgiveness is truly something you do first for yourself because of what it does to you if you can’t forgive. Second, if the other person needs this then that is something I am ready to give.

      This discussion happened maybe 15 years ago. And yes I want to wash it away. I think I have forgiven them.

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  2. Forgiveness is something I write a lot about in my blog. If you hold on to any negative feelings, they own you! Letting go and forgiving the person, whether they asked for it or not, releases you from the grip and, ultimately, sets you free. I was finally able to heal (mentally) when I let go and forgave. Great post! Marsha M.W.

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    • Thank you! There is tremendous healing if forgiveness is given. I know there are things I have not forgiven for, and you are right, they grip the peace right out of you. I’m glad you set yourself free.

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  3. They didn’t understand what forgiveness is and you were right. Because I say so? No, just look up the definition of forgiveness, and you’ll see you described it. All that said, the ability to forgive, let go of something, is easier said than done. It’s as if it does you, it leaves you when it does, but certainly seeing that there’s an inner responsibility to try to let go, as you did, is a step in the “right” direction. My very close friend Dr. Jim Dincalci heads up the International Forgiveness Fdn. He’d agree with your take on it. 🙂

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    • Thank you Paulette! I remember being very upset (then) about them trying to get me to believe I must hold on to this frustration and bad feelings. It was as if they wanted me to give control of my emotions and well being to someone else. Which is what happens when we hold on to horrible things.

      Back then I probably doubted myself so much that I thought they must know more than I do.

      I know differently. And I thank you and Dr. Dincalci for supporting (and validating) my beliefs. It makes the younger me feel better.

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  4. Forgiveness is often just as important for you as for the person you are forgiving.I carried bitterness for many years with someone whom I didn’t even know their name. I had to forgive them in my heart to have peace over the situation.

    You did the right thing.

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    • Thank you Jason. That’s what I was trying to say back then. That I had to do it for me. And it would change ‘me’. If the other person wanted or accepted forgiveness, it would change ‘them’.

      I’m glad you could also let go of the bitterness. You do seem bitter free to me. 😉

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  5. The other two may have been speaking technically. In reality, forgiveness is about letting go and moving on. It doesn’t mean you condone the action you forgave, just that it won’t be an issue between you and the offender any longer. If someone stole 20 dollars from you and you forgive them, it doesn’t mean you have to leave your money lying around when they come over. You shouldn’t tempt a thief anyway. It is the fact that you didn’t allow the theft to come between your friendship.

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    • Thank you Barbara. I do think they were trying to be ‘technical’ in some sense. But I wasn’t sure which sense that was. I agree with you. Forgiving doesn’t mean we lose awareness. I don’t have to trust the thief to forgive them.

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  6. I do think it’s kind of odd that anyone would want to challenge you on what you obviously had found personally helpful. I’m not always able to go immediately to a place of forgiveness, but if I waited to be asked for my forgiveness, I’d be carrying around a ton of added anxiety and pressure. Sometimes we have to get to that place in our own ways, but it would never occur to me to argue with someone about their magnanimity towards others. People are funny! Odd, really. LOL!

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    • Some people are certainly funny! 🙂 I am sure part of my frustration with that long ago discussion was that I felt “stupid” (for lack of a better word) for believing I could forgive within, and they said I couldn’t. I know better. But at the time I was very bothered by the discussion and I remember that feeling.

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  7. The NT, Jesus to be exact, in the Bible commands we forgive 70x7x to infinity…it’s a command because he knows we humans need it more than we truly can ever know. Even if it’s not asked for, even if we don’t want to. It’s not about emotions or thoughts. It’s about our will, and doing what’s best for us, which God knew all along. To forgive is divine, and we were made in the image of God. So if you’re living up to the image of God that is in you by forgiving them regardless of what they think then you are doing all right, at least in my eyes. I feel sorry for those fellows who need to ask and receive permission to forgive before they’ll do it. How much joy they must be missing in their lives because of this mindset about forgiveness. So sad.

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    • It would be incredibly Christ like to forgive, regardless. I don’t know that I am Christ like, but obviously, would be better if I was. I agree with you. It is what we should do. And the joy being missed…. I wonder how much I have missed out on?

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      • I’m not Christlike 😉 but am striving to be. It’s really impossible but the important thing is we try our best. We all miss out when we harbor these things rather than forgive (and there are just some times that I would rather not forgive). But we always win when we forgive. It also doesn’t mean that you forget the wrongs done to you, but the anger and hurt you release when you forgive is what’s important. That’s the joy and power that forgiveness gives to you.

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        • You speak so well about this. We do win when we forgive. I think a lot of confusion comes with the forgiveness. It isn’t about forgetting or allowing it to happen again. It is about letting go. Thank you so much, because that’s what I was trying to say back then. 🙂

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  8. I’m easy going … I forgive and forget very easily – because life is too short to be upset over somebodies acting or saying … if I go around and think about it – I will remain in the passed and life goes on without me. I forgive, but I wouldn’t tell them that I have forgiven and moved on. If they ask me to forgive them ??? Different matter. If I have been wrong .. I hold up my hands so soon I realize I been in the wrong and say, sorry .. forgive me.
    Then it’s up to them .. to forgive or not. I don’t differently against the person if I’m not forgiven – I carry on as normal. I done my part of the wrong doing.
    Great post … again.

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    • Thanks Viveka, I love your honesty. I, too, am guilty of being guilty. I had a husband once who spent an awful lot of time being angry. I told him I didn’t want to waste my life time on being angry. He could not let anything go. Very sad.

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  9. I can forgive easily something done or said about me!!! On the other hand something done to one of my loved ones is truly another whole can of worms. Not so easily done!!! Sorry

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  10. *smiles* … nice blog again.

    I read though the responses….I think some have alluded to this … that the forgiveness a lot of times is for yourself (you mention this too).

    Perhaps you are not so much forgiving the other person(s) … but perhaps you are forgiving yourself ..for allowing them to anger and frustrate you.

    Just a thought … you are making me think lots with your blog posts.

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    • I think there is a combination of what is going on. At the time I did get very upset and frustrated. Today, being a bit older and more experienced, I would not have gotten so upset. And maybe I could have spoken more clearly about what I meant. AND I was very disturbed by their trying to tell me that forgiveness can only be asked for. It made me sad, actually, to think I might have it wrong. When I went in to the discussion knowing I wasn’t.

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  11. You speak like a true psychologist! I think every episode of Dr. Phil I have seen he always says to just forgive the person who has wronged you so you can move on. This post really had my mind whirling though…..good stuff!!!

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    • Why thank you!!!! I think that’s the big key, moving on. HOw can we if we can’t stop talking about, thinking about, lamenting about the wrongs done to us? I know there are many burdens like this I don’t want to put down…but I must.

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  12. It has been summed up well by yourself and others above but I completely agree that when we forgive it as a gift to ourselves more than anyone.

    Someone asking for or needing my forgiveness is not a pre-requisite to granting it. I forgive so that I can move on in life with as little baggage as possible. I don’t want to be dragged down by negativity, life is difficult enough.

    Those who share the views of your colleagues must wake every morning with a heavy heart.

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    • I have discussed this with one of those colleagues, and there seems to be quite a different opinion on this now. 🙂

      I love your answer. I also love your attitude. You don’t just talk these things, you truly seem to live these things.

      I need to put down even more baggage….. starting today.

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  13. Such a potent subject – or feeling? – to write about, Chatter Master. Lots of things to ponder…and in general, I agree with you…as it appears you are writing about “taking a load off your shoulders”, so to speak in a one-way release.

    A couple of thoughts… I was raised in an environment that taught me “forgiving” was more in recognition of a character defect or the like. Like “I will take pity on you and forgive you, you measly low life”. Of if you were in a position of ASKING for forgiveness, you were essentially at wit’s end and were begging for it from a person of higher status than yourself.

    In this case, as mentioned, you are leaving it behind… not that the other party can hear or cares. And that needn’t occur if you are “forgiving”.

    It’s voluntary. It’s your decision to let go of anger and get on with life. I don’t believe it implies condoning, or that you are excusing his actions…and that it isn’t part of the equation. Is that correct?

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    • Great question, and I great explanation of how you were raised. I would think that there are many who were raised with the same view of “forgiveness” or have that kind of vision of it.

      You are correct in your beliefs about me. I do not condone, in any way, what he did. That has no part in my forgiveness. His actions are his responsibility, they were wrong, and my forgiveness does not change that. The burden of what he has done lies on his shoulders and his alone. I refuse to carry any of his responsibility, guilt, or shame.

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  14. “They explained that I cannot give to someone what they have not asked for.” Really? I can think of many, many times that people have gotten things they didn’t ask for. Some of them good and some bad. Some they didn’t want and some they did. In my life I have been the recipient of untold numbers of unasked-for blessings, and also unasked-for trials. What world do those two former coworkers live in that they think you can only give someone something they ask for?
    Jesus did not mention forgiving only those who ask for it, and I think He left it that way because He knew there would be times when we would need to forgive without being asked.

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    • You said this just how I feel. Unasked blessings and trials. Thank you Becky 6259, I really wondered back then if I could be so far off. I am glad I stayed with how I felt and my convictions. I think Jesus’ way is much better.

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