What is forgiveness? What does it really mean?

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by MidwestMom, Nov 30, 2014.

  1. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    I'm just wondering what it means to all of you. I always thought you can't forgive somebody who doesn't have remorse...that maybe it is some sort of biblical term. If I'm honest with myself, I don't forgive my DNA collection; I just moved on without them. I don't think about them much unless there is a new altercation, like the one with my father that just happened. But forgive them? Why? For abusing us? Because it's all they knew? Certainly they knew better. Two year olds know they shouldn't hit their siblings, even though they often do it.

    So what is forgiveness really? I have heard it is not for the other person, but for the person who has suffered at their hands. Can somebody kind of define that for me? How is this different from just accepting what happened, because, after all, it DID happen, and then deciding to move on with your own life?

    If anyone has input, I thank you in advance. This is a big question I've been mulling over lately. I tend to mull...lol.
  2. pasajes4

    pasajes4 Well-Known Member

    I can only answer for myself. I can forgive because I have been forgiven. The act of forgiving allows me to be open to love others. It keeps me from carrying that baggage into other parts of my life.
  3. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    Do you mean forgiven in a religious sense?

    I feel I can keep the baggage behind me as long as I accept it as in "it happened, it is what it is." Is that the same thing?
  4. 2much2recover

    2much2recover Well-Known Member

    For myself I think there is a huge difference between forgiving and forgetting. I do believe that we forgive for ourselves, to be able to allow ourselves to move forward. For a difficult child, because they are in some way either personality disordered or mentally ill, we forgive because we would not deny them that which we would give to any other person with an illness. However, also again because of the nature of the illness the difficult child has - I feel we must never forget what they are capable of and have a responsibility to ourselves not to forget what they are capable of. Also in certain situations it is perfectly OK to forgive them without needing to vocalize it to them as they can't hear it anyway. Forgiving but no forgetting can lead us to a more peaceful life in my opinion. Sometimes that peace will only last for days and weeks depending on how much we choose to interact with the difficult child - or it can last for years if we choose not to interact with them, which by the way, we are perfectly within our own rights to feel safe and secure by not interacting with them if that is OUR choice. Also I think once you have identified someone as a difficult child - then it becomes up to you to lay down the boundaries of what you will and won't except. If/when they cross those boundaries is is perfectly acceptable to go low/no contact for however long you the victim in all this, feels comfortable doing so.
    Forgive? Yes. Forget? NEVER!
  5. pasajes4

    pasajes4 Well-Known Member

    It is rooted in religion. It is also part of my life experience. I have been forgiven for doing things in my life. It also has to do with not letting those experiences interfere in how I see others. I think that you can accept what happened and either truly let go of the hurt or hang onto the hurt and stay stagnant.
  6. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    That is how I feel, too. What happened, happened. I see why it happened, but I no longer feel I can change it.

    So I am free of all of it.

    It's a good feeling.

    I am still seeing through those "family eyes," I think.

    This is an interesting topic.

    I don't have any knowledge of how to forgive. What I do know is that I have forgiven, and that each time, it was a gift to myself that I was overwhelmingly aware of in the instant it occurred...but I have no idea where it came from.

    When it happened, it changed everything and I saw myself differently. The best way I can describe it would be to imagine walking around with a tourniquet on an arm or a leg for so long you don't even think about it anymore and then, it's removed. It changes everything and yet, the things that you now possess (extra strength, that feeling of being more of yourself, of having more access to yourself)...those things were always yours. But for some reason, you could not access them.

    The first instance was forgiving the male who beat my daughter. I thought I had already forgiven him, in the sense that I did not allow myself to wallow in vengeance. The male who beat and left her for dead was someone I loved. The betrayal was personal to me in a way I cannot describe. So, I muddled along doing the right things, contacting his mom and comforting and taking comfort, monitoring my vengeful thoughts, that kind of thing. There was a numbness at the heart of everything having to do with him. The date of his trial approached. I was in the shower, thinking vengeful things about boy, would I say this and that if I decided to walk in to that courtroom and look him dead in the eye. And I was like, oh man, what am I doing...and the next instant ~ and it was instantaneous ~ I felt whatever it was I was holding against him let go.

    It was like something liquefied.

    And I have never felt the same constriction, the same tortured kind of "I should not be thinking like this" regarding him, again.

    I feel compassion for him. All at once, I understood that there was nothing anyone could do to him that would be as terrible as what he had lost when he allowed himself to become who he had to become to do what he did.

    I could see that plain as day.

    When his sentencing came up, my daughter wanted me to go there, wanted him to see me, because she said that would hurt him more than anything she could say. And while I was willing to go for her sake, I was not at all willing to see him hurt.

    The damage is done. My daughter is healing well.

    And that feels like the end of the story.

    But it was an instance of grace, and not anything I did or could know how to describe for someone else. I thought I had already decided to forgive him ~ this was something altogether different.

    A gift, pure and simple.

    In the second instance of forgiveness that I know about, I forgave myself. I am not sure what it was that I forgave. It had to do with forgiving myself for the way things still are in my family of origin. I sound sort of conceited here, but I had spent so much of my life trying to stand in for a mother to my siblings. I have written elsewhere that I believe my mom may have an illness, an emotional illness. So, however much the grown siblings might wish to come together, she seems to relish subverting that. The family has never come together in an honest way, in the kind of Hallmark card way where you can trust the other guy. I wasn't aware that I felt badly, that I berated myself and condemned myself for not having been able to do this for myself and my family. One day, husband said: "You need to forgive yourself for not being able to change your family."


    That watery, dissolving feeling and that other feeling of coming into possession of myself.

    So, that's all I know about forgiveness.

    About forgiving the kids.... I think I will never forgive difficult child daughter for what happened with her own children.

    Oops. One more incidence of forgiveness.

    Remember when, after recovering from the beating and continuing to use and things going from bad to impossibly worse, and I posted that difficult child daughter may have been going into organ failure? So, I believed it was over. The only question was whether it would end soon or whether we would have time. Again, there was that feeling of something letting go that I had not been aware of having been constricted. It was overwhelming, and I realized how fortunate I was to have been able to hear her voice, and to have been able to laugh with her. Nothing else mattered.


    So maybe, forgiveness has to do with gratitude somehow?

    Back to the issue of difficult child daughter's children. I am more watchful, now. I would not trust again as I did, once. And that is wise. I don't hold it against her, I don't hate her for what she did, as I once did.

    But that is a different kind of forgiving. It is a willingness to give up holding onto a rightful grudge. There is no overwhelming gratitude connected with that. I just don't want to hate her and so, I don't.

    That is all I know of forgiveness.

  7. 1905

    1905 Well-Known Member

    I can forgive my difficult child, he has turned his life around and is a wonderful dad, husband and son. Others, no...I can move on, but don't forget, and honestly can't 100% move on. I guess I can only forgive my own. Then again, my children are all that is important to me, so it's easy for me to write someone off because I don't care. My own mother who had me as a teenager, I don't forgive her treatment of me but I moved on. But my child...yes, he is forever forgiven.
  8. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    You may enjoy this MWM.......


    I got interested in this site after I watched a video about a woman who had been in the concentration camp with Dr. Mengele during the war. She was one of the twins he experimented on. She advocated forgiveness.

    The video on the site is powerful.

    For me forgiveness is about letting go. It is getting to a point where the hurt has no more power over me, it has become neutralized. My experience was that it was a process of acknowledging that there was indeed a hurt, then moving through the emotion of it and then at some point recognizing that even that hurt had some meaning for me. When I can see the meaning for myself, I can let go.

    I view life as lessons to learn how to awaken, or become conscious, or learn to love myself, whatever the phrase it amounts to becoming whole. I think forgiveness has a lot to do with compassion for oneself and then extending that compassion out to others, even when they appear not to deserve it.

    My perceptions of forgiveness are intricately connected to my whole belief system so it's not so easy to pick it out on it's own. Personally, the first person I intended to forgive was my mother. It took me awhile. I knew I had arrived when I was aware of how much I loved her and wanted the best for her, regardless of her actions towards me. And, that the "story" I had about her diminished and in fact, ended. After her, it got easier! The latest was my daughter. I was stuck in judgement for awhile, and anger, and disappointment.........actually all MY stuff..........once I moved through that and took responsibility for myself, I was able to let go and forgive. Forgiveness is so tied into compassion for me, it's tough to make a distinction. And, for me, I believe the compassion for myself was necessary to forgive.

    I don't exert any more energy on those people I forgave, it's over. No anger. No blame. No more story about it. No more thinking about it really. It's over. It doesn't take up any more space within me. Perhaps that's the greatest gift of all, the space within is now taken up with presence in the NOW. And, that brings peace.

    I am a forgiving person, however, I do learn from the behavior of others. Its possible to forgive, have compassion and still recognize that it is not safe to trust someone. It's recognizing others limitations and accepting those limitations. Doesn't necessarily mean you want to have lunch with them!
  9. muttmeister

    muttmeister Well-Known Member

    I think I have a different take than some of you. To me, forgiving somebody means "it is what it is but I'm moving on." When I forgive somebody, it doesn't mean what they did is OK and it doesn't mean that I'm going to forget to the point that I will allow whatever it was to happen again and it doesn't have anything to do with their being sorry. It means that I accept that they screwed up for whatever reason and I was hurt and angry but my life is too short to spend it being mad or planning revenge. When I forgive somebody, it is not for THEM; it is for ME. I refuse to give somebody who wronged me the power to continue to make my life miserable. I will pull up my big girl panties and put a smile on my face and refrain from trying to get even or make snide remarks or talk behind their back. I know that I have done some stinky things in my life that I'm not proud of so I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and move on. Even if they did something really terrible, my being upset probably doesn't bother them at all but it bothers me and I'm not going to let them run my life that way. When you have forgiven somebody, that doesn't mean you go back to the way things were before or that you let them hurt you again. It means you can be the bigger person and move on
  10. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    To me that "it happened, it is what it is", is just the first step to forgiveness. Next step is understanding. I have a need to know hows and whys. I try to empathize them, try to understand where they are coming from, why they did what they did, what was their thought process and how they justified it to themselves. To see their point of view to the fact. After that comes forgiveness. It includes both the previous steps, but also a decision of let go of feelings of anger and resentment. All this may take some time to get through. Sometimes quite a lot of time. For me forgiving doesn't mean forgetting, but it does mean that I will not bring the matter to the table any more nor do I think or act those hurt or angered emotions over the matter. However not forgetting means that I do remember what happened and take necessary action not to be hurt or used same way again.

    For me it is not religious thing really, though my religious beliefs do commence me to try to be merciful and forgiving to others and being more vigilant and stringent with my own sinful nature than paying attention to other people's possible short comings, but that is mostly just a religious ideal that my aforementioned sinful nature efficiently prevents me from reaching, so mostly forgiving is just a selfish (and thus sinful) pursuit to make my life easier and easing the pain other people's actions may cause me.

    I find that even if I would let go of the person who has hurt me, those feelings that hurt caused do not go anywhere. They stay and eat me alive, if I'm not able to forgive. If I have loved someone, or someone has just been a part of my life, those memories and those feelings do not leave me even if the person is not any more part of my life. I need a closure. I need to deal with those emotions and just letting them go doesn't work for me at all. And of course forgiveness can salvage a relationship even after a lot of wrongs have happened in that relationship. And I do not have too many loved ones to lose and even less people who have been there on my side long periods of time, people who would remember what I remember, know me from many perspectives and seen most of my roles in life, people who actually know me and whom I know. Those people are precious, and for me, few.
  11. Wiped Out

    Wiped Out Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I find that when I forgive it is like a huge weight lifted off of me. I don't necessarily forget but I don't throw it in someone's face either. It is such a peaceful feeling even if the other person doesn't want the forgiveness. It is very much more for myself than the other person although I think it can help the other person as well.
  12. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    Thanks to all of you for answering my question. I am still not sure why we have to actually forgive. I understand trying to understand, like Suzir did, but I thought and thought and asked questions and really never had any answers from anybody. I guess that makes it hard to actually, say, forgive, which still does not condemn me to hate, revenge, bitterness or other negative things. I mean, my son-who-left-family who has a wife who insists she "forgave" me. I am not sure what she forgave. Nor has it made her any nicer or softer in her approach. So I found it a strange turn of phrase.

    I have my own belief system, which is deeply ingrained in me, and you are not supposed to wrong anyone without apologizing. You will forgive in the afterlife and understand more then. Right now, I choose to forget and I'm good at it. I did say I had borderline traits and I've done all I can to get rid of them. One trait I still hold is the ability to wipe somebody out of my life and that's it. The person is no longer in my mind most of the time. I kept this trait on purpose as it has served me well while dealing with my DNA collection. I would rather focus on the good things and people in my life than think about those who hurt me. I let go of the hurt. I give myself permission to purge the person from my consciousness unless we unfortunately possibly do meet again. Then I use my "less is more" skills to deal with them, mostly being quiet and calm, which, at one time, I couldn't do.

    But forgiving somebody who thinks their abuse was ok? I would rather just purge it from my mind and move on to the good things in life. People have forgiven me and I am generous about forgiving others. But they have to WANT the forgiveness and offer an explanation, then it's over. None of my DNA collection ever said they had a part in the abuse or the bad relationship. I have and, of course, they accepted it as I am the Black Sheep. But they don't seem to think they have done anything at all. Under those conditions, it is easier and more productive in my life to just forget them and move ahead.

    I love reading how you guys deal with these people. It does help me. It will give me nights of mulling (grin) which I do love to do. Keep it coming, if you like.
  13. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    This makes sense given what this discussion is about..........
  14. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    I believe people's internal workings vary. We do deal with our emotions differently. In fact we do feel them differently. Thus what work for someone may or may not work for the next person. I guess we just have to find ways that work for us.

    And by the way, both forgiving and apologising can be powerful weapons, if you use them like that. If you declare someone that you forgive them, when they do not even consider they have done something wrong (like you son's wife did), it kind of leaves that person speechless and confused - so you won, if you are inclined to think that. Same thing can be done with apologising. Imagine for example a situation where you have an issue with your spouse about for example chores. You try to take the issue up and talk about that. Instead of actually talking it out with you, you spouse really doesn't talk about it with you, but next time you have a dinner with extended family, makes some kind of blanket apology about everything wrong they have done to you in front of everybody and declare they will not entertain the discussion any more, just apologise any hurt or wrong doing they have been responsible against you. You would again be left speechless, put to position you either have to forgive or seem like a jerk and you would still be left with all the chores, because the actual matter never got addressed. Those are just mind games people play and things like apologises, forgiveness, humility etc. can be powerful weapons, because you can't fight against them without everyone thinking you are a jerk.
  15. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    For me, forgiveness is freedom, I am releasing the other person from holding my emotions hostage. My first act of forgiveness was when I was 16. My bio-father sexually abused me from age 2 till 7 when my mother found out what he was doing and got me and my sisters away from him. He died when I was 13. When my mom found out what was going on she had me and my sisters go to counseling. The counseling made me aware that what he was doing was wrong and that it was in no way my fault. He had convinced me that this was "normal" for how daddy's showed their love so when I learned it was anything but I was angry and hurt. When he died my anger grew because I didn't have a chance to confront him about what he had done to me. When I was 16 I went to visit my grandmother (bio-father's mother) she lived in another state and that was also where my bio-father was buried. I went to his grave. I sat on his grave and started beating my fists into the ground, screaming and crying, all the hurt and anger exploded out of me. I'm not sure how long this went on but then a calm came over me and I sat quietly on his grave and I told him that I forgave him, that I was leaving all my pain and anger there.
    I have also forgiven my difficult child for all the hell and chaos he put me through. Forgiveness is for me so that I can let go and move on. Forgiveness is a way to sever an unhealthy bond between people to stop the flow of negative energy.
    Just because you forgive someone does not mean you forget, it means you let go of the pain but you learn from it.
  16. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    Thanks, Tanya. Forgiveness sounds a lot like what I do only I don't really call it forgiveness. I call it leaving the past behind where it can't hurt me and moving on to a better tomorrow.
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  17. february

    february Member

  18. february

    february Member

    I think I get caught up in, the whole forgiving and moving on and then it happens again. Maybe because my son lives with me and he is difficult to live with. But it is a cycle of things go bad they get better and then he is rude and hurts me all over again. I feel that because he is mentally ill and very depressed I just put up with it, but it is taking a told on my health and my own sanity.
    Any advice, comments please!
  19. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    For me, forgiveness is for myself not the other person. By forgiving my son all the chaos he brought into my life and all the ugly, mean things he has said to me, and all the times he stole from me, I am letting go of holding onto anger and resentment. I by no means have forgotten any of what he has done as that helps to keep me from being dragged down the rabbit hole again.

    With your son living with you, this is a delicate balance. I always loved this term "hate the sin not the sinner" We can dislike the choices and things our children do but we can also still love them.
    I also like the saying "holding on to anger and bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die"

    Just because a person is mentally ill and depressed is no excuse for bad behavior or to treat someone with disrespect. Your son still should be held accountable.

    What is the reason your son still lives with you? How old is he?