The Art of Forgiveness

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. ~Lewis B. Smedes

I am often curious about people’s inability to forgive. I understand that sometimes the hurt is so deep that forgiveness seems nearly impossible. But I also wonder if my definition of forgiveness is skewed. I can do as the saying goes, let bygones be bygones and move on with my life.

My grandmother (Big Mama) used to say all the time that she could forgive such and such for what she’d done but she could never forget it. My mother would get angry and say that if you remember what someone has done then you are not forgiving her/him. At the time I agreed with that statement.

However, I have thought about those words often and I think I have come to terms with them and understand what Big Mama meant by them. I conclude that you can remember the lesson you learned, and still love the person who hurt you. For example, if my friend betrayed a confidence, I could let it go and move on. I wouldn’t hold a grudge. However, if my friend did it a second time, I would continue the relationship, but I wouldn’t trust her with personal confidences any more. Have you ever heard the saying “You hurt me once, shame on you, You hurt me twice, shame on me.” ? I think that applies.  I think this is exactly what Big Mama may have meant by forgiving but not forgetting. I also think you may be able to do this by putting yourself in the position of the other person. I don’t think most people hurt others maliciously. I think they often unintentionally put their own needs above others. I know that analyzing a situation helps me understand it and allows me to move past it.

I’m not going judge those who cannot forgive for some inconceivable crime against them. I can’t claim to know their circumstances. But I do know that I have harbored resentment in my heart for past offenses and it stifled me. I was at a stand still in my own life. When I was able to release my anger and my pain and stop pointing blame at anyone, it was cathartic for me. I was able to love myself which enabled me to accept and impart love. In loving again, I was living.

Compassion is much easier on the body and soul a than antipathy. Either feeling is contagious and affects everyone around you. Negative energy blocks the path to peace. An atmosphere of bitterness is repressive where an environment of benevolence is inviting.

My opinion is that the art of forgiveness is the ability to move on.

51 thoughts on “The Art of Forgiveness

  1. what a beautiful post…
    I am very blessed in that I do find it rather easy to forgive.
    To me, God is so merciful , who am I to not forgive someone? However bad I have been betrayed.
    Honestly, I have forgiven even ex. I need to do that to continue living my life.
    It is a matter of attachment too. I have learn to be detached, not to let material or immaterial things to tie me down.
    have you a great week , Suzicate.
    you are such a beautiful soul.

  2. This is so wise and right on the money! Forgiveness is really a gift we give ourselves. Harboring ill will eats away at us. And I do agree with Big Mama about forgetting. It’s possible to forgive yet still remember. I would’ve disagreed when I was younger too, but as I age I think it’s prudent to remember some things or what did they happen for?

  3. Willie Nelson once sang “forgiving you is easy but forgetting takes a long long time” – so very true, and pretty much what Big Mama said. I agree with your interpretation of what she meant, and I agree with her. But to hang on to resentments and anger just takes far too much energy. It’s exhausting and takes you nowhere. Forgive and proceed with caution.

    • Thanks, I’d totally forgotten about that song…I could’ve added a youtube clip! You’re right it is exhausting and damaging to your own health. I like your proceed with caution.

  4. Amen Suzicate,

    I try my best to look at things from all directions before reacting or letting them get to me, just seeing it from a different point of view sometimes helps, yes it’s easier said than done and forgiveness may seem impossible at times but I agree with you it is a whole lot easier than holding it in.

    Excellent post.

  5. I think the ability and willingness to forgive is directly related to incident” affected you physically, emotionally or psychologically and how badly you were “hurt” by said infraction. Something that devastates you to your very core, especially if done purposely and with maliciousness is much harder to forgive. Of course that also depends on the circumstances and if you know the other persons story. You don’t always know why a person does the things they do and sometimes learning that may make a difference. If you never have the chance to learn the why it’s also harder to move on.

    • Ability and willingness to forgive can definitely be related to hurt, perception, or personality. I am always amazed when I hear of or read about people who forgive their rapists or the murderers of their loved ones…that undoubtably takes immense faith, compassion, and a strong sense of purpose. I can only imagine how much weight was lifted and how much easier (not that it would be easy) it would be to get on with their lives.

  6. I agree – you can absolutely forgive without forgetting. My goal, however, is to forget ENOUGH that it’s not the first (or second or third) thought that enters my head when I think about that person.

    I speak from experience when I say that releasing past hurts, big or small, is the key to peace. Holding on to that stuff is absolutely toxic. I lost a friend once before I was able to forgive her for something (a small something, but still…) and the guilt was miserable. Once I made peace with the situation, I started to properly grieve and heal.

    Now I strive to forgive – often just within myself, because it doesn’t always require some big confrontation – as quickly as possible.

    • People hurt themselves as much as the other person when they don’t forgive. And it is a choice, but one will never find a real peace in their lives if they don’t…but of course, not everyone is looking for peace. What you said about losing your friend before forgiving leaves a guilt that is hard to let go of. A friend and I were recently discussing how life is too short to hold on to such resentments and how incidents like that can stunt your life. I’m glad you made peace with it and were able to move on.

  7. Faaaaaabulous post, SC!

    And one that I needs to be shared so that we always remember.

    You summed it up so perfectly in your last sentence…

    “the art of forgiveness is the ability to move on.”

    I have to admit honestly, forgiveness does not come easily for me, but it’s been one of the most powerful lessons in my life.

    Thank you so much for shaing this, dear lady!


  8. I do forgive. It’s a choice to let it go, not that it doesn’t come back sometimes, then I forgive and release it again. I may not forget it, but I try to use it to make me a more compassionate person.

    Great post, one to really think about.

  9. Did you know that the concept of forgiveness is actually a religious concept and not a real psychological one? I am not sure I actually believe in forgiveness. I believe in the concept of acknowledgement of wrong doing and being heard when you feel you have been wronged. For me, this is the only way I can truly move on.

    • No, I did not know that. Is it a Catholic , Protestant, Jewish, or other? That’s interesting…I’ll have to look it up and see if I can find the origin.

      • It is something I have discussed with frequency with my therapist. She is educated on the topic and I find it all so interesting. There have been issues with people in my life where I felt I needed to forgive them and that is why we have discussed this topic in depth. Please let me know what you discover in your search…I am not sure of the origin. I would imagine catholic but I could be wrong.

  10. boy, are you right. I’m sure you can imagine after leaving my ex, I felt like I could only forgive him if I were Job.

    It’s amazing. Forgiveness does set the soul free and yet, it’s one of the hardest I can do.

    I’m not afraid to say I’m sorry, but it took years to get there. I do forgive ppl but I also don’t forget

  11. Somehow this got deleted without me knowing it. Sorry about that sweetie. This is a beautiful post on forgiving. Forgiving is not for the person who hurt us but for ourselves. Yes we do remember what was done to us but that doesn’t mean we don’t forgive. One day I will post and share also a devotional that I wrote on forgiveness. Your post on this subject was said beautifully.

    • I would love to read it, Viola. You’re right unforgiveness actually cause more harm to the person harboring it, and often they don’t even realizing it. Releasing it is a wonderful thing.

  12. Beautifully written post. There is so much truth here. I always tell my kids to think before they speak – once you say or do something hurtful, it can never be taken back. It will always be remembered, even if it is forgiven. Then I always remind them that no one is perfect and everyone deserves a second chance.

  13. I’ve only had one instance where I had trouble forgiving. It took me five years to forgive my brother for the financial devastation he brought on us by illicit goings on in the business partnership we had. I have forgiven him (in my mind – I’ve never told him) but I will forget it, the trust is broken permanently, and the relationship will never be the same.

    • The relationship might never be the same, but you learned a lesson and you still love him and forgave him…tha’t s important. I know that lifted a load off of you whether or not he ever knows.

  14. Forgiveness for me is not a act of my will but submitting to the will of God so that part is just easy to obey…but forgetting whew sometimes I feel like that is only for the divine and I’m a long way from that..but I keep walking. The hardest part for me sometimes is forgiving myself. This is a wonderful post.

  15. I completely agree. It is when we get caught up in the wrongdoings and mishaps that leave us angry and bitter. When we move on, we can fully enjoy life again.

  16. I tend to hold a grudge. But realize that letting go and forgiving is better for everyone involved. BUT…I will not be taken advantage of. That’s for sure. Great post. Love the new blue…

  17. I agree. Sometimes it seems like really letting go and forgiving is harder, because staying angry can be life-consuming, but in the end, you’re hurting yourself the most.

  18. Hi sweet Suzi. I agree with you so much. I believe you know my story regarding my biological father. Now go to my FB page and see the photo I just posted of me and dad.

    The photo was from last August. He lives in Tennessee, and I went up for a visit after my surgeries.

    It took a lot of time/heart/God to be able to have the relationship I do with him. It’s a miracle really, but my life is so much richer because I let it go. I didn’t say what he did was right, but I did forgive. And I’ve not forgotten because I use what I learned from the experiences to help others!!!

    Thanks for the post! You are wonderful in my book!

    • Trisha, You are a very special person. You turned something very bad into something good in the way you’ve dealth with it, moved on, and use it to help others. You are phenomenal. You are the epitomy of grace.

  19. Beautiful post SuziCate. I am terrible when it comes to forgiving and forgetting. Not the everyday little things but big things. I think part of the reason is that I find it so hard to actually talk about things and reveal my true feelings, especially if hurt.

    I am also historically bad at seeking forgiveness, for many of the same reasons. But (again we are on the same wavelength!) I am at least working on this one, thanks to my daughter as seeing her talk about when she knows she was in the wrong is making me feel that if she can do it then so can I.

  20. The angel who raised me taught me never to go to bed before making peace with those who have hurt you or made you angry, because you never know if you’ll wake to the new day. So, yes we must forgive
    in our hearts, even if circumstances do not allow us to physically speak the words to the person who has caused this pain. Nice post to remind us all. Heartspell

  21. Wow, SuziCate. Wow! Great post, I so agree.

    I agree with Maureen, too, forgiveness is a gift given to ourselves.

    I feel that a lot of people think as your mother did/does. They are stuck on that old saying “forgive and forget”. I sense

    that some people think you aren’t forgiving unless you forget, but to me that would be denying oneself a portion of the

    forgiveness gift. If I forgive someone for having done something to me that hurts me, I am not doing myself a service by

    allowing you to hurt me that same way again. In loving and respecting myself enough to not harbor ill feelings (they don’t

    call them ill for nothing), I also have to accept that I love and respect myself to not allow the offending party to make a

    fool out of me. I can learn from the hurt suffered. —JUST LIKE YOU SAID.

    “I know that analyzing a situation helps me understand it and allows me to move past it. . . . . My opinion is that the art

    of forgiveness is the ability to move on.” Thems powerful words, Missy-do!

    What you and Peg were commenting on . . . whew, that is a different story. That type of situation would take YEARS of therapy for me to even CONSIDER forgiving.

    Whew. All of your comments are almost as amazing as the post. When I was reading them I felt I could comment on all of the comments. I will spare you.

    Thanks for this post.

  22. There is so much more that I could say than the words in this little box.

    Yes,yes, absolutely yes: forgiveness is the ability to move on.

    But, for me, it’s hard to move on if I feel I havent’ been heard. My pain must be validated to me. To make it real and with an affirmation of yes, that was bad.

    Fantastic post, and so very very helpful.

    Thank you!

  23. Absolutely, I totally agree with this. Forgiveness is the ability to move on, to let go of anger, resentment, and pain. I’m very quick to forgive, but I don’t forget because forgetting allows the transgression to occur again.

    I managed to get behind on reading your posts. I plan to catch up on them in the next day or two!

  24. That quote speaks perfect truth, as when you forgive it’s like you are accepting yourself in all that has happened. It is a wake up call for the person who is accepting forgiveness, and letting go of the experiences once attached.

  25. Earlier this year I saw a film called Enemies of the People. I wrote a review on my blog if you are interested. It was the epitome of forgiveness from one man who lost his entire family at the hands of a despot leader. I came away thinking that if he could forgive, there isn’t anything I couldn’t forgive.

  26. I agree with Big Mama. To me it is one thing to forgive, but if you were to forget then it seems like you would spend forever forgiving the same offense. We have to learn from our experenses.

    It took me along time to forgive my mother, but once I did we have become close friends. I was the one holding the grudge for so long and it was holding me back from moving on.

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