Forgiveness can sometimes feel impossible or even undesirable. Other times, we forgive only to be hurt again and conclude that forgiving was foolish. Both situations arise from confusion about what forgiveness really means. Forgiveness doesn’t require that we forget or condone another’s actions or the harm caused. In fact, for self-protection, rather than anger, we may decide to never see the person again. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we justify or play down the hurt caused. Codependents often forgive AND forget, and continue to put themselves in harms’ way. They forgive and then rationalize or minimize their loved one’s abuse or addiction. This is their denial. They may even contribute to it by enabling. We should never deny, enable, or condone abuse.
Darlene Lancer, JD, LMFT is a marriage and family therapist. She is a relationship expert and author of “Codependency for Dummies” and “Conquering Codependency and Shame: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You,” as well as five ebooks.. Her articles have been published widely in professional and popular periodicals. She has worked extensively in the field of addiction and codependency. Her philosophy is to encourage each person to determine their own abstinence and treatment objectives.
Editor: Samreen Masaud
Meaning of Forgiveness
“Forgiveness is releasing a prisoner and discovering the prisoner was you,” said Hilary Clinton. When we hold grudge, hostility can sabotage our ability to enjoy the present and our future relationships. Ongoing anger harms us and actually has negative health consequences. It raises blood pressure, impairs digestion, and creates psychological symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, and mental and physical pain.
“Holding anger is poison. It eats you from inside. We think that hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves.” Mitch Albom, from “The Five People You Meet in Heaven”
The opposite is true of forgiveness, which improves mental and physical functioning. Although forgiveness can mean to pardon, generally, it means to let go of resentment, releasing us from obsessive or recurring negative thoughts. When we “forgive our enemies,” we relinquish any desire for payback, revenge, or that misfortune comes to them. Empathy and understanding toward our offender help us forgive. If we’re in a relationship, we attempt to rebuild trust and may set boundaries around our partner’s conduct in the future. Although the past impacts, informs, and shapes us, we’re able to make constructive changes and move on in peace.