Should I Forgive in Order to Heal?

10 March, 2020
Forgiveness is a complex milestone to reach. Its value is immeasurable, as is the damage caused when society tries to force you to forgive.

Forgiveness is no easy challenge. It’s even harder when a person close to you harmed you. The depth of the damage caused can also complicate matters. This article closely examines and attempts to answer the question: is it important to forgive in order to heal?

In reality, whatever ideas or solutions you come up with, there’s no universal guidebook for healing wounds. Neither those you cause nor those others caused you. However, the pain is still real and can prevent you from moving towards forgiveness. Also, it could keep you from moving on.

A woman resting her head on her hand, looking pensive.

What forgiveness is all about

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word forgive means “to cease to feel resentment against an offender”.

On the other hand, beyond semantics, every culture experiences and understands forgiveness in a different way. Even the same person may see it in a different way at different stages of their life.

However, both parties can view the act of forgiveness as a form of relief. Forgiveness has even been considered therapeutic. Many people who manage to forgive report that a large weight has been lifted off their shoulders.

Forgive in order to heal as an obligation

Some societies and groups project the idea of forgiveness as a virtue, which makes it feel like a kind of duty. Thus, many people pretend to grant forgiveness out of a sense of obligation. This, in turn, shortens the natural process of forgiveness. Thus, this false projection of forgiveness ends up turning into an obstacle in order to grant, reach, or receive it.

If you consider situations the majority of people would find difficult to come to terms with, such as rape, perhaps it’s easier to understand why it’s so hard to forgive. That being said, if someone who has suffered feels obliged to forgive, they may feel guilty for not doing so.

Thus, forgiveness doesn’t always lead to healing if all it does is prolong the suffering. Therefore, you should reconsider asking when forgiveness is appropriate.

Sometimes, people associate forgiveness with forgetting an offense. When you force yourself to do this, it can also cause serious harm. For this reason, there are some who believe that forgiveness goes above and beyond the act of forgetting. These people suggest trying to free yourself of the burden so that it can’t harm you. By freeing yourself of this burden, you can recall the event without the negative feelings that used to accompany it.

A woman bowing with her hands together, contemplating forgiveness.

Forgive in order to heal

However, if forgiveness were a true choice, it would obviously help you heal. It would help even in those situations where forgiveness seems impossible to imagine.

How is this possible? You need to view forgiveness as an act of release, and not exclusively one of reconciliation. Then, you can let the ill-feeling and anger go or express it, forgiving what happened and considering it a life lesson. But if you consider it an act of reconciliation, it’s harder to apply it to all situations.

Additionally, you’re well within your rights to take time to forgive or to never do so. Equally, you’re within your rights to heal without taking any action at all. Not all healing involves forgiveness. For example, resilience helps to overcome situations that cause great pain.

That being said, if you want to work towards forgiveness or discover how to achieve it, some books can help. A great option is 7 Steps of Forgiveness by Daniel Lumera.

Furthermore, if forgiveness is too hard for you, it’s possible to redefine your experience. In other words, give them a new meaning, one that’s healthier for you. This encourages learning and helps you become more in tune with who you are<.

In short, forgiveness is a very personal choice. It depends on the beliefs you associate with it, on the society you live in, and on what you’ve learned, among other aspects.

Lumera, D. (2014). Los siete pasos del perdón. Barcelona: Ediciones Obelisco.