For many, it can be difficult to recognize that someone close to us could have acted malevolently toward us, taken pleasure in our pain, and continued being hurtful despite having nothing to gain except self-satisfaction. When clients tell me of travesties they have endured, and how cruelly they have been treated, particularly in cases of child abuse, the idea of forgiveness often comes up, usually independently: “I know I need to forgive…” or “I don’t know how I can forgive.”
These words are powerful because within them lies a concept which attacks the will of the hurt individual, including his or her self-concept, self-esteem, and understanding of the world, people, and, indeed, themself. Is there a need to forgive? No, there is a need to understand and to accept, and there is a need to hold the wrongdoer accountable, if even by laying the blame where it ought to be in conversation with a therapist or friend.
There is a need to grieve the idea of what could or should have been; there is a need to love the younger self who has endured the hardship; and there is a need to make a plan to move forward.
Forgiveness is an emotional and psychological phenomenon that likely carries evolutionary weight, allowing us to function in a society built on trust.
In most cases, forgiveness is healthy, needed, and recommended. Sometimes, however, there’s more power in not forgiving, but learning from encounters of malevolence, growing, and moving on.
McCullough, M. E., Worthington Jr, E. L., & Rachal, K. C. (1997). Interpersonal forgiving in close relationships. Journal of personality and social psychology, 73(2), 321.
Written By Mariana Bockarova Originally Published In Psychology Today
The next time you struggle with forgiveness, stop, and think about who is on the other side. Malevolent and toxic people don’t deserve your forgiveness. Forgiving someone can be freeing, but when it comes really bad people, just forget about them and move on with your life.