I Want Revenge: Finding Forgiveness

Client: “If I forgive them, it will be as if I were condoning what they did.”
Therapist: Don’t confuse forgiveness with excusing. To condone means to “let pass without punishment.” You are not being asked to ignore their behavior, but to forgive them for doing it. “Hate the sin, not the sninner. Seperate the act from the actor, Differentiate the person from the circumstance. ” Hating people poisons our lives and does not have much of an effect on them in the end, anyway.

Client: “Why should I give them the satisfaction of forgiving them?”
Therapist: Are you living your life in terms of depriving others of their ‘satisfaction’? That cannot be a very gratifying lifestyle for you, and it doesn’t deprive them of anything. It’s a game you’re playing with yourself. You can choose to stop playing it anytime you want. You can free yourself to live your life on more realistic terms. Besides you don’t have to tell them you did it.

Client: “I am afraid that if I forgive them it will make me vulnerable to being hurt again in the future.”
Therapist: Where is it written that if you don’t forgive, it will make you tough and secure? You cannot prevent hurtful things from happening to you in an imperfect world by refusing to forgive. That is not ‘strength of character’, that’s brooding and pouting. There is no connection between holding a grudge and security. You can cope with hurtful things as they come, just like anyone else. You don’t need to prevent them from happening. The irony is that your out-of-control suppressed anger is giving rise to anxiety, which creates the insecurity. As a worthwhile human being, you can choose to see these painful events as disappointments and inconveniences. You deal with these circumstances on a daily basis.

Client: “If I forgive them, I will forfeit my entitlement to get revenge on them someday!”
Therapist: Are you afraid that if you forgive them, the judge will throw your case out of court? That is absurd. There is no judge and no court, just angry people who don’t know how to relieve their own distress. Does this dream of vengeance make you happy? Or does it merely prevent you from living your life? By holding on to these painful feelings, you are giving these people excessive significance. By putting these people first in your life, you are making yourself last. Life is too short for this unpleasant, spitefulness. You pay a high price for reserving the right to be as cruel to them as they were to you.

Client: “If I forgive them, I’ll forfeit my right to get angry at them again, later.”
Therapist: Forgiveness now does not preclude becoming angry again. You can always forgive them again if you do.

Client: “If I forgive them, it means that I have to go over there and kiss them on the cheek.”
Therapist: There is no law stating what you “have to.” Cheek-kissing is entirely optional. Do not confuse forgiveness with approval.

Client: “I can’t forgive them. It’s unforgivable what they did!”
Therapist: They have hurt you terribly, and your pain and anger are real. What is not appropriate is your standing in judgment on their guilt. That is a full-time job. It only compounds your pain long after the event. It leaves emotional scars that were cannot be treated by doctors. Writing will help clear the way to forgiving this terrible person for what he/she did, not for his/her benefit, but for yours. Human imperfection is regrettable, but forgivable in the privacy of your own heart.

Warrior woman photo available from Shutterstock

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Shared by: Aaron Karmin, LCPC, Contributing Blogger

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