Enforced Forgiveness is perpetuation of abuse
Don't join the cult of forgiveness
Good afternoon fellow travellers, greetings from the wide brown land. I've just completed the video to complement PodCast 3, All About Forgiveness. You can find the video here, and the PodCast here. Please like, subscribe and feel free to share and comment :)
In this episode, I discuss why the cult of forgiveness does more harm than good. As always, these are my opinions, I'm not your Counsellor :) Please don't change your life based only on my opinions!
Everyone is an individual, and we all have different pathways to processing our more negative feelings, so let's talk about what you can do instead of lecturing people about forgiveness. If someone is struggling telling them they should forgive almost certainly won't help them. I discuss what you can do instead, if you actually want to help them, and not just make yourself feel better!
People who are instructed to forgive have usually experienced trauma, some sort of injury has been done to them, whether emotional or physical. By invalidating their feelings and telling them to move on, well-meaning people make them feel worse, not better.
In my opinion, you can't force someone to change their feelings, but you might encourage them to change how they feel about you, if you're insensitive enough to inist they must forgive to move on.
I also made a statement which you might find startling. I believe that sometimes people choose to "forgive" out of weakness. Because they haven't got the gumption to fight for what's right. Not always, but sometimes, I see forgiveness as a weak person's decision to not deal with the situation or reality.
Forgiveness can be legitimately healing, of course. Or it can be cowardice, not wishing to face what has happened or fight for retribution. It can also sometimes be the only way to process something that has happened to you which you have no way of exacting retribution for. Perhaps people forgive for other reasons too, perhaps you know of some.
But one thing forgiveness is not, is required. If you're that person walking around telling people to "forgive" and posting silly memes about forgiveness (insert irritating aphorism about swallowing poison, holding fire and so on), it's almost certain that you're trying to accommodate and soothe your own feelings, not the person who's been harmed.
Other people's strong feelings can make us feel uncomfortable. But if you care about someone, and they are the person who is suffering, try not to make it all about you.
Many seem to prefer black and white thinking. But the fact is, we're individuals, every "trigger" circumstance and personality is different. There is no one-size-fits-all behaviour or guidance that will work for all of us.
So, if you actually care about making someone feel better, not just making yourself more comfortable, letting someone feel their own feelings without trying to impose yours upon them is one of the kindest things you can do.
As I say in the video, not forgiving doesn't mean you have to walk around angry for the rest of your life. Not forgiving does not = anger, resentment, sadness, toxicity forever. There are other ways to process your feelings.
And some things are, for some people, unforgivable.
And that's just fine. It has to be, because trying to stop someone from feeling their own feelings not only doesn't work, it sometimes makes them double down on their negativity.
So, if you care about someone, and if you can do so safely (remember, you have a right to personal safety and must set your own boundaries too!) lend an ear, let someone feel their feelings, at the very least try to avoid telling them how to feel.
One suggestion I have for helping someone not to spend too much time enraged, sad, angry or otherwise enveloped in negativity is distraction, which I discuss in this episode. I also discuss visualisations, and how they help me.
In a future PodCast, I'll tackle grief and loss and what not to say to the bereaved, with some practical suggestions about how you can actually help them. For my next PodCast, I'll be discussing The Cashless Con.
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As always, your feedback is welcomed. Until the next time, constant reader. Wishing you fair winds, and a following sea.
Alison Tennent, Queensland, Australia, March 2021
Copyright Alison Tennent 2021, all rights reserved. Scottish by birth, upbringing and bloodline, Australian by citizenship. If you’re reading this anywhere but Medium or The Garrulous Glaswegian, this work may have been plagiarized.