What Forgiveness Is and Is Not: Seven Rules of Forgiveness


Too often forgiveness is a burden on the wounded. Instead the imperative of accountability must be on the abuser.

When I’m told to forgive, I think about

my math tutor when I was barely twelve years old, who shouted in my face and dug his fingers in my shoulders

a grown woman who beat me for “misbehaving” at a public pool when I was seven

students who randomly assaulted me in school calling me racial slurs

the thousands of hate crimes and murders both reported and unrecorded against POC

the dozens of stories I’ve heard from patients assaulted by their most trusted people.

But I’m told to just let go. “Forgiveness is a gift.”
Is it? How is it a gift to remove this knife from my gut that never should’ve been there? Why is abuse became the abused person’s problem to solve?

Forgiveness is powerful, yes. On the other side there’s freedom. But when forgiveness is demanded of a victim in a bad power dynamic—who benefits? Abusive people and systems often act in a remorseless repetition of violence. It’s that very violence which keeps power and profit.

I have learned it is more wrong
not to be angry at injustice.
Why demand the wounded
to be level-headed, neutral, watch their tone, to grow, be resilient, be the example, take the high road?
Sometimes the high road
goes right off a cliff.

Inside anger
I hear the voice of grief
because the abused person
had their life interrupted
and never asked for an apology
—they needed honor for their dignity.

Here are some of my rules on forgiveness.
1) Forgiveness does not mean friendship.
2) Forgiveness is a daily choice that can take a lifetime.
3) No one can rush your forgiveness, ever.
4) You can be angry while forgiving.
5) Forgiveness does not negate justice.
6) If you have been abused and traumatized, then forgiveness is not a prerequisite for your recovery. To make forgiveness a burden on the abused only enables the abuser. It also mocks the abused. To skip anger is to bypass pain and therefore true recovery.
7) Do not make forgiveness an imperative burden to force a romanticized outcome of “peace,” especially on the abused and oppressed. All you’ll do is guilt trip already wounded people into a false truce.

— J.S.

2 thoughts on “What Forgiveness Is and Is Not: Seven Rules of Forgiveness

  1. I would add that forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. If it did we would be vulnerable to more attacks by the same person. We shouldn’t hold it in our minds constantly because if we do we will continue to be hurt even more while the person that hurt us has probably forgotten about it. Someone once said forgive your enemies but remember their names. You need to protect yourself from further attacks from them if the opportunity arises.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.