When it’s ok to forget forgiveness

There are a number of studies that claim forgiveness is good for you. But sometimes it’s ok not to forgive.

The Greater Good Science Center notes, “Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.”

Forgiveness can be therapeutic. A 2017 study reported in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine posited that forgiveness can lower stress and contribute to mental health.  Another study found,1”an intentional, purpose-driven disposition bent toward forgiveness — produced in those participants who undertook forgiveness perceived senses of mental well-being, which included reductions in negative affect, feeling positive emotions, experiencing positive relations with others, discerning sensibilities of spiritual growth, and identifying a sense of meaning and purpose in life as well as a greater sense of empowerment. ”

Don’t you love how researchers complicate simplicity? What I think that means is if you can forgive, it’s possible to feel better.

When we hang on to anger, we suffer.  And we get to decide how we want to spend your brain cycles. We don’t have to let bad people in.

  • You don’t have to forgive if you are still in the middle of PTSD.
  • You don’t have to forgive if that brings a bad person back into your orbit.
  • You don’t have to forgive if the damage can’t be undone.
  • You don’t have to forgive if you’re not ready, even if they have apologized.

Tina Gilbertson, writing in Psychology Today believes forgiveness may be based on three conditions:

  1. A good apology
  2. A good outcome
  3. An end to the offending behavior

Those can be helpful signposts on the road to forgiveness. Unlike many roads traveled, it’s a highway we get to build for ourselves, when we feel like it.

Forgiveness and grief exist on the same plane. You move through them on your time line, not on somebody else’s. Don’t rush it.

  1. Akhtar S, Dolan A, Barlow J. Understanding the Relationship Between State Forgiveness and Psychological Wellbeing: A Qualitative Study. J Relig Health. 2017;56(2):450–463. doi:10.1007/s10943-016-0188-9 []