Do you forgive others and yourself?

Lately I’ve been thinking about forgiveness and trying to define it for myself. It occurs to me that maybe I’ve never really forgiven anyone else OR myself for transgressions, failures, bad things they/I did. The more I tried to come up with a definition of forgiveness, the slipperier it became.

Does it mean restoring the situation back to the way things were before the misdeed? But that can’t really happen, can it? Like the song says, something has been “broken and cannot be mended.” And you don’t really forget, nor should you. Does it only mean “getting past it,” and/or “moving on” leaving the wreckage behind? Not holding a grudge?

I think of stuff I’ve done that didn’t even involve anyone else… stuff from decades ago… and I just cringe and don’t know how to look at these events in any way except with deep regret. I’m not saying I’m a particularly bad person, nor do I obsess over this stuff, but when I do think of it, I dunno, I can’t forgive myself. I’m not talking about evil deeds where malice was intended-- that would be VERY hard to forgive. Just maybe carelessness, or “I should have known better.”

A made-up example (**not **an actual event, but similar to the kind of thing I’m getting at): Let’s say I was taking in your mail while you were out of town and I accidentally set the alarm wrong when I left (due to the fact that I thought I understood your instructions but it turns out I didnt) and you were robbed. Or I was walking your dog and accidentally let go of the leash (due to not having a tight grip on it as I should have had) and the dog ran out in traffic and was killed.

I know someone who wasn’t paying attention in the car (many years ago, long before cell phones) and accidentally hit a person and killed him. HOW would you ever forgive yourself for that?

Then it occurred to me that maybe no one ever really forgives him/herself for stuff, but they just say they do? Do you forgive? Have you forgiven? if so, how, and what was it like?

I do understand that holding a grudge imprisons YOU long after the OP has prolly forgotten the incident, so I get the need for and practicality of doing it. I just don’t understand the HOW of it.

Soooo…? Other people don’t think about this?

I forgive others if I can see a sincere desire and effort to be forgiven.

I rarely forgive myself. If I do, it seems like its just the first step along a slippery slope to rationalizing bad behavior. I’ve caught a lot of grief both personally and professionally from slick people who instantly rationalize their bad behavior and “self forgive”.
A few I’ve met must think they have a STAPLES plastic button in their pocket which spouts out “I’m Forgiven” as they walk away laughing. Its a personal judgement of mine not to like these people (and a personal challenge not to point and say “-sshole!” every time I see one of them).

I do not wish to ever become one of them.

I never forgive. Especially me. I don’t deserve forgiveness, I should have known better. And if I can’t be forgiven, the rest you are out of luck.

Forgive others, yes, or how can I ask them to forgive me? I’ve certainly done enough.

Forgive myself? Rarely if ever.

I forgive. In fact, I probably forgive too easily. It’s definitely something I picked up from my mother, who is way too incredibly nice to everyone, even people she really ought to cut all contact with.

I’ve got a few incidents in my life that I wish I hadn’t done, but I can’t say that I beat myself up over them or worry too much about it. I guess I don’t even really understand the concept of “forgiving” myself. If I do something stupid, well, I did something stupid. I try not to do it again. No use berating myself over and over, or walking around wracked with guilt.

When I’m the unfortunate recipient of someone else doing something stupid, I pretty much get over it. People are human; they do stupid and/or bad stuff sometimes. If I like that person, sure, I forgive them. Extra points if they own up to it and apologize.

There’s only a handful of people in my life that I truly will not ever forgive for what they did. Actually, only one that I absolutely won’t let back in my life; the others are just accept that they have this part about them that I don’t like and I minimize my contact with them. And a couple more who I wouldn’t ever let back in my life, but both of them were co-workers who live across the country and I will probably never run into again ever, so it’s a moot point.

No and no.

Perhaps this why I’ve always lived alone, never married or had kids, and am patiently waiting for death.

Well that explains why you still have patience.

I don’t think forgiving yourself means you are justifying or rationalizing your bad behavior. For me, forgiveness means I just stop hating myself.

It’s the same with others. Forgiveness is the point at which I can look at someone and no longer feel hatred for what they’ve done.

Minor example: my brother left his socks in my room. I have since forgiven him, but that doesn’t mean I think his actions were justified. I just no longer hate him for his transgressions.

Learning to forgive others, is only half of the lesson of forgiveness. The easy half!

It’s the same with compassion, compassion for yourself is much harder to manifest, than for another. But you aren’t really practicing compassion or forgiveness if you only have it for others.

Try and imagine someone you love already with the same flaws, say, your Gran. Would you forgive her? Would you find a way to frame her flaws that was generous and compassionate but still accurate? I think you would, and I think you could. Chances are your Gran does have some of the same flaws, it’s not that hard an exercise.

Whenever you catch yourself, beating yourself up over something, stop and think, “Would I talk to my Gran this way, if she had done this?” If the answer is No, then smarten up. The problem is that, often people with the habit have a hard time even seeing it anymore. If you can still identify when you’re hearing that unforgiving voice you should actually be counting your blessings - there’s still hope! Recognize it, stop it, rewrite it, be vigilant.

Why would anyone want to receive only half the value, held within, the gifts of compassion and forgiveness? You already know how to manifest both, step up your game and learn to do so, for your tragically flawed self!

(The poor sap deserves it, they’ve taken a terrible beating, show a little mercy, would ya?)

None of us are perfect. Accept that you are flawed, and forgive yourself. This doesn’t mean forget about trying to improve, it means not making things worse by harboring negative feelings. Once you have learned to forgive yourself, extend the same break to your fellow humans.

How? You’ve got to convince yourself that you, and the world, are better off when mistakes are forgiven. You and the world are better off that way, but you’ve got to buy it.

Forgiveness is between you and God. I’m just here to arrange the meeting.

I try but I’m afriad I’m not nearly as good at it as I should be. :frowning:

That’s why it’s called ‘practicing’ compassion and ‘practicing’ forgiveness. Keep practicing!

Flaws are no problem to accept. It’s the DEEDS resulting in BAD OUTCOMES that are harder to get past.

For example, if trust is broken between you and another, it’s easy to forgive them their flaws-- yes, we’re all human, etc. But how soon would you TRUST them again (practically speaking)?

Well, some flaws are hard to accept too.
The question is difficult and profound. I don’t have any answers, only experience and continued questions.

I have never gotten any kind of handle on what forgiveness actually is. Trust is quite different than forgiveness, for one thing. Forgetting is also a different thing.

My best take on forgiveness is that it is more like “letting go” than anything else. Here’s two recent examples for me:

One of my parents singled me out for horrible treatment all my life. I spent much of my adulthood working on the concept of forgiveness for that treatment, as my anger at that parent and the anger at myself for being somehow deserving of that treatment was ruining my life. About when I turned forty I just stopped thinking about it. I suddenly saw this person as just a human being who had been in my life, flawed, in some ways tragic, who now lacked the power to harm me. That’s all. No hidden wellspring of love has appeared although now I do feel a less ambivalent compassion, but a great relief nevertheless. Did I suddenly trust after a lifetime of mistrust? No, that would be stupid, as neither remorse nor understanding has ever been shown. Is that forgiveness? I kind of doubt it but I’ll take it.

Another is one of my siblings who shows no remorse, indeed she has a strangely different interpretation altogether, of how she both emotionally and financially damaged another sibling who was in a fragile financial state. She says she is mystified why that sibling doesn’t want to talk to her, why I say I can’t trust her, why my parents reacted with horror and anger. Can I forgive her at all? Not so far. It would take some genuine expression of regret commensurate with the damage, and most likely, an effort to atone.

Even then I’m just not sure what I would feel.

Generally speaking, as long as a person who has damaged me or mine still has the power to inflict more harm, I don’t seem to be able to get to the other side of it. I need safety in order to forgive, I guess.

I’ve struggled with what the idea of “forgiveness” really means. I guess it means to emotionally let go of resentment over something, but I don’t know.

I generally try to give both others and myself a lot of slack, because everyone has different values and expectations.

But if someone I interact with regularly has slighted me in some way, it’s more an issue of caginess. I’m not inclined to be angry per se but I am inclined to be extra vulnerable. If they keep doing the same annoying thing, well, it builds up and I’m likely to spend less and less time with them in person.

I tend to forgive myself, if only because I was brought up in a “guilt” culture and I’ve learned to immunize myself against the excessive effects of this. If I truly feel like I’ve made a mistake I’ll own up to it and make some sort of amends. If I don’t or if it’s ambiguous then I’ll let future interactions inform me. I try to live in the moment and respond directly and organically with people.

But, in general, I still have trouble distinguishing between genuine forgiveness, and simply being mindful of how likely people are to behave a certain way.

I don’t think forgiveness requires leaving oneself open to being harmed all over again.

Forgiveness on your part doesn’t require repentance or even acknowledgement of wrongdoing on theirs. It does mean getting past the anger, the hurt, the resentment, and accepting the person who hurt you for who and what they are, including your more fully informed understanding of who they are. It means emotional openness to that person if it was there before.

But it doesn’t mean putting yourself in the same bad situation again. It may mean being honest with the other person about why you won’t. And not in sorrow or in anger, just a simple ‘this is how I’ve experienced you, and this is why I can’t trust you like that anymore’ sort of thing.

It isn’t easy to get there. Forgiving others for nontrivial hurts goes against so much of what is in us. Our souls would be better places if it were easier than it is, but that’s not how we are.

I appreciate these insightful comments.

I’m not interested in forgiving others, and I’m not into beating myself up for past mistakes.