This question has been bothering me for some time now, so I turn to you guys to help me out. I have a problem forgiving a select few individuals that have caused me great pain over the past few years. It basically resides in one part of my family, my step family. I cannot get along with my step dad, my step brothers and my step brothers relatives. My step dad, Bob, is a very mean guy. He’s never threatened physical violence on me or my mom, but yelling does occur quite often. Here comes the beefy part of my dilemma- about 3 months ago I found out that Bob was having an affair with a women besides my mom. I was crushed. I wanted to hurt him in every possible way. I wanted him to feel pain. But, I never did anything too drastic (meaning I only spit on a few of his things and left for my dad’s house for a few days). My mom still lives with him. She wonders why I can’t forgive and forget like she has. But I can’t forgive him no matter how hard I try. Is it wrong to hold a grudge? I have consulted various places for help on this matter, such as my parents, my friends, my friends parents, my religious teachings and advisors (I’m Lutheran). This guy not only hurt my mom, but me and my siblings as well. He’s never asked me for forgiveness, so I don’t plan on giving any to him. Should I turn the other cheek and forgive? Or wait till he wants to be forgiven? What should I do?

Drew aka Cow God

(Please don’t turn this into a religion theory thread)

Oh God Drew. First, let me day that I’m really sorry about what’s happening, and I hope it gets better.

As for forgiveness…personally, I can’t forgive someone unless they ask for it, either directly or indirectly. I’ve been deeply hurt by people too, and there are many I still hold a grudge against. And then there are some people I’ve forgiven over time - no real reason, I just couldn’t hate them anymore. Basically, I guess what I’m trying to say (and probably doing a bad job of it), is to go with what you feel. If you don’t want to forgive him, don’t. Do what’s best for you.

“Hindu Muslim Catholic creation-evolutionist”
-Neil Peart, RUSH, “You Bet Your Life”

Man, that’s a tough one. I think it’s safe to say that there is no easy solution.

First of all, let’s agree that forgiveness isn’t the kind of thing you can turn on or off. If you don’t feel like forgiving him, then you won’t, regardless of what you may say publicly.

Perhaps, the best you can hope for is some sort of acceptance. Keep in mind that whatever the reason for the affair was, it probably had nothing to do with you. You were not intended to be hurt, and you haven’t been, at least not directly.

This leaves your protective feelings for your mother. You want to keep her safe and unhurt, and your step father has hurt her. Even though your mother may forgive him, that doesn’t lessen your feeling of responsibility for her sake. This is as it should be. You don’t trust him, and probably you shouldn’t.

I know that your spiritual beliefs may contradict this somewhat, but I don’t think that forgiveness is always the best solution. This man needs watching. You want to help your mother, let your step father know that you are holding him accountable for your mother’s happiness. Be strong and brave. Don’t back down.

Finally, (and I know you said not to make this a religious topic, but…) pray! Everyone needs someone or something to go to in order to gain the energy needed to deal with problems. For the religious, it’s their belief in God(s). Pray for your mother’s well being and your step father’s repentence, but most of all pray for your own strength and endurance. And then, find the inner peace that believes that God will handle any aspect of this problem that you can’t. You’re just a human being, and there is a limit to what you can accomplish. If you try to deal with the situation beyond that limit, you’ll just make yourself crazy.

Ok. A lot of this I’m sure you already knew. Sometimes, it’s helpful to hear it from someone else. My thoughts are with you.

“The day after tomorrow is the third day of the rest of your life.” -George Carlin

Drew, in my personal experience, I don’t hold a grudge against anyone, including the guy who raped me when I was 16. Why?
Grudges are a matter of pride. “This person does not DESERVE my forgiveness, so he’s not getting it. I’ll hate him forever.”

The problem with grudges is this: the ONLY person you are hurting is yourself. The person you hate will probably not care whether or not you hate him, but holding on to that grudge wears you down and punishes you. I repeat: you are only hurting yourself.

So how do you go about forgiving someone who is a total jerk and clearly deserves your contempt? After I was raped, I was very disturbed for a long time. I could not get over my feelings of rage. Eventually I realized that by continuing to hate this person, I was allowing him (or the memory of him) to maintain this control over me. I didn’t want to give him that power anymore, so I forgave. I let it go. This does NOT mean that I would trust that person again, (just as your mother has forgiven but probably does not trust her husband as she did before).

Don’t punish yourself for something someone else did that was totally outside of your control. Holding a grudge gives him power over your emotions. Besides, if your mom can forgive him- she was certainly injured more than you by his infidelity- it’s possible for you to do the same. You may think it would be better if she divorced the jerk, and you may be right, but that’s not your choice to make.

Drew, I have to agree with a lot of what Holly says. NOT forgiving only hurts yourself. He’s certainly not hurt by it, the jerk! However, I think that in our culture, forgiveness has taken on some extra baggage so that it now means “allow the sin to pass, forget it ever happened, and start loving the trespassor (sp?) all over again.” I think this is wrong. I think forgiveness is basically accepting that someone did you dirty and moving on. It doesn’t mean you have have some emotional love for the guy, nor does it mean you shouldn’t keep an eye on him like a hawk! Forgiveness doesn’t mean your stupid, just that you’re not going to allow an event in your past to embitter you and allow it to effect the rest of your life. Good luck! I hope everything works out! I’ll say a prayer for you!

Check out this site – she’s got plenty to say about forgiveness vs. non-forgiveness, and incidentally writes a very cool advice column:

Personally, I’d say that it’s a question of what you DO feel rather than what you SHOULD feel. I tried willing myself to forgive my first boyfriend (I’d rather not go into the details of what he did, but it was thoroughly low-down and lousy), and it didn’t really work; I could mouth the words, but I was still just as angry deep down as I’d ever been. The way I see it, if it doesn’t come, don’t force it.