Have you forgiven someone for a major transgression against you?

The Wikipedia page for forgiveness makes important distinctions between forgivness and other actions that are often taken in the aftermath of a transgression.

I am amazed sometimes at what people can forgive. In this thread, Zebra mentions a documentary called “One Second To The Next,” in which people involved in horrible driving-while-texting crashes recount their stories. I was deeply moved by one particular case in that documentary, in which a young man crashed into an Amish buggy and killed three kids; a few weeks later the driver received a letter from the parents of those kids in which they acknowledged the hardship that he was surely facing along with them, and wished him well.

And last month, just a couple of days after the Charleston church shooting, relatives of the victims were addressing the perpetrator in court, proclaiming their forgiveness through quavering voices and tear-stained eyes.

I’ve never faced a situation like that, but I am doubtful that I could be so forgiving; I can’t imagine feeling anything but unbridled rage at someone who, through carelessness or spite, had inflicted such an injury upon me or mine. Especially in the latter case above, in which it’s not even clear yet that the perpetrator regrets his actions.

How about you? Have you forgiven someone for a major transgression against you or someone you care about?

Short answer, yes. Outweighed by the number under “No.”

Sorry, I’m still processing “Wikipedia page… for… forgiveness.” And not succeeding.

I forgave both my parents for not inviting me to their (re)weddings. They both thought they were doing the right thing since “it might have been disturbing to me,” or “it would have interfered with your studies.” (They’re Indians, don’t ask.)

Not quite on the “killed my children” level.

My husband was killed in a car accident. The other driver had fallen asleep at the wheel, crossed the median on a foggy night and struck my husband’s car. Both men lingered for a while, but there was little hope for either and within a few days, both died. At this point I was white hot Joan of Arc crusader woman, ready to avenge my husband and ruin that other family that took him from me. Then I met them in the hospital chapel. A young woman with 3 little boys. We sat beside one another and she told me their story, about how hard her husband had been working to support them, what a good dad he was, and how devastated he would have been if he’d known he took another man’s life. I looked up and suddenly saw her, not as an adversary, but as a sister in adversity. I looked at she and her children and realized the long road they had ahead of them and suddenly, all my anger just melted away. We embraced and cried and cried. At that moment we were the only two people who knew what we were going through.

I’m not an overtly religious person, but sitting in that chapel, I wondered if I’d experienced God’s hand on me at that moment, encouraging me to let go of my anger. I’d like to think so.

Forgiveness is God’s job. I’m just there to facilitate the meeting.

I’m willing to consider forgiveness. But only after repentance.

I’m much more willing to go with something that’s not really forgiveness but is close enough that the two get confused. That’s letting something go because I recognize that there is no need for forgiveness. Ideally, I would do this automatically in all situations where it’s appropriate.

I haven’t forgiven the Dr. for slapping me on my ass 40-odd years ago.

I’m still holding grudges for crap done to me in grade school.

Short answer, no. I hold grudges even if I don’t act on them. I go out of my way not to screw people, if I don’t get the same don’t expect me to turn the other cheek.

Mmm… I could say I forgave my ex-wife for a whole string of incidents that led to our divorce, in that I no longer resent her, and have let go of my negative feelings over the whole thing.

Doesn’t mean I’ll ever TRUST her again, but I’m not sure that’s the same thing.

I have had very few major transgressions, but I don’t hold grudges. They’re a waste of energy.

That scares me.That scares me a lot. I do feel your view it is the basis of most of humanities woes related to and responsible for all the evil in this world.

I think past a certain point it’s just a matter of self-identification. My next question to my daughter was this: Would it bother you if a grown up called you a little girl?

:shrug: “Neh”.

Luckily, I’ve never experienced something as awful as a family member being killed. I’ve only been on the receiving end of comparatively minor insults and injuries. If the person recognizes they’ve hurt me and seems genuinely sorry, I’m happy to forgive. If not, I harbor terrible, years-long grudges. I know this is unhealthy and hurts me worse than the other person. But I’m just not able to let go. I admire the strength of people who can forgive those who’ve hurt them, but I just can’t do it. I wish I could.

I can forgive bad judgement, I can’t forgive betrayal.

I sincerely doubt that their forgiveness is real, and certainly not so soon. I don’t mean that they are trying to be duplicitous, but that their self-image as god-loving christians (or good people of character, or however they’ve defined themselves) dictates to them that they should forgive, so they say the words in an attempt to make it true. Deep down, they are probably not actually fooling themselves, but it’s close enough to allow them to hold onto their self-image – which they probably need to do, given the emotional strain of the grief they are under.

I’m with you. Forgiveness is a favor granted to the person who screwed up; and I have no reason to do them any favors if they’re not sincerely regretful, they make no attempt to improve their behavior, and/or their transgression makes me uninterested in continuing a relationship with them.

People like to parrot the idea that forgiveness is for YOU, the forgiver, and not forgiving is a toxic weight you will carry with you, but that’s BS. I don’t need to forgive in order to move on. There are certainly people I’ve walked away from and left in my past, and I didn’t pause to pat them on the shoulder and say “I forgive you.” In fact it probably would have made me dwell on the whole thing for much longer, because I’d be dealing with the emotional merry-go-round of “I’m supposed to forgive. But I know that I haven’t.” Who needs that?

I think that teaching people that forgiveness of serious transgressions is a requirement for their own mental health is pretty toxic in itself.

As for forgiving big transgressions, yes, I have. The transgression was done out of ignorance and a general lack of resources and the emotional and intellectual tools that were needed in the circumstances. The person had done the best they could, and had always acted out of love, which was why it was easy to forgive even though the repercussions on me were lifelong. I DO still want (and have) a relationship with this person, so not forgiving would have got in the way.

I don’t know. I have moved on with my life. I interact daily with the person who did me severe harm and changed my childhood dramatically. I love him very much. I don’t know if I have forgiven him. If I think about my childhood it still hurts. I think it always will. But we’re both different people now.

I think we’ve just moved on. I’m not sure it’s forgiveness. I’m never going to think that my childhood was ok.

I’ve never experienced a major transgression worth forgiving, but I have been on the receiving side once. In college, a friend of mine, let’s call him Bob, did something that seriously violated the privacy of another friend Alice (who he hated for no good reason) for an extended period of time (a few weeks). I didn’t know of this in the beginning. When Bob revealed this to me later, I was obviously very uncomfortable with his actions, but not enough that I made him stop whatever he was doing. At the same time, I was a bit amused by a few things we learned of Alice. I never actively helped him do this, but I was a passive participant. I didn’t want to confront him on whatever he was doing, or reveal it to her.

We stopped after a month or so – maybe we just got bored of this. Then Alice came to know about this whole thing a few weeks later (I forget how this happened). I obviously apologised for my part in this. Initially she was angry and threatened that if she made a formal complaint, we will be in a pretty sorry state, which was kinda true. After cooling down a bit, she said she wants to move on and she forgave us. She pointed to me that while she was aware that Bob didn’t like her, she would’ve expected me to act more decently, especially since I was her friend. A slap in the face.

I do know that she was good on her word. We became a lot closer after the event, and we bonded like brother & sister during the time we were college. We are still Facebook friends and meet once every few years, but not in constant touch anymore.

Serious question: what is the difference between forgiving and moving on? I feel they are mostly the same. (I know forgiveness has religious connotations, but let’s strip that away for the sake of this question.)

Yes, but I find forgiveness is like a loving thing. You have to “feed” it once in a while and remind yourself “I have forgiven that. I need to let go of the anger, since I forgave.” Eventually it’s automatic, but it can take effort and nurturing at first.

No, taking revenge against people who’ve harmed you is wrong and is a cause for problems.

Well, I said upthread that forgiveness is what you do if you want to maintain a relationship with the person. It’s both a palliative to a sincerely regretful transgressor (soothing their guilt), and it allows a relationship to go on without dwelling – because if you interact with this person, not at a distance, you either have a daily reminder of what they did, or you accept it as a mistake they learned from that they won’t be doing again. It rebuilds trust on both sides. It allows for empathy.

Trust is not needed for someone you don’t allow in your life, and distrust is often (usually) an excellent protective mechanism against those who have proven untrustworthy.

If there’s another definition of forgiveness, I’m unaware of it. That bit about forgiving someone who shows no regret, I don’t get. There is no trust to be had, there. As I said, I strongly suspect such “forgiveness” is a lie they tell themselves.

I’m still pissed off at the Kaiser, never mind Hitler.