Fuck “Forgiveness”

Some of the phrases most likely to make me instantly hulk out are “you need to forgive”, “let it go”, and “move on.” All of those piss me off, but “forgive” is the absolute worst. “Forgiveness” seems like such a nice, happy concept, so you’re probably wondering why I have such a deep and passionate loathing for that stupid fucking word. Let’s start with the dictionary.com definition so we can then throw it out the window:

forgive

— vb , -gives , -giving , -gave , -given
1. to cease to blame or hold resentment against (someone or something)
2. to grant pardon for (a mistake, wrongdoing, etc)
3. ( tr ) to free or pardon (someone) from penalty
4. ( tr ) to free from the obligation of (a debt, payment, etc)

Ceasing to blame or hold resentment against someone sure sounds like a nice idea. So does granting a pardon, or forgiving a debt. The problem is that when people say “you need to forgive” they don’t mean “I want you to be happy and being super pissed off about ___ is not making you happy.” What they always seem to mean is “I’m uncomfortable with your anger. How about you shove it down until you choke on it?” Shockingly enough, I don’t respond terribly well to being told that I don’t even get to have my own goddamn feelings about all the terrible shit that’s happened to me, or that my completely justified rage is less important than some random fuckface’s comfort.

People also seem to have this idea that once you’ve “forgiven” someone, whatever happened magically becomes okay and everyone acts like it never happened. Fuck that noise. Nothing is ever going to make what happened to me “okay.” No empty fucking platitude is going to give me a happy childhood or a mother who loved me (why yes, there is a post coming about kink and childhood abuse), and I’m not going to pretend otherwise for anyone else’s convenience.

To make things right, much more than one-sided “forgiveness” (read, swallowing my emotions so that no one else has to think about what happened) is necessary. Real forgiveness is earned with honest acknowledgement of wrongdoing and sincere, ongoing, and above all successful efforts to make amends. If you promise something will never happen again and it does, guess what? You don’t fucking deserve to be forgiven. Not that people have to be perfect to make amends, but they have to fucking try. Without any efforts from the people who hurt me to make things right, it is literally impossible for me to “forgive.”

In all the time I’ve spent thinking about forgiveness or letting go or moving on, I’ve read precisely one article that has anything remotely useful to say about forgiveness. To paraphrase fairly heavily, that article says there are three steps to take before you can forgive:

1. Acknowledge the harm done.

2. Feel your feelings about it.

3. Talk about it.

The standard “forgiveness” bullshit allows me to do precisely zero of those things. Instead, it tells me that I should just stop being angry, as if I can flip my emotions on and off like a fucking light switch, that I don’t have the right to feel inconvenient feelings about it, and that I shouldn’t talk about it. Funny how all those things do much more good for my abuser than they do for me.

I’ve tried not acknowledging the harm that’s been done to me, and it’s fucking exhausting to pretend things are okay when they are most certainly not. I’ve tried not feeling my feelings too. Trying to swallow my anger just made it worse, to get anywhere I had to decide I had the right to be angry and that I was damned well going to keep being angry until I was good and done. I still hate talking about it, but keeping it a secret is just one more way to pretend it never happened.

Fuck forgiveness, fuck the idea that I don’t have the right to be angry, and especially fuck the idea that other people’s convenience is more important than my well being.

If you want to actually help someone who had been hurt to move on, strike the word “forgive” from your vocabulary. Instead, say “What happened to you was terrible”, “You have a right to be angry”, “Do you want to talk about it?”, and “Is there anything I can do to help?”

If you can’t manage that, then at the very least be honest about what you really mean if you feel the need to spout some bullshit about how they need to let go. Admit that you don’t give a flying fuck at a rolling donut about their happiness and that all you want is for them to shut up about how they were hurt so you can go back to pretending nothing is wrong. And then admit that you’re a worthless sack of shit.

28 thoughts on “Fuck “Forgiveness”

  1. Wisest thing anyone ever said to me about forgiveness: Turning the other cheek is condoning evil.

    There have been times when I have forgiven people who haven’t made any effort to make things right, but that’s only been after YEARS of working through my feelings, understanding what happened and why, finding ways to protect from it happening again, and THEN deciding that I was tired of being angry. And that is most definitely the exception.

    IMO the proper order of things is repentance, restitution (as much as possible) and forgiveness comes last. But people want us to skip straight to forgiveness without the fuckers who hurt us doing any of the work. Fuck that shit.

    • Wisest thing anyone ever said to me about forgiveness: Turning the other cheek is condoning evil.

      That is fantastic and I plan to steal it if the opportunity ever comes up.

      There have been times when I have forgiven people who haven’t made any effort to make things right, but that’s only been after YEARS of working through my feelings, understanding what happened and why, finding ways to protect from it happening again, and THEN deciding that I was tired of being angry. And that is most definitely the exception.

      That’s what I’m working toward myself. I call it acceptance rather than forgiveness because of my issues with the word, but I think we’re talking about the same thing. If it happens for me at all, that’s the exact order it’s going to happen in – there is absolutely no acceptance or forgiveness before I’m good and done being angry.

    • Jess – I don’t think “turn the other cheek” has anything to do with forgiveness. I think that passage is saying don’t give attention to people who do bad things. Like the Biblical version of, “Don’t feed the trolls.” And like how we make serial killers into celebrities. Ain’t nothing good comes of that kind of positive reinforcement from society.

      Stabbity – “Shockingly enough, I don’t respond terribly well to being told that I don’t even get to have my own goddamn feelings about all the terrible shit that’s happened to me, or that my completely justified rage is less important than some random fuckface’s comfort.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  2. YES to this entire post.

    See also: people who comfort someone by telling them to stop crying instead of inviting them to cry as long as they need to. That, too, is bullshit that does nothing for the upset person and only serves to put the “comforter” more at ease.

    • Oh, good point. I’m so used to seeing “don’t cry” as generic comforting thing to say that I never really thought about just how dickbaggy it is.

  3. Basically all of this.

    Often, the cries for forgiveness come from, and are in favour of, the priviledged ones that have caused harm while ignoring the person who was harmed. The entire point of this kind of argument is to keep the priviledge at the top and feeling good about themselves, and not have them worry about all those non-entities they walk on every day of their lives.

    • Yes! It makes me so angry that people regurgitate the “you need to forgive” bullshit (or for that matter the “the meek shall inherit the earth” bullshit) without thinking about who benefits from problems just quietly disappearing. It’s certainly not the victims who get anything from that.

  4. why would anyone let go, forgive and get on with their life after what i’m presuming you went through. Maybe their terminology is wrong, but you have to start liking yourself first. Once you like yourself, you can trust someone else. That person might make you happy. Then you might get a group of friends. Then you might be happy. If ever you need that friend, I am here, and I am here for anyone else needing that first friend.

    • Your other comment was insulting to every kinky person with a history of abuse so I had to deal with it first, but this one personally insults my intelligence.

      As before, I will not have anyone reading your comment thinking that this is in any way an appropriate way to treat people.

      why would anyone let go, forgive and get on with their life after what i’m presuming you went through.

      No it’s fucking not. See all those words up there? You might consider reading them before commenting.

      If you had been paying attention, you would have noticed that I said:

      Ceasing to blame or hold resentment against someone sure sounds like a nice idea. So does granting a pardon, or forgiving a debt. The problem is that when people say “you need to forgive” they don’t mean “I want you to be happy and being super pissed off about ___ is not making you happy.” What they always seem to mean is “I’m uncomfortable with your anger. How about you shove it down until you choke on it?”

      Also, you left this comment after the comment you left on my other post. Clearly in the half hour between that comment and this one, you managed to forget that the entire point of that post was that I want to get over my anger but I fucking CAN’T.

      Maybe their terminology is wrong

      Maybe their terminology is wrong?! 817 words of rage about how the generally accepted of “forgiveness” has hurt me and delayed my healing and you think maybe their terminology is wrong? If you want to be supportive, start by reading what I wrote.

      but you have to start liking yourself first.

      Wait, slow down a little. You think it might be… good… for my mental health if I liked myself? Wow, I would never have fucking guessed! Now that I know I need to start liking myself, I’ll get right on that. All this time stumbling around in the dark and what I really needed was a man to treat me like I’m a complete fucking moron.

      I like myself just fine, fuckface. And if I didn’t, I don’t know how you think you would help with that given that you think I’m as stupid as a sack of hammers, and I think my thoughts matter enough to put them up on this blog for people to see.

      Also, where do you get off assuming I don’t like myself? Seriously, where in this entire blog do I say anything about not liking myself? Oh, that’s right, because I had a shitty childhood I must be sad, broken, and self-loathing for the rest of time, or at least until a man comes along and fixes me with his magical penis.

      Once you like yourself, you can trust someone else.

      No, that’s not how trust works. Liking myself has nothing what-so-fucking-ever with spending enough time with someone to know whether they consistently treat me well and act in my best interests. But thanks for the tip, I’m obviously too stupid to figure out how trust works all by myself.

      Then you might get a group of friends. Then you might be happy.

      Gee, thanks for assuming I’m a pathetic shut in with absolutely no friends. That’s not insulting at all, asshole. I can figure out what would make me happy all by myself. I can tie my own shoes too, which I’m sure comes as a shock to you given your opinion of my intelligence.

      If ever you need that friend, I am here

      Oh now it’s on. Remember that personal ad of mine? You know, the one you found my email address through? Obviously not, so here’s a quote directly from it:

      Why would I post a personal ad if I already have a boyfriend?

      Because the boyfriend, as adorable as he is, is not precisely submissive (although he’s fucking amazing at anticipatory service) and not interested in getting beaten on.

      I have mentioned my ridiculously adorable boyfriend over and over and over. If you’ve been paying any attention at all, you have no excuse for somehow forgetting I have a boyfriend.

      Now, you can imply I’m a complete fucking moron, and I’ll only get so angry. You can blatantly disregard my feelings and ignore practically every word I’ve ever fucking written, and I’ll only get so angry. But don’t you fucking EVER so much as imply that the best thing ever to happen to me doesn’t count. How fucking dare you say that a patronizing little shit like you could do me more good than the man who has supported me from the very beginning of our relationship, who has never once treated me like I’m stupid no matter what kind of bone-headed stunts I pull, who is always interested in what I think, who shows me every day that nothing is more important to him than I am.

      Fuck that, fuck you, get the fuck out.

      • ♥ I wish this were somewhere everyone would see. I am so tired of hearing the same but never put it into words. And I am fan-girling at the awesome and cutting comments, remarks, and observations…oh and taking notes. I love how you not only decry the insensitive albeit usual practice of automatically telling victims to forgive, but also go on to explain what would be effective. I’m loving what you are saying and how you are saying it. ♥♥♥

        • Feel free to post links to this post or reblog it with a link back here anywhere you want.

          I am so tired of hearing the same but never put it into words

          I wrote this post for people like you. I had this vague dislike of the word forgiveness for literally years before I found the words to explain why I hated it. It would’ve been a huge help to me to know that there was anyone else out there who couldn’t just magically forgive. Now that I have this platform, I want to shout as loud as I can in hopes that other people like me will see this and know that they’re not alone, they’re not broken, they’re not bad, they’re just not able to switch off their feelings.

  5. Totally agree. Trying to make forgiveness into a moral dictate is cruel and unjust. It actually dismisses justice as the first priority. It is paradoxically sentimental ,cruel and victim-blaming. If you want to invoke the Christian Bible (New Testament) as authority, then you better measure up to its dictates – otherwise you are trying to take the speck out of your brother’s eye when you have a log in yours.

  6. Loved reading this, it’s exactly how I feel. Fuck forgiveness, why the hell do I have forgive like everything is ok? IT’S NOT and maybe it will never be. It doesn’t mean I haven’t moved on or that I’m not happy. I AM, VERY. But still hate what you did to me and I hope you rot in hell because it’s not ok and it will never be, no matter the teachings or whatever bullshit people tell you.

    • <3 You make a great point, not forgiving and pretending what they did is okay doesn't mean you can't be happy, it just means you're not going to pretend it was okay to harm you.

  7. I just stumbled upon this after searching “fuck forgiveness”. I am relieved I am not the only one who feels this way! My family was harmed by a completely psychotic person over a year ago and even today … when I pointed out that she is still doing things to others that I NEED TO “LET IT GO”. They even sent me the Frozen song ….

    So thank you!!! This has made me feel like I’m not crazy!

    • I’m sorry you and your family went through that but I’m glad you found my blog post. Pressuring people to forgive does nothing but harm – the people who are doing that to you probably mean well but that doesn’t magically stop the harm they’re doing you from being harmful.

  8. That “let it go” song lol! I’m a lecturer and I actually use this song in my gender lessons! Why the hell should a woman let it go? Lol! FUCK forgiveness, fucking rage and tell the fuckers EXACTLY what they did that hurt you and hold then fully accountable! If they don’t like it FUCK them! By the way I’m more than happy with my two children, fab friends, fab job, lovely four bed detached house, earning £50k plus 🙂 Do I forgive? FUCK NO! Am I happy – yes!
    I often wonder why as women we are told to let it go, to forgive, to move on or similar bullshit! Why the hell would you want to forgive a person who hurt you? What! So you can let them do it again? Almost every web site regarding divorce, affairs, relationships, tell us women to forgive! A man has an affair, oh us little women should forgive! Your parents abused you? Oh dear they did their best! We didn’t know in the 1980s that that was abuse ???????? you need to forgive so you can be happy lol! How the fuck does forgiveness make you happy? I think people who say they “forgive” are putting their head in the sand, they want to forget, pretend it never happened so things don’t change, so they can keep on living their life in exactly the same way. You see when you addmit that you don’t forgive that FUCKER, then it kind of forces you to do something about it. Like if your husband cheats then you have to realise he literally doesn’t give a FUCK about you! If your parents abuse you then you have to realise they never gave a FUCK about you, their needs were more important than yours. So you see you would be under no illusion that these FUCKERS cared about you. Unfortunately most people are not strong enough to deal with the fact that their nearest and dearest don’t give a FUCK about them, so they “forgive” because it’s all alright then, slate is wiped clean, nobody has to move out and nobody has to live with the realisation that their parents or who ever has hurt them didn’t love them enough to not behave in that way.
    Mind you there is a need to be “clever” I mean that saying “keep your friends close but your enamies even closer” that so true! Do I forgive, FUCK no! BUT my fuck I’m waiting here, ready to FUCK you well and truly over and you will never, ever know that it’s me and you will never see it coming! Example my mother in law is an absolute witch of a woman, do I forgive hell no! But I’m not about to blow our inheritance Because I can’t keep my mouth shut! she is on her way out, the old hag is dying of throat, breast and head cancer after her years of smoking and alcoholism. I’m just waiting patiently for her to fuck off and die and then me and other half inherit it all! Then I will literally dance in happiness due to her passing, sit in the church without shedding a tear, listen to the bullshit the vicar will say and then my friends I will be ££££ in, sometime life truly is sweeeeeeeeeeetttttttt

  9. Hats off to you!! You nailed it. I have always felt the same way you have explained in your rant! I have always believed that people must pay hard for thier wrong doing against others. I’m tired of people trying to shove this whole forgiveness thing down my throat. Fuck you and your religious beliefs about forgiveness. It’s my right to not forgive if I bloody well want to. To hell with all you sinners that think you can hurt another human being and get away with it!! Hail Charles Bronson!!!!

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