Why Being Unable To Forgive Makes You Smart, Not Weak

by Safeera Sarjoo

How many times have you read the quote below?

"Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace."

For many people, the idea and process of forgiving those who previously caused pain is something that comes naturally.

They then find that they become stronger and better people as a result. But, I don't know if I entirely agree with this or the notion that you should forgive those who have really hurt you in order to attain "peace."

To me, the whole idea sounds like a carefully-crafted quote. It's an idea that gives us validation of being strong, good people because we've been able to tap into the most complex of emotions and exercise them.

As a result of forgiving someone who wronged us, we, in turn, achieve some kind of enlightenment and coincidentally, feel pretty happy with ourselves.

First of all, forgiveness is entirely dependent on circumstances. There are instances when the most sensible and logical thing to do is forgive, move on and continue relationships that shouldn't be severed over trivial matters.

The part where forgiveness starts to get complicated is when we talk about betrayal on a larger scale.

If a relationship concerns an abusive and/or cheating ex, a murder or a rape, or a person who abuses his or her position of authority, we shouldn't necessarily feel pressured to forgive.

Regardless, society (and many religions) tells us we should.

Many people fail to realize that we all have our own ways of healing after being hurt or betrayed. While some people feel the need to forgive and let things go, others struggle to do so.

Those who do struggle shouldn't be made to feel bad or inadequate. Does being unable to forgive someone make you a bad person? Of course not. Does it make you weak? Certainly not.

There are plenty of articles and studies out there that focus on forgiveness.

In 1999, Jeanne Safer wrote about a psychotherapist who was exposed to disturbing behavior and bullying from her brother, who never apologized for his actions.

Safer wrote,

"Contrary to the conventional wisdom, refusing to forgive or have further contact with an unrepentant, abusive relative is therapeutic."

Sandy Katz, the psychotherapist in question explained,

"My lack of forgiveness has not impeded my development or my relationships at all; in fact, it's cured me. Before I took a stand, I was always depressed and acceding to others' needs, always confused about my rights and about what was real."

While it's commonly believed that forgiveness promotes mental health and alleviates depression, doing the opposite can express a person's very right to live.

Elizabeth Bernstein wrote in The Wall Street Journal,

"At first it may help the person who has been hurt to let go of anger, resentment and desire for revenge. But forgiving also may encourage the transgressor to do it again. Experts say reaching true forgiveness is a journey that may take years. And it is best not to forgive too soon."

A sentiment not often communicated is that you can be happy and you can carry on with life without forgiving those who have hurt you. In fact, that heartbreak and anger can be used as a catalyst to drive you to do more good.

Surely that's more important and worthwhile, right?

Having been put in a position over a year ago that forced me to encounter the worst betrayal of my life thus far, the thought of forgiving an extraordinarily deceitful ex, despite not getting a sincere apology or any kind of explanation for his actions made me feel like the weak one.

It made me feel like I was condoning what he did to me.

Now I'm in a much better place because I'm focused on seeking opportunities that make me happy. But, my current state of contentment doesn't mean I've forgiven his appalling actions.

Not being able to forgive doesn't mean you walk around, day in and day out, with a chip on your shoulder or a clouded mindset, hell-bent on seeking revenge.

It means taking a stand against the kind of behavior and actions you won't tolerate and boldly saying it is not okay to be treated this way.

Having the courage to be this honest doesn't just bring about peace. For me, it's like I've been given a new lease of life.

Just think of the possibilities that can bring.