Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics


Who needs it, really? What does it mean to forgive someone, and why is forgiveness important?

I grew up un-churched, a heathen, so my faith-structure is weak. But I still have a belief in a higher power, a god-creator, if nothing else. I do believe in love and forgiveness and connection. I believe we are connected. I believe love is ours for the accepting, that we are all worthy of love.

Forgiveness is a more difficult concept, but my god would not require a physical human sacrifice to allow us all forgiveness. I believe the sacrifice, instead, is in humbling ourselves, in reviewing our wrongs, in asking for forbearance for our humanness, our imperfections. We need to forgive ourselves for this, and we need to forgive each other for this. I don’t know if we need to ask God for forgiveness, but where we have hurt each other, part of humbling ourselves is asking the other for that special grace, that blessing. We need to learn to see each other’s perfection, and have compassion for each other’s faults.

So what happens when we ask for forgiveness and it is not granted, when we apologize sincerely and it is not accepted?

Does that mean the other person only sees the flaws in us and not the goodness? And how should we see ourselves when that happens? As something less? Less worthy? No. For me, my need to be forgiven is largely ego-driven. Once I take the ego out of it, I can accept the situation either way.

Or should it change how we see the person we have injured? Should I be angry with them? Are they trying to make me mad, make me withdraw? At what point, for self-protection, should my attitude change from one of humbling myself to one of saying, “Fine, you won’t forgive me. I am a good person, despite your opinion. If you won’t forgive me, perhaps you are the one who is flawed.” How generous is it to give in to anger that way?

Again, for me, it’s irrelevant.

Something I know: life is short. People are human and make mistakes. I believe forgiving is important, part and parcel of loving them, accepting them as they are. I believe apologizing sincerely and with no expectations of mercy is important, too. That is the humbling part.

Yes, life is short. When things go wrong in your relationships, do you want to leave things the way they are? Do you want to reconcile and try to make the relationship better than it was?

Or do you really want, or really need, to cut off the relationship completely? Is it toxic? Is it healthier on the whole if it ends, if forgiveness is not granted? How do you come to that decision?

What examples do you have of forgiving or being forgiven? On a personal level only, what insults or wrongs are not forgivable? Does it matter if it is a one-time incident or a recurring problem? Have you ever granted forgiveness and wished you had not?

Tell me what you believe about forgiving. Tell me your stories of being human and asking for forgiveness.


  1. My expectations of perfection in others are minimal, and loving them means accepting their faults, and the fact they will screw up sometimes.

    Deliberate cruelty, however, is not something I understand or accept, and it is hard to forgive.

  2. iriti

    …up to a point. I have on one occasion reached a threshold where I forgave enough times that I finally had to step away from the relationship because I couldn’t any more.

    It’s important to me to remember that if I’ve truly wronged someone, they don’t owe me forgiveness. But once I’ve done everything I can to make amends, including apologies and anything that can be done to make the situation right, there’s nothing else I can do. The ball is in their court.

    I’m right now in the midst of a situation where I’m being wronged on an on-going basis (it’s at work and a long story). I’m trying to get the heck out of dodge, but in this economy who knows how long that will take. Do I think anyone will ask forgiveness? No. But I will forgive because carrying that baggage with me after I leave only harms me.

  3. jlms qkw

    there are two kinds:

    the kind between me and the god i believe in, which is private to me and god.  wherein i usually beat myself up a lot more than god ever does.  

    the kind between me and other people, wherein i take what i can get, and try to give as much as i can.  but the hard work is all in my heart and mind.  

  4. wordsinthewind

    because I value it and strive to practice this in all my affairs but was reared in a family who viewed it as a weakness. Very sad people, I ended up severing all contact in self defense after my mother died. My compromise regarding unforgivable offenses is to skip forgiving the offense and instead forgive the person for being the one to do it. I have never regretted forgiving probably because it has always made it possible for me to go forward with a clear heart.

  5. lauraquilter

    I think there is confusion when equating the two. I can forgive a lot. What I don’t want to do is forget. That will hopefully alleviate a repeat of the same offense, be it done by me or someone else to me.

    Example: molested by uncle at three and a half years old. I’m 61 now and no worries about him doing that again. But, my parents moved up to where he lives in a retirement community five years ago. I had forgiven him but did not forget. This allowed me to be in his presence with no animosity on my part. Interesting though, he severed ties with my parents and Karma can really be a bitch. He’s a very unhappy person.  

    Forgiveness is to live my life as I wish. Not forgetting is protecting that forgiveness.    

  6. Avilyn

    I am less forgiving of myself than others are of me.  Offenses long forgiven still haunt me sometimes.

    In forgiving others, I try to as much as possible.  There are some things I admit I cannot forgive though, mostly relating to domestic violence/assault.  Hurt me or those I love in that manner, and I cannot forgive it.

  7. slksfca

    …I would be totally lost. And for me there has been no difference between forgiving others (beginning with my parents, for their unintentional failures toward me) and forgiving myself, for the many times I’ve failed to live up to my own standards.

    As for others forgiving me, I hope they can and do. But I have no control over that save to make sure my apologies are always sincere and that I make restitution for my wrongs whenever possible. The rest I have to leave to God, the Universe, or whatever.

    Thanks for the essay, Melanie.

  8. Diana in NoVa

    You have set forth some excellent arguments as to why we should forgive and how it frees us to carry on.

    In my own case, I have enormous difficulty with forgiveness.  Once I was wronged so completely and thoroughly that I have not, and will not, forgive that man.  I don’t sit around brooding about day and night, though. Although the incident cast a dark shadow over my life for 35 years, I’ve learned to move on, am completely happy, and look forward to every day that dawns.

    Another person I have not been able to forgive is myself.  Again, I try not to dwell on it, but, try as I might, I just can’t do it.  I was wrong. There is no way to go back, because the people I disappointed are now dead.

    Forgiveness is a quality I can admire in others but cannot exercise myself in these two cases.  Lesser offenses–yes, of course.  No problem with that.

    It’s an interesting subject and thank you for bringing it up.  It’s edifying to hear other people’s voices on this particular issue.

  9. It was usually minor stuff that didn’t matter much.

    I wonder if that is changing. I feel less tolerant of some attitudes and actions than ever before. I don’t know if forgiveness is possible.

    Then there is Eric. I don’t know why I tolerate him or have hope for better things for/with him. He really owes me. Yet, I seem to forgive him.

    Thanks for your very thought provoking diary. You amaze me.

  10. Wee Mama

    Interesting to see how many people agree that forgiving others is a form of liberation for the one who is forgiving. That is a much more positive way to understand it than the one that children sometimes fall into – “I can’t be forgiven unless I forgive others.”

    An aside on your “require a physical human sacrifice to allow us all forgiveness” – the experience of reconciliation as an experience is sometimes given the name, atonement. When we speak of the experience, as poorly as words do at that, it can be called the mystery of the atonement. Several different theories that try to explain the mystery or to encapsulate it have been framed, one of which is the penal substitution theory (more or less “require a physical human sacrifice to allow us all forgiveness”). But that’s by no means the only theory of the atonement. A couple of others include Christus Victor (Jesus got the devil in an armlock and wrestled that sucker to the ground, and conquered death!! Yee haw!!) and the exemplar model of Abelard (sometimes called the Roger Bannister model – once Christ did it, everyone else saw that it could be done). My son has a hilarious proof from integral calculus that hell can’t last for ever – if I can find it I’ll share it.

  11. LeftOverFlowerChild

    I read it earlier today and have had time to think about your message along with the many thoughtful responses.

    I used to struggle with forgiveness. I knew I suppose to forgive, I knew it was expected of me in some degree. I knew I needed to voice that forgiveness in some form if I wanted to be a “good Christian”. But I didn’t feel it, didn’t want, I was reveling in my anger after the hurt subsided. The causes of my pain were long gone before I could come to terms with the knowledge that forgiveness was for me. Not them. I guess somewhere tucked in the back of my then 20 something brain, I thought I had the upper hand because by golly one day this person or that person would be so sorry they hurt me, used me, berated me–whatever. Of those ghosts, I’ve reconciled with three, the rest who knows what happened? I don’t and I don’t care. There came a time when the burden was on me and I had to chose to let it go. Let it be on its own. It didn’t happen overnight, I still have to work on the replays of some events in my head. I win most of the time now.

    I can honestly say when I need forgiveness I do ask for it. When it is not given, I figure I’ve done all I can do, I’ve made amends as best I can.

    I don’t ever intentionally set out to hurt someone, I am not a bridge burner. I don’t want or need the ugly energy revenge brings into a person’s life. I mess up all the time, it happens. But when I do goof, it’s done with honest good intentions and super size scoops of kindness and love. Even though the last two ingredients may seem lacking in the glare of my oopsie.

    Love, laugh, forgive, sing loud and like me out of tune, but for the sake of your soul–LIVE.  

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