09/04/2014 02:15 pm ET Updated Nov 04, 2014

An Argument Against Forgiveness


As we near the fall season and ultimately a new year (soon!), I'm thinking about forgiveness. While I understand the logic of "forgiving for yourself" and not the other person, I have to admit I don't really subscribe to it. To me, forgiveness, like respect, must be earned. And I happen to think forgiveness is harder to earn than respect. Respecting someone doesn't involve chipping away a piece of yourself. It is merely thinking highly of someone. But forgiveness... forgiveness comes with a good dose of self-sacrifice, and anyone getting a sacrifice from me will have to deserve it. I have found peace when I've forgiven in the past, and I have equally found angst from forgiving. It's not always been black and white for me, so I don't apply adages that assume forgiveness is, in all circumstances, the right thing to do.

There are a lot of actions of others I've never forgiven, but I don't feel like it's weighing me down. It doesn't hold me back because if I know I did all the good I could and was wronged despite my actions, I don't have to offer forgiveness. I did my part. And I won't give more to someone who has taken it for granted. I know this sentiment is potentially controversial, and it's very likely that many of you reading will disagree with me, but I simply do not see my point of view changing on this. I'm not hugely stubborn about anything, but about this... you'd be hard-pressed to convince me otherwise.

On the other side of the coin, however, when I do forgive, I do it right. I don't bring up what happened and I move on as if it never did. That's how it works. Saying you've forgiven and never being able to go back to the way it was prior to that is a half measure and as far as I'm concerned, you may as well have not forgiven. Half measures are weaker than choosing a side. Forgive, or don't. But do both in full, and own it.

All I'm saying is maybe the blanket of "forgive for yourself" isn't the blanket that keeps us all warm. Maybe some of us find warmth from saving forgiveness for people we love, who made mistakes but who deserve our concern and empathy despite their misdoings. Forgiveness has never been the proverbial hot stone that burns me, but rather, the fuel that drives me to be stronger. When you think about it, haven't we all encountered people and circumstances we just won't find closure with but that we were able to move on from? Your life isn't definitively at a standstill if you choose not to offer forgiveness. What or who hurt you doesn't have to paralyze you if you own your pain. And to me, owning your pain means being the decider of what to do with it. If it eases you to forgive, do it. If it doesn't, keep it for someone who deserves it. Not forgiving can be equally fulfilling as is forgiving in the right, deserved situation.