Forced Forgiveness

Post by Melissa

During Elul and leading up to the Yamim Noraim (literally Days of Awe, better known as the High Holidays), we are supposed to be working on repentance and forgiveness. Righting our own wrongs and moving on from those of others.

The repentance thing I’ve got down.  I work hard at recognizing when I’ve wronged someone and making amends on that throughout the year, rather than waiting to one final month to get it all in.  Without fail though I will still send out some mass communication offering an apology to those I have unintentionally hurt, offended, or wronged in some way and inviting anyone to speak to me directly if needed.  I feel that this year, I am in an espescially good place with this one.

As for forgiveness, I’m so not there.

Recently someone very close to me accused me of doing something inconceivable and then comparing it to something truly atrocious.  I know this person (who I shall call X, so no one mistakenly thinks it is them) said these mean things in the heat of a moment and didn’t really believe them.  Never the less, they were said and they hurt me very deeply.  I took some time to calm down and then told X how hurt I was by their words, I thought this would put us on a path to moving forward, however the response I got was basically more of the same.  So I stopped speaking to X.  I just couldn’t face the hurt and anger I had.  I knew that this time of forgiveness was coming and hoped to be able to embrace the spirit of it to move on.  But I can’t.

I know that I am capable of doing anything, and while I can say “I forgive X” it will be forced and not real.  I will not believe it.  I will only be lying to myself, to X, and to Hashem – which is not what is best for anyone. And while I do believe that someday I will be able to forgive, I will never be able to forget.

So how do I move past this feeling of forced forgiveness?  Do I really have to forgive them right now when it is still so fresh? Is the intention to someday forgive them sufficient?


In the interest of honesty, I must say that just posting this makes me nervous.  No one other than my husband and mother know about this situation so no one will be able to figure it out and oust X nor do I think that X read this blog, but I am nervous that they will and will only be more offended. This is clearly not my intent. I just needed to say it and to hopefully get some guidance in insights from my community.


3 thoughts on “Forced Forgiveness

  1. I’m so sorry that you’re going through this difficult trial. I’ve also been in a position (and, to some degree, still am) where I have been unable to forgive and forget.

    So, as difficult as it is, we have to forget. For me, time is the best method. The more time which elapses between me and the painful event/person, the further back it is pushed in my mind. I don’t think about it as much. The memory is dulled.

    Of course, I also had to stop talking about it with my mother and my husband. Continuing to mull over the injustice and ridiculousness was only prolonging the negative feelings and pain. So one thing I’m working on this Elul is reframing my opinion of this person.

    That’s the other technique, to try and understand how a person can come to act in such a way. For me, it’s understanding that there are deeply rooted emotional problems which manifest in bizarre and hurtful actions. It’s not about me. It’s about them. And then I daven for a refuah and try to tap into the empathy that I know I have. I think about how painful it must be for that person, to be living in a world where pain, accusations and paranoia are part of reality, you know?

    Those are the things I focus on. I think that if you are genuinely trying to work on forgiveness, that will count. After all, we get credit for wanting to do a mitzvah even if we don’t do it, so wouldn’t it could for this situation?

    Much, much hatzlacha! In 5 years this will be a distant memory, hopefully. 🙂

  2. For me, forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting. It also doesn’t mean that I stop hurting due to the actions of another. For me, forgiveness means three things:

    1. that I have acknowledged the extent to which someone has hurt me by a given action or set of actions
    2. that I have held them responsible for their actions through appropriate consequences (even in some cases terminating relationships)
    3. that I resolve to try to eliminate any further harm to me or that person based on the given action

    Forgiveness is a tool that lets us move on from wrongs we have inflicted on others or wrongs inflicted on us, but it does not absolve the wrongdoer of a transgression. On the contrary, it allows us to acknowledge the extent of those transgressions.

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