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Forgiveness (christian) - is it only possible if someone says sorry or can you forgive permanently without the "sorry" first

(101 Posts)
redblue Tue 10-Jan-12 16:55:39

Is forgiveness only possible if the other person who has cause the hurt says sorry? in other words if they dont say sorry (ever), don't appear to be sorry and just continues the behaviour is forgiveness (i) possible (ii) required?

In some cases it is easier to forgive someone if you dont have to have as much / any contact with them going forward - if this is impossible and you continue to have close contact with them is forgiveness even an option if there is no question (verbalised or in their behaviour) that they have done anything which might require forgiveness?

Greatnan Tue 10-Jan-12 17:02:04

I would forgive my DC anything - I would not be so forgiving with anybody else.
Sometimes you have to ask yourself - do I want to be in the right , or do I want to be happy?
I would be very happy to have a chance to forgive my daughter for hurting me, if only she would let me contact her.

Butternut Tue 10-Jan-12 17:04:58

Forgiveness for some people is a big ask, but I rather like the expression 'to forbear' - a sturdy bridge upon which to stand without wholly forgiving.
Hope that's useful.

Nsube Tue 10-Jan-12 17:28:48

I think forgiving doesn't mean excusing. Whatever the wrong that has been done needs to acknowledged. If the offender isn't sorry, that is a problem for them, but you can free yourself to move on and not let the wrong they have done continue to affect you.

Greatnan Tue 10-Jan-12 17:31:43

Easier said than done, Nsube, when you know you have done nothing wrong but your child cuts you off, and you lose your GC too.

FlicketyB Tue 10-Jan-12 17:51:16

I am never very sure what people mean when they talk about forgiveness. It is so often used as the opposite of actively hating someone and being stuck in an unhelpful emotional state but that is not always how you feel when you say you cannot forgive someone.

In the past people have done things that I have considered unforgiveable but I do not hate them but I have just lost my respect for and trust in them and, as DH says, if I saw them teetering on a cliff edge I wouldnt risk all to save them. I dont hate them I just dismiss them.

When a very dear elderly aunt behaved in a totally unacceptable way to me once, our relationship stayed as close and loving as it had always been, but her action revealed just how far one of her least endearing characteristics could go and that she could do what she did to someone she loved inevitably diminished my respect for her. I never actually forgave her for the action, but never let it affect our relatonship. Is that foregiveness or would I have needed to hold her in the same respect as I had always done as well to say I had forgiven her? What does forgiving mean?

bagitha Tue 10-Jan-12 17:52:16

Isn't christian forgiveness the same as any other kind? I mean, there is only one kind, isn't there? You either forgive someone or you don't. Non-christians do it too, y'know. Pedantic perhaps, but true too. hmm

bagitha Tue 10-Jan-12 17:54:19

Gosh, flickety. Well said. Respect.

greenmossgiel Tue 10-Jan-12 17:58:24

I could forgive my children anything, too. I don't think I've ever NOT forgiven anyone who has hurt me, although I perhaps have moved on and left them behind and out of my life. Perhaps the art of 'forgiveness' is the art of being able to wait?
Why 'Christian' forgiveness? I cannot see how that should differ in any way from how any of us could forgive each other.

FlicketyB Tue 10-Jan-12 19:25:25

Bagitha, Thank you.

But I am still not sure what foregiveness is. Does it mean wiping out every feeling to do with an evil event from your memory and if the offender moved next door greeting and befriending them and trusting them as if you were not aware of the wrong they had done you


Does it mean that while you could never trust or respect the person who committed the unforgiveable act again, you have accept what happened, happened and, as Greenmossgiel says 'moved on and left them behind and out of my life'

Which one of those is forgiveness?

bagitha Tue 10-Jan-12 19:44:40

I'm not sure I know either. I think I favour "moving on with reservations". To me, this means not being bitter towards the person but always bearing in mind what their limits are. Does that make sense? There are one's own limits to consider as well. I'm thinking of a situation I've been in where certain relatives behaved in a way I did not find acceptable. I am still on good terms with those relatives, but I have also put a certain distance between us: we are not as intimate as we used to be and not as intimate as they would like to be. You could say I haven't forgiven them but you could also say that I've accepted the way they are but chosen not to associate myself with that more closely than I can cope with.

Now I need to go back to the OP and work out what she was asking and whether I can answer.

Grossi Tue 10-Jan-12 20:09:05

In answer to the original question, I'm not sure that saying sorry is any guide to whether you can or should forgive the person for what they have done.

Children may be taught to say sorry and think that is all that is needed for the incident to be forgotten. They may not even ever know what they did "wrong".

Annobel Tue 10-Jan-12 20:40:47

Once, when I was a student, a very religious girl with whom I had had a 'difference of opinion' asked me to forgive her for resenting me. How was I to know that she was resenting me? I will never know what she would have done if I'd said 'no', but I was saved by the dinner gong.

Notsogrand Tue 10-Jan-12 20:48:01

I don't really 'get' the OP. I agree with baggy that the capacity to forgive is not confined to Christians (or to those of any other religious beliefs )

It seems as though the OP is seeking the 'rules' for forgiveness. I don't get that either. There are no rules to what you feel.

The OP asks if given the circumstances described, forgiveness is either possible or required. Required by whom or what? I don't get that either.

I have never experienced a feeling because I was required to do so.

bagitha Tue 10-Jan-12 20:58:57

In that position, annobel, my first thought would have been: ^ Will it stop you resenting me? If not, what's the point?^

Joan Tue 10-Jan-12 22:05:12

As others have asked, I would really, genuinely like to know what 'Christian' has to do with forgiveness.

Is there 'unchristian forgiveness' or non-christian forgiveness? Atheists forgive. Jews forgive - they have their Day of Atonement.

I simply don't understand the religious significance of forgiveness.

I see forgiveness as a sign of being civilised. It is diametrically opposed to embarking on a blood feud, or taking revenge.

Greatnan Tue 10-Jan-12 22:48:39

I didn't bother commenting on the word Christian as it is obviously irrelevant to forgiveness.
I must be a very evil person - if I could do some harm to the people who have hurt my daughters, I would. They can forgive them, I won't. (Not that any of them would ever ask for forgiveness).

Annobel Tue 10-Jan-12 23:48:43

If I were a Christian I would no doubt be agonising about forgiving (or not) certain people who have wronged me and my family. I should think it would be painful either way. As it is, what's the point? The best thing you can do, unless you are hell bent on revenge, is ignore these people. Move on, make your own life mean something.

grannyactivist Wed 11-Jan-12 00:20:31

This is a very interesting subject and I recently read a really helpful (if somewhat scholarly) article on the subject of 'forgiveness' by an American professor. I've got a paper copy somewhere that I downloaded - I'll hunt it out and put the link up when I can.
From memory the article was written by a classicist and explored the notion of forgiveness through time - apparently our understanding of the concept is rooted in the recent past.

Cyril Wed 11-Jan-12 00:39:30

Forgiveness is a very thorny subject. There are as many opinions as there are people. What I have learned, and needed to, to protect my own sanity and health is that holding on to the hurt, the anger and the betrayal will do you more harm than it will the wrongdoer. I was once told by a doctor during a very traumatic time that I was burning myself up with anger and needed to release it. I had lost a lot of weight with that anger and had not realised the cause. Having thought about what he said I picked myself up and started living again. As others have said in a variety of ways; you need to let go the hurt and anger, the constant questioning of how could he/she do that? In that sense you do forgive, you 'let it go' in order to protect yourself and gain some peace.

If you wait for the one who caused this pain to say sorry you will prevent yourself from moving on. You do not need someone else's permission to move on. Just do it.

Butternut Wed 11-Jan-12 07:20:47

I quite agree Cyril, yet it is in the 'letting go' that many find difficult, which is why I find the mid-ground of holding forbearance can be a useful concept to look at and if possible, put into practice. It's strengthening and concentrates the mind when it is tempting to slip into that miserable slope of beating oneself up.

Good for you! smile

Annobel Wed 11-Jan-12 07:37:15

The Christian Lord's prayer asks the Christian God to 'forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us', or, in the translation we used in my Scottish youth, 'forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors'. Either way, it sounds as if we would not get God's forgiveness if we didn't forgive first. It's making a kind of contract with God!

Carol Wed 11-Jan-12 07:52:37

Cyril I find that 'letting go' is what works for me, too. It goes somewhere on the back burner and will disappear if it's not resurrected by further unforgiveable behaviour. My instinct is to trust people unless they do something to make me re-think that trust. If there's a blip, it will pass and no more will be said if it doesn't happen again. But if there's a pattern of unforgiveable behaviour, I have to protect myself and will challenge the person who is hurting me or my nearest and dearest.

expatmaggie Wed 11-Jan-12 10:07:53

I think Cyril has hit the nail on the head. At some time in your life you have to let things go and not harbour bad feelings especially in the family. I am not impressed by people saying sorry and I cringe when I see MPs or others apologising on UK TV. If it were that easy- just to say sorry and then expect forgiveness.
Sometimes you can move on without forgiving. You would be surprised at the number of Jews returning to Germany, willing to move on and enjoying being in their true home again. They prefer Germany to Israel.

Forgiving is not only to do with Christianity.
On a lighter note, a child once said:

Forgive us our Christmases as we forgive those who Christmas against us.
I know that feeling.

greenmossgiel Wed 11-Jan-12 10:25:25

expatmaggie - smile