Forgiving or Unburdening

Many of you may or may not know that I am a tv junkie. Recently I was re-watching Diary of a Mad Black Woman for the trillionth time and the forgiveness scene out of it just resonated with me today:

Myrtle : You know I know this man put a hurtin’ on you baby, but you’ve got to forgive him. No matter what he done, you’ve got to forgive him – not for him, but for you. When some body hurts you they take power over you, if you don’t forgive them then they keeps the power.

I found this excerpt from Psychology Today written by Thomas G. Plante, Ph.D.

1. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you have to forget, too. We don’t forgive and forget at all. People who have been terribly abused, neglected, and victimized don’t forget their traumas and they really don’t need to do so. They can learn to forgive, yet remember quite well.

2. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you’re minimizing your victimization experience. By engaging in forgiveness you aren’t saying “it’s okay…it wasn’t that bad.” Not at all! You can forgive yet still admit that the victimization and trauma was very real and very bad.

3. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you’re a chump. Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness, naivete, or foolishness.

4. Forgiveness doesn’t depend upon the other person apologizing and accepting your offer of forgiveness. Sadly, you cannot expect that the person who wronged you can fully understand or appreciate that what he or she did was wrong. They may never admit that they did anything problematic at all. That’s okay, because you can engage in forgiveness for your own benefit, not theirs. You don’t need anything from them to forgive them.

5. Forgiveness is a process. Forgiveness isn’t an all-or-none, black-or-white kind of thing. It is a process. You may never be able to completely forgive another person but you can work to get closer to do so. You may never get to the 10 on my 10-point forgiveness scale, but you can turn a 6 into a 7 or to an 8.

6. Forgiveness is for your health and well being. Since research shows that holding onto anger is toxic for your health and well being, and since no one wants to be around those who are chronically angry, bitter, resentful, and unforgiving, then forgiveness is something that you do for you. It is in your best interest to forgive others for their transgressions, not necessarily theirs. You are not engaging in forgiveness to do them a favor, but to do one for yourself.

7. The secret sauce in forgiveness is letting go of anger. In my clinical practice I have treated many people who have been terribly victimized and traumatized by physical, sexual, emotional, and financial abuse. I have also treated many who have been abused by those who should have treated them the most kindly, such as parents, siblings, close friends, and even clerics. Those who do well and cope best in life are those who have found some way to forgive themselves and others. They have worked hard to let go of the anger and resentment and moved on. They don’t forget and they don’t allow themselves to continue to be victimized. They let go of the anger and choose to forgive (deserved or not).

On the other hand, I think it is okay to not forgive, one do not have to forgive to release the oppressor’s power over them. I think you can unburden your problem(s). You can let go of the power of the trauma without being criticized or have any expectations of what should come next. I don’t think people should tell others to forgive someone who have done them wrong even though the intentions are good, it is best to let them know that they are entitled to their feelings. Be a listening ear without being a fixer.

So do you think you are down to forgiving or unburdening? Ultimately it is your choice!


Meli Mel

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