I’ve never been a forgiving person. I’ve been taught that you’re supposed to forget they did wrong, let it all go, and carry on as if nothing happened. In my experience, this just means giving the other person a free pass to make the same mistake.

When every second chance turns into a ‘fool me twice,’ you decide it’s not worth it. I decided I would not forgive someone if 1) they weren’t sorry and 2) I knew they were going to do it again.

But then I was asked to think about what forgiveness really meant in general and to me. First stop, the dictionary.

Forgive – To cease to feel resentment against

That’s it. The definition is really that simple. I had to sit with that for a while since this changed some things for me.

Forgiving the crimes of your cheating ex or backstabbing friend doesn’t mean calling them up and saying, “I forgive you.” They are not a necessary part of the process. If you want to keep it between you and yourself, you can!

This was very revelatory for me.

In my previous mindset, I came to believe the only person you owe forgiveness is yourself. We all make mistakes and harboring that guilt and regret serves no good purpose. But forgiveness doesn’t really refer to that. It’s about letting go of resentment.

Harboring resentment is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies. It gives someone valuable real estate they don’t deserve. I’m not awesome at getting rid of it but I know it will never serve or satisfy me.

Based on the dictionary definition, forgiveness can serve you and does nothing for whoever wronged you. Forgiving them means letting go of resentment which feels a lot like forgiving yourself.

The problem comes when people conflate forgiving with absolving.

Absolving – To set free from an obligation or the consequences of guilt

Putting down the poison of resentment doesn’t mean welcoming back the person who gave it to you. Forgiveness serves you; absolution serves them. When someone demands forgiveness, they’re demanding absolution. You never owe someone absolution.

Forgiving someone means you let them stop hurting you for what’s already been done. Absolution means letting them do it again.

I am allowed to forgive someone and want nothing to do with them. I can let go of resentment without letting them back in. I still need to figure out how to apply this and let it all sink in but that’s why I’m paying my therapist. I hope this helps someone in addition to me.

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