Three hard truths about forgiveness

It is a hard truth that we can never really heal from the trauma of conflict without forgiveness.

It is an even harder truth that real forgiveness, the kind that actually heals, is something actual that happens between real people, who must willingly exchange forgiveness in order to actualize it.

Of course, some people will dispute this, and insist that you can, in fact, forgive someone else inwardly, in your own mind or soul. But this is not forgiveness. A better term for it would be “reconciliation”. Such reconciliation is not with the other real person, but rather with an image of them that belongs to you, alone, and occurs entirely within your own mind. You reconcile yourself to that person being dead to you, and you overwrite your memory of them with a eulogy. That is the furthest thing from forgiveness. It is almost vengeful.

The third hard truth of forgiveness is the hardest truth: Those with whom we most need to exchange forgiveness are often the very ones who never recognized our reality in the first place. We were always semi-fictional characters in their autobiographies, playing the role they assigned us. When our character creates conflict in the story (perhaps for insisting to much on being a real person), the author kills it off and then unilaterally reconciles with it. The trauma is written into their story, and belongs to them alone. This is life as they live and write it.

These are the ones who need forgiveness for an unwillingness or incapacity to exchange forgiveness.

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