Forgiveness is Bullshit

Please Note: I will no longer be approving comments that prescribe forgiveness to me or others or imply that we “just need to do it right.” I’ve already covered that extensively both in the main post itself and in the comments. Feel free to comment about your own personal experience (good or bad) with forgiveness, but keep your opinion about what others need to do to yourself. Thanks!

Wherever you find an intolerance for and avoidance of “negative emotion,” you are almost guaranteed to also find a “doctrine” of forgiveness. I cringe every time I hear forgiveness come up. For a while, my cringing was accompanied by guilt because I felt horrible that I would see such a “positive” action/attitude as repulsive. I could easily understand why I might feel repelled by the fundamentalist definition of forgiveness, but I didn’t understand why I was also disgusted by the more “liberal” definitions of forgiveness.

As I’ve taken the journey to reclaim my right to have my emotions, even the shadow ones, I’ve gained a bit of a better understanding of my hatred of the very idea of forgiveness.

Basically I’m here to say it’s all bullshit.

Yes, I know I’ve probably made many of you gasp and even branded myself in some minds as a “bitter person.”

That’s okay. If you don’t feel like reading on about how the idea and pressure to “forgive” can actually be harmful, you are free to stop reading here. But I guarantee there are going to be a good number of readers who sigh with relief at what I just said because, deep down, they feel that way too.

Why do I think forgiveness is bullshit? Before I answer that question, I want you to close your eyes and think about your best denotative definition for the word. Can you?

Well, let’s go over some of the popular quotes and quips about forgiveness. Then at the end, we’ll actually look at the dictionary definition and discuss that (now please don’t ruin things and look it up in the dictionary just yet).

  • “Forgive and forget”: I actually got this one a lot in fundamentalism. It’s a very convenient phrase for teaching children to suppress memories and accept repeated abuse. In fact, when I, as a teen, confided to a counselor at The Wilds Christian Camp that I couldn’t “forget” about my abuse and I was having a hard time “forgiving” the abuser as a result, I was told that as long as I never talked about it to anyone ever again and pushed the thoughts about the abuse out of my head whenever they intruded, I would be able to forgive, even if I didn’t officially forget. It should be pretty easy to see why equating forgiveness with amnesia of an event is bullshit. Stupidity is not a virtue.
  • “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” This little gem from C. S. Lewis is representative of another commonly repeated idea in fundamentalism. It doesn’t really define forgiveness, merely mandates it as a divine expectation, which can be just as bad as the definitions. I would actually classify this as spiritual/emotional abuse even without having a definition like the one above simply because of the way that such a divine mandate is wielded against the wounded to undercut their healing. It’s probably also the only idea off the top of my head that I would say Jesus should be ashamed of propogating with his “seventy times seven” statement in Matthew 18:22. . . unless of course, the translation effect fails to account for the possibility that at that time and in that period “forgiveness” wasn’t what we think of it as today.
  • “True forgiveness is when you can say, ‘Thank you for that experience.’” (Oprah) Bullshit should be so easy to find in this one. I can think of several experiences that I would NEVER thank someone for, my sexual abuse being the most prominent that comes to mind. In fact, if forgiveness is really finding the ability to be thankful for what someone else did to you that hurt you, I’d have to say that I’ve never forgiven anyone who wronged me, nor do I want to.
  • “Forgiveness has nothing to do with absolving a criminal of his crime. It has everything to do with relieving oneself of the burden of being a victim–letting go of the pain and transforming oneself from victim to survivor.” (C. R. Strahan) This is one that on the surface seems nicer. And there are a lot of variations on the idea of freeing or healing oneself through forgiveness. But my next question is, if forgiveness is not absolving someone, what is it? These types of phrases never give an alternative. And I’m sorry to break it to anyone who likes this definition, but it’s not in the real definition. “Absolving,” on the other hand, is. So the attempt to whitewash forgiveness into something entirely personal and not connected to the offending person is really just all BULLSHIT.
  • “Forgiveness is the discovery that what you thought happened, didn’t.” (Byron Katie) Bull-fucking-shit! I actually expected better from Byron Katie. I’ve heard a lot of good things about her and was horribly disappointed to find her propagating such a stupid definition of forgiveness. It’s just another form of the amnesia prescription of forgiveness, but with an even more sinister undertone. Instead of just forgetting it happened . . . it’s actually suggesting that it didn’t happen. Yes, let’s tell a grieving parent that forgiving a drunk driver who killed their child would mean discovering that the driver didn’t actually kill their child. That doesn’t sound insensitive at all! For that matter, I’m sure there are a few spouses who might also protest at the idea that forgiveness means discovering that infidelity didn’t actually take place. In case it isn’t obvious, what Katie is describing is called a misunderstanding, and that doesn’t require forgiveness, merely clarification.

But what about the real definition? Okay, here you go. According to, forgiveness is:

  1. to grant pardon for or remission of (an offense, debt, etc.); absolve.
  2. to give up all claim on account of; remit (a debt, obligation, etc.).
  3. to grant pardon to (a person).
  4. to cease to feel resentment against: to forgive one’s enemies.
  5. to cancel an indebtedness or liability of: to forgive the interest owed on a loan.

The definition and connotation of forgiveness is all about the other person—the person who wronged you—and setting them free, absolving them, letting them off the hook, ceasing to feel anger (or bitterness or whatever the new demonized emotion is) towards that person.

I’m here to cry bullshit on the whole charade.

Forgiveness isn’t necessary for healing.

Forgiveness is not necessary to “move on.”

It’s not even necessary in order to feel compassion or love for someone.

It’s not necessarily healthy.

In fact, more often than not, in the instances when forgiveness is prescribed (severe betrayal, severe hurt/abuse, severe tragedy, severe trauma), it’s actually harmful to the person needing to heal. There’s a reason why anger is listed as one of the main steps in grief—it’s important! Getting angry, feeling sad, holding someone else accountable, they’re all part of “moving on.”

What does a statement like “you just need to forgive” do? It heaps more guilt on the person who is experiencing those emotions—those necessary emotions—by making them feel like they’re wrong or unhealthy or weak for experiencing them. In other words, it’s blaming the victim, encouraging them to ignore their own needs and cater to another person’s desires.

It denies the mind’s natural way of healing itself.

You don’t get past the anger by suppressing it. You don’t move through grief by denying it. The only way to get through those difficult aspects of healing is by claiming the right to feel them.

And the only reason why forgiveness sounds so “positive” to us is because we have this fucking stigma about the shadow emotions being “negative” (which I discussed briefly here). We as a society don’t know how to handle those intense emotions, so we distance ourselves from them. And when someone else is experiencing them, we prescribe “forgiveness” as the fix-all that allows us to sound helpful without actually doing anything to help. If we move past the idea that shadow emotions are negative, suddenly the need to forgive by letting go of those emotions is non-existent, along with the need to distance ourselves from those emotions.

Does forgiveness ever have a place?


I’m an open-minded person and willing to consider that forgiveness really does have a legitimate purpose somewhere buried underneath all the bullshit–that it can potentially be a healthy  byproduct of healing in some circumstances. But I’d be more than willing to bet that, in those instances, the forgiveness happens fairly naturally.

In the instances where the hurt is bigger and the problems larger, i.e. whenever forgiveness takes up focus, it should be up to the individual to decide if that is something they need or even want.  It should be up to the individual to decide if the relationship is worth the work of restoration or if it’s safe to continue with that relationship. Moreover, it shouldn’t ever be the goal. Healing should be the goal, whether or not it includes forgiveness.

And without a genuine apology for the pain and damage caused and change to avoid repeating it, I don’t think forgiveness is either possible or healthy. Healing comes in those instances by learning to set boundaries, take a stand for your own needs, and hold the other person culpable for their actions, not by giving a blank check to someone who repeatedly hurts you.

I think it’s high time we forgive ourselves this absurd expectation that we should always forgive. It’s time to allow ourselves to recognize that healing isn’t about forgiving the other person; it’s about listening to ourselves.

312 thoughts on “Forgiveness is Bullshit

  1. Zheng Yong says:

    Hi Sometimesmagical,

    Your response is right. I had an institutional view on forgiveness as well as a non-institutional forgiveness.

    Those who keep promoting forgiveness, it is as if they will forgive an unforgivable action.

    I am glad that I have refused to forgive people who offended me intentionally and left their life, realising that my life is better when I left their life and avoid forgiving them.

    I am also glad that I have found your website as I have gained much from it.

    I will be chatting with you again. Have a great day ahead.

  2. Sarah Hart says:

    I am really taking this in. I have long had the feeling you describe here– that “forgiveness” is condescending as Fuck– and yet haven’t known how to even frame the question to look at what made me uneasy about it…. This is articulate and re-orienting. Thank you!!!

  3. Ben says:

    Forgiveness is weakness, an invitation to be wronged again.

  4. Christian says:

    Thanks for this, it’s good to know that some still use their brains.

    • Suzanne Freedman says:

      Yes, it is definitely not weak to forgive. Forgiveness does not need repentance as it is something the injured can do on their own without any response from the offender. Reconciliation, on the other hand would need repentance, an admittance of wrongdoing, and a promise that the injury would not occur again. Forgiveness can lead to reconciliation but it does not have to.

      • Are you intending to reply to the comment from Ben about forgiveness being weakness?

      • Suzanne Freedman says:

        That one and the one about whether repentance is needed to forgive.

      • Ah, ok. You kind of hit reply on one unrelated. I agree that it isn’t weakness. I think whether repentance is necessary depends on your personal stance on forgiveness. Obviously, you are in favor of it and take the view that it is an act separate from the relationship, but I have a hard time (as I have talked about in the post itself) with that perspective since it ignores the definition and history of the word.

      • Denise Quinn says:

        Get off this site and stop trolling victims of abuse. Has anyone ever told you where to get off.

      • This was an older comment. I have been treating her comments like spam for quite some time now, no longer allowing them to appear on this post. Mostly, I started deleting them because I find it obsessive and creepy as fuck that she has been basically stalking this post for years now, proseletyzing forgiveness ad nauseum to most new comments, even after I started instantly deleting them. She also replied to your comment with some drivel about how you seem angry and that her forgiveness protocol helps people work through anger…but here on my blog, I don’t find anger to be bad so long as it’s not being used to abuse/harm others. I hope you have a lovely rest of your day and that if she continues to read and follow comments that she will take a hint and either get some help or start her own blog where she can sing the praises of forgiveness to her heart’s content…far away from me. 🙂

  5. Courage says:

    Thank you for your insights.
    Does there not there not have to be repentance in order to forgive?
    Where are the Nuremberg trials for survivors of childhood sexual abuse?

    • Linda Bailey says:

      The Lord tells us to forgive as He forgives us. There has to be repentance, remorse and a turning away from the evil acts first. God does not forgive the unrepentant and doesn’t expect us too either. We are told to avoid evildoers. I am 3 years out of an abusive relationship, and that person has not sought forgiveness, nor have I forgiven him.

  6. Shmueley says:

    I appreciate your words so much… As a practicing Catholic and male sexual assault survivor there’s nothing I hate more than disclosing to someone that I was sexually assaulted and then hearing “You just have to forgive.” Actually, I think I have done all that I can to forgive. I have forgiven as much as I can. And you know what? the flashbacks just keep coming. It. Still. Hurts. Physically and emotionally. I needed 2 surgeries to correct the physical damage. It took me years and years to get the 2nd surgery and I’m still healing from it now even though I had it months ago. Sometimes it seems like the physical pain will never go away. And then there’s the shame from the sexual assault, the effect it has on my marriage and my ability to relate to others. Forgiveness didn’t take away the pain and it doesn’t stop the assault from affecting my life.

    I also think that if Christians really believe that God created the brain, they should understand that the brain responds to trauma in certain ways and instead of just dismissing trauma as “You just need to forgive” it needs to be understood for the natural process of healing that it is. In a lot of ways, it’s like getting hit by a car. OK, I might have forgiven the person driving the car (or not!), but either way, it isn’t going to fix my broken collarbone.

    My definition of forgiveness is to will the good for the person who hurt me despite my pain. So from my Catholic perspective, this means desiring that my assailant dies in a state of grace so he can go to heaven. The thing is, in Catholic theology, you need to repent of your sins before you can go to heaven. So that would mean a profound change of heart on his part–weeping for what he did to me on earth or in Purgatory. As it stands now, though, he expressed no remorse, I have received no apology from him and I have no reason to believe he wouldn’t do it again so I do NOT want to see the man ever again in this life. In heaven, he cannot hurt me, though…so that is the difference.

    I think a lot of survivors understandably recoil at the idea of survivors because when your trauma keeps re-emerging in the form of powerful flashbacks, this is your brain’s way of saying, this is REAL and it HAPPENED. So forgiveness can seem like minimizing the depth and gravity of the wound, or denying it altogether. But forgiveness is not a one sided thing where I absolve the guilty party but he never has to change his heart. I can hold up my end of the bargain (which I think I have) but he might not necessarily hold up his end.

    • LisaV. says:

      Thank you for sharing your experience, very well said. I could swear I once read somewhere in the Bible, Jesus said to “forgive all those who ASK IT OF YOU”. At least that concept makes some sense! For myself, I find it impossible to forgive without apology/responsibility from the offending party. I am so sorry for what you went through and I wish you healing 😢

  7. aero5678 says:

    God tells us that unless a person repents, (completely changes their heart condition, thoughts, and actions) we are not mandated to forgive them. Only after observable remorse and change in heart, then we are to forgive, and only then.

    • Michelle says:

      What chapter and verse is this in the Bible? I would love to throw it back at my Protestant “friends” when they keep telling me I NEED to (aka: MUST) forgive, per whatever chapter and verse they wave in my face.

  8. Kim says:

    This is perfection!!

  9. Jen says:

    I agree with many of your assertions. I’m Christian, but I’ve often struggled with the meaning of forgiveness. I’ve accepted that it’s necessary to be able to “let go” of an offense enough to be able to move past the emotions associated with it, but it’s only necessary so that I can move on. That’s it. After that, the relationship forever-changes. I don’t view you the same way anymore. To say that you’ll never get the opportunity to betray me again is an understatement.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking article.👍

  10. batyabenyochanan says:

    I agree with most of what you wrote. The passage about seventy-times-seven is definitely taken out of context of the gospels as a whole. For example: Luke 17:3 “So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.” Throughout the gospels, the offender’s repentance is required for there to be forgiveness. In fact, Matthew 18 says that if you confront someone with their wrong against you and they won’t repent, you’re not required to interact with them.

    As a person who was abused, I found “forgiveness” to be getting to the point where I’m no longer angry. It’s an ongoing process much like grieving. I haven’t yet arrived, and some days are more of a struggle than others. But I have hope that one day I won’t have any anger left.

  11. A Jacques says:

    I agree . Forgiveness is for myself for staying with an abusive man and not recognizing what he was(a narcissist and sociopath). That is all.

  12. layla zack says:

    I 100% agree with this whole post. Forgiveness ( with my personal experiences ) is garbage for the most part. The ONLY time it should stand is when the offender actually ATTEMPTS to change their behavior and prove to me how truly sorry they are. (though I will not guarantee in trusting them)
    Now before people butcher me, yes I’m “forgiving” if someone accidentally drinks my last soda…because…c’mon that’s petty.
    But if someone repeatedly hurts me over and over…..only to toss bullshit “apologies” at me like used condoms…..then hahahaaaaaaaaa…..burn in a fire so I can have a long overdue fireside beer.

    • Chet Goodman says:

      I totally get this. If the transgressor will not acknowledge, apologize, demonstrate some sense of remorse and/or change their behaviors, screw ’em. Live and learn. Move on, leave them in the dust or in that place where they cannot hurt you again. Make mental notes and file them away. But forgiveness seems like a wonderful gift (in this scenario) of which they are not worthy. Every once in a while, I get to hear a heart-felt apology and, when that happens, I find myself almost eager to forgive. It is wonderful, but those pre-qualifiers come so rarely.

  13. Gerry White says:

    I have forgiven people that have ripped me to ribbons and every time I did they would hurt me again,. I finally closed that door to them. Now the suffering from it all is trying to destroy me but I won’t let it with God’s help. They are still trying to do me in because they don’t want to forgive me of my mistakes that I HAVE TRIED to make it up to them . What they have done and are still doing is is tragic for me compared to my mistakes. Mine were not intentional theyres are. I’m so hurt.

    • The tricky thing about forgiveness is that we all want it when we’re the ones trying to make amends, but just as it is not required for you to forgive them, it is not required that they forgive you. Amends should be a gift and invitation, freely declined. If it’s a demand, then something is off in the apology/amends.

      It sounds like this might be one of those situations where there is no ready resolution to restore the relationship, in which case, I encourage you to look for ways to rebuild, heal, and grow without them. I always recommend seeing a counselor if something feels like it is “trying to destroy” you. Having someone who is there to hold space for your pain and can help you figure out ways to manage it while you’re healing can be incredibly beneficial.

  14. Linda Belcher says:

    Exactly! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I agree 110% with you! Been through it all and yes we don’t need to forgive or forget the pain and suffering we have been put through!!! Hugs n love

  15. Suzanne says:

    Thank you for putting into words what I felt and knew to be true.

  16. Chet Goodman says:

    I have struggled with my daughter “forgiving” me without talking to me about what one might call “the charges against me”. She is grown, has a blog and wrote how she sat (alone) forgiving me for divorcing her mother. She has been sheltered from many details of her parents divorce (including Mom’s violent, abusing and criminal behaviors) and has actively resisted my efforts to talk about it (over a several year period) saying things like “it’s all in the past, Dad” as an avoidance technique. I went with her to a family counselor immediately after her mother filed for divorce (after she refused marriage counseling) and was advised to wait for my daughter to come around, to let her bring it up when she is ready. My patience has not been rewarded. What is the value of this “forgiveness”? Is forgiveness fungible? I mean that I would happily be forgiven for being such a dumb*ss but I did not quit on the marriage, engage in the hostile provocation, violence and deceit (including being caught in multiple lies during a sworn deposition) like her mother did. What do you get when you put a clean bandage over an un-cleaned wound? You might feel better about yourself and, for the moment, everything appears to be buttoned up. But infection is your future.

    • It can be really hard to be in that position. Divorce can often create wounds for children that are difficult to understand as an adult, and her reasons for forgiving you may seem to have nothing to do with your own actions from your perspective. But the wound isn’t yours. It’s hers. Just because it doesn’t make sense to you doesn’t mean that it becomes less real to her. She may have her own stuff to work through with her mom, but that’s also not yours. You say that you have tried to talk to her about the past, but it sounds like it was approached with an attitude that you were going to “set the record straight” about who was at fault. If I felt that someone was only interested in knowing why I needed to “forgive” them so that they could tell me why they weren’t the person who was in the wrong to begin with, I probably wouldn’t feel very open to talking about it either. That would just feel incredibly devaluing to the pain I’m trying to work through. The reality is that, right or wrong, she has experienced a wound that is housed in her relationship with you. You can beat your head against a brick wall trying to prove her wrong…or you can be open to building and/or repairing the relationship in a way that honors the feelings that don’t make sense to you.

  17. Amanda Jane says:

    You are my hero. I’m going to freaking print this out and pass it on to every dipshit who says that I need to forgive people. Thank you a million times over.

  18. Barbara says:

    I commend you on this. I will never, ever forgive the piece of shit that beat my dog to death. People say it’s horrible that him dying of an overdose made me ecstatic. Guess what? All out of f☆☆ks. Thanks !

    • Angel 😇 says:

      Oh No! I that’s absolutely horrific that motherfucker who killed your poor dog. Oh you poor little love. Animal cruelty is unforgivable and I nearly threw up reading it. That monster needs to have the same thing done to him/her. I’m just so sorry about that Darling.

    • LisaV. says:

      Oh my God, what an awful experience Barbara! So sorry for what you went through 😢. I can understand how you feel!

  19. Linda says:

    Ahh yes I so Agree!! The best iI can say is, I learned to Forgive myself! I am happy with that! 💜

  20. HM says:

    I was severely abused sexually, physically , emotionally throughout my childhood. I came to Christ at 17 and He gently lead me through admitting the devastation of the abuse ( I had an “ignore it and it will go away ” attitude which ended up crashing around me. In my late 30’s I went to a conference that focused on writing out every negative thing that had ever happened to me and forgiving . It wasn’t pushed down our throats or offered as a trite answer… but it was a decision. I experienced SO much freedom and finally understood what it meant to live without a victim mentality. ” before I was always crippled by feelings of inadequacy or never- ending side effects, flashbacks , emotional breakdowns . It’s been 8 years and I am as free as ever and so grateful for the opportunity to be free from the oppressivd memories and thoughts attached to my past abuse. And I do keep a long distance, emotionally limited relationship with my abusers ( who are in my family ) … but have never asked them to address the abuse .

  21. Billy says:

    In total agreement with everything you have said. I don’t need to forgive, I just need to accept.

  22. 😇 Angel says:

    I couldn’t have said it any better! Forcing forgiveness on the victim is abuse. These fucking Fundamentalists should be horsewhipped for that. Better yet handed over to the lynch mob. Forcing someone to forgive is enabling their abuser and blaming the victim. Their abusers have to answer for what they’ve done to teach them that they just can’t treat people the way they do. These self-righteous fundies are narcissistic abusers themselves so that’s why they always defend the abuser.

  23. Michelle says:

    I can’t agree more on all of this, and I for one am sick and tired of being told to ‘forgive’. I do no believe In forgiveness for bad, intolerant behavior.

  24. Tess says:

    For the past six months I was floored by adultery , and infested with 20 or more Hpv ‘s . Thank you so much that I am not the only person who thinks forgiveness is Bullshit. My husband’s shrink let me bought two books on it , I would love nothing more as to shove the books up the shrink’s ass !!!!!

  25. Ann Skidmore says:

    Thank you so much for this post. THANK YOU!! My late husband had a secret double life, and it wasn’t until after his death (by suicide) that I learned that he was as evil as they come. I can’t even speak to all the horrible things he did. And what do I hear repeatedly? “You’ll find peace when you forgive him!”
    Bullsh*t. Unmitigated, absolute bullsh*t.
    How can I avoid people of his ilk in the future if I don’t figure out where it went wrong in the past? How can I heal my heavy heart if I don’t sort out the pieces of the hellish nightmare?
    Thanks so much for this blog. What an answer to my prayers for peace.

  26. Marianne Wilson says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, a million times thank you!
    I have been arguing that forgiveness is bullshit that puts the burden on the trauma victim. No one can really say anything to dispute me on this, (or perhaps they are afraid to lol) but those who disagree typically suggest that, without forgiveness I can never “truly heal,” or that my unwillingness to let monsters off the hook shows I’m not healed, and the old forgiveness is to free me bullshit.
    I am a Christian, which I became as an adult. I do not see any scriptural examples of God or Christ forgiving anyone who was unrepentant. In fact, repentance is a prerequisite to loving forgiveness, as are fruits (changed behavior)! I always argue this to befuddled scripture intellects who can’t disagree, yet still accept the old tropes.
    In any case, despite mainstream Christianity and societal crap loads, I know in my heart that forgiving my abusers is not needed. Not only is it not necessary, but it’s actually counterproductive to my healing. Further, it is actually detrimental to the souls of the perpetrators-who need to undergo serious self-examination, repentance and change to be well in their own souls/with God.

  27. lapetitechou says:

    Even the most benign-sounding definition, that it’s just to let go of anger, is victim-shaming. Then if you can’t get your anger to just go away because you tell it to, they can turn it around on you, saying that now it’s not the other person’s fault and you’re just making yourself unhappy. They like to say, “Anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” but they never say that about any other negative emotion. If you’re sad about the death of a loved one, they don’t say, “Why are you drinking that poison? Just let go of the feeling.” In that case, they’ll say it’s normal to feel that way and you just have to let the emotion process.

    The other problem is that feelings like anger and resentment serve an important purpose. I saw something particularly bad happen to someone that illustrates that. Awhile back, she forgave an unstable ex-boyfriend because “forgiveness is for you, not them” (yes, she quoted that). She became friends with him again…I know at this point, forgiveness-evangelists will say, “We never said you had to include him in your life again! Just let go of the resentment.” But she said that now that she was no longer angry, she could accept him for who he was, a bad person to date but okay as a friend. Then she shared some vulnerable information about herself and he shared it on his blog to harm her. Why? “Because he’s crazy!” Now the full memory of how bad he could get came back to her and she didn’t know how she could have trusted him with that.

    That’s the thing. If you’re the type who easily softens up to people (which I know I am too), you need a little resentment to remind you of why you should be wary of someone. I’m not defining resentment as keying someone’s car. If someone would do something like that, maybe they need to have a talk with them about anger management. Resentment for me is when I gag at the thought of interacting with someone. That’s an important inner alarm.

    • Yes!! Exactly! The emotions are there for a reason…probably to warn you off. And demonizing them does shame the person who has them. Revenge and non-forgiveness aren’t the same thing either. Sometimes I think people get that mixed up…and then justify property damage or violence.

  28. […] Working from that definition — that forgiveness equals reconciliation — I no longer believe that forgiveness is a blanket mandate. I no longer believe that I have to forgive everyone. Given that definition, I must agree with my friend when she says that forgiveness is bullshit. […]

  29. Thomas says:

    I love this. Thank you

  30. Carmel says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have been yelling this from the rooftops for years. I will never forgive my abuser. Why should I? What he did was awful, he knew what he was doing and he knew the damage it would do. He is dead now and I no we will never talk about it-but guess what, I was never going to talk to him about it anyway. I have moved on, I have spoken publically about it, written about it and I reach out to others. If he was still alive the only thing I might say is “kiss my ass” and I believe that is a healthy attitude.

  31. alohaboy says:

    I can never forgive my sister for stealing from me–and steals from family repeatedly without any remorse! Stealing from family is not part of mental illness (she is not a kleptomaniac) or even Rape Traumatic Syndrome (So holding her accountable is not a “second rape”)

    • Having trauma can create some complicated dynamics for people–some of which can be hard to understand, but it doesn’t justify or excuse boundary violations like stealing. I’m sorry for the pain that comes with a betrayal like that. It’s okay to want to hold strong boundaries around people who haven’t proven trustworthy or aren’t willing to accept accountability for what is theirs. Healthy boundary holding isn’t abuse.

  32. willneiss says:

    I’m struggling with the aftermath of my narcissistic sociopath sibling who had physically, emotionally and sexually abused my lfather leading to his death. Her abuse was ultimately a manipulation to pressure Dad who had suffered severe memory loss from multiple strokes to sign over all assets in her name. Several years earlier mother was killed by a vehicle while walking. The same sibling intentionally kept secret her death and was caught forging checks out of my parents joint account amounting to over 1m.
    I spent my entire life’s savings hiring attorneys and caring for my father once Adult Protective Services finally took action against her. Ultimately she received a few days of jail and made off with my parents entire estate of 3m and I watched my dad die from an illness created from the sibling’s kidnapping and hiding of my father which took almost a year for me to locate him.
    So, I’ve been getting some same advise to forgive. Almost daily I’m reminded of my sibling’s hurtful actions against both my father and myself the only other sibling and once heir of 59% of the estate. These reminders come in the form of attorney bills, probate court hearings which the sibling financed with the monies she stole from the estate and the loss of my father and never being able to way goodbye to mother.
    My anger is through the roof which is unusual as I’ve always been a positive and happy loving person but now have nothing left feeling like an empty shell of a person. Thank you for sharing your experience and helping me feel Ok with NOT forgiving. I’m trying to figure out if I’ll ever have normalcy to my life or will I suffer this torment the remainder of my life. Wish I had something positive to say about my life currently but as dead as my parents so are the relationships of those close to me as I struggle unavailable to meet their needs. I’m apparently supposed to just get over it and move on with my life. Maybe there’s a medical procedure that removes the memory from my brain like in the film “Total Recall”!

  33. Ginamarie says:

    I agree with you because some people did things to me on purpose and should have known better. They were so selfish and self-centered. Even today they are still the same. I don’t forgive them, and I just can’t. I feel sorry for them, that they are so miserable, but they don’t get a pass. I feel great about it!

  34. Krystal says:

    Thank you very much, magical! I’m through with forgiving unapologetic assholes. Time for me to move on and to hell with them. As far as I’m concerned, you’re my hero, magical!

  35. msophia says:

    Thank you for this article. I’ve become so tired of people telling how I should “let go” and also even stating that there are “positive” and “negative” emotions. I recently realized that all emotions are signals of whether or not my basic needs are being met. Anger and resentment have become important to me as a result.

    Do you see a connection between people’s insistence on forgiveness and the idea of “unconditional love” which is often seen as a virtue?

    • Yes in many ways I think unconditional love gets lumped in with forgiveness as an expectation for survivors. I think there are also ways that people value the concept without it being toxic, but that’s hard to find. Most often it seems like boundary-less love.

      • reneemichele68 says:

        In 2003, my sister was murdered in her own home , shot 3 times then left for dead from her estranged waay older ex boyfriend. She wasn’t discovered for 2 days because her job was concerned. The murdering coward made himself the victim.. kept changing his plea from accidentally self defense and then even tried to get jury to believe she was suicidal..All because he could no longer be with her. Trial was a year later, I lived in WA state and my sister lived in Florida.. long story short, he was not sorry, only did 4 years, and got out out because jury violated his rights due to he kept changing his plea, he knew what he was doing..this man finally died last year..I’m happy he died broke, alone and old as hell. He never deserved to to be forgiven and he only cared about himself..may he rot in hell.. There is no forgiveness for that piece of crap, ever.

      • I’m sorry for your tragedy. There are no words for what you’ve been through.

    • What about the idea that anger is a normal and natural emotion and one needs to be validated for their feelings and helped to express them in a healthy and safe way. However, from personal experience, anger gets old, tiring and harmful. What do you do when you work through your anger and want to move beyond it?

      • I mean, no one is saying you have to hold onto anger or that you can’t move on. Anger is a normal and valid emotional response to various situations, and most emotions have a natural process of moving through when allowed to do their jobs. I don’t think those are mutually exclusive concepts. My anger comes and goes as it is needed to. I neither try to shame myself for having it nor hold onto it longer than it needs to be with me. I find it interesting that when recommending that people’s process be honored around whether or not they need to forgive that people somehow think that means recommending stewing in an emotion intentionally and never letting it shift or change. It says alot about the concept of forgiveness that people think the alternative is forcibly keeping oneself in an emotion.

      • I also had a long discussion thread on some of the earlier comments about how forgiveness and moving on aren’t the same. One can move on without forgiving.

  36. Rhyleigh says:

    At this point, I don’t even want to hear an apology. Like it would be 10xs more insulting than the trauma itself. My only relief will be cutting her off for good. It won’t fix shit. It won’t make me hurt less. But, and I’ve wracked my brain. It is the ONLY (louder for the people in the back) form of justice in this case. The only.

  37. Marta Carney says:

    Thank you for this…People are shocked when I take the position that, in most cases, forgiveness further victimizes the victim. In the Catholic (my upbringing) religious context it also offers a free pass to transgress again (sin on Friday, confess on Saturday, communion on Sunday). I believe in replacing emotional forgiveness with rational acceptance. Think: ‘I accept that you hurt me’ (facing the reality while placing the burden of redemption on the violator) v. ‘I forgive you for hurting me’ (assuming emotional responsibility away from the violator).

  38. Rhenda says:

    People want you to forgive so they don’t have to hear about it anymore. Sweep it under the rug. I feel better hearing I don’t have to forgive and can move on faster with that relief. You should have the right to be upset over wrongs, especially when they don’t feel any remorse for what they did. People should be listening to victims not protecting the abusers. This drove me away from religion.

    • Denise Quinn says:

      I couldn’t agree more. Where do they get off judging everyone else when they do the same things. It’s despicable the way they defend the abusers and blame the victims. Why should we have to forgive malicious and unrepentant abusers. God doesn’t forgive them so why should we?

  39. Angela says:

    Well said and thought out! It IS ok to be angry when wronged! Appropriate actions NEED to be taken! That can bring about healing. Forgiveness, as you point out, is for those who are sorry for what they’ve done and resolve to TRY to make it right (in as much as is possible) and NOT repeat an offense. If ALL are forgiven ALL, it would excuse all to repeatedly harm others by there behaviors. Appropriate action is a must.

  40. Marina says:

    Thanks for this article. Love what you say. In my opinion forgiveness is only for “accidents” or forgiving who really doesn’t know/mean what s/he is doing. If a child says or does something hurtful out of honesty and not malice, yes I can forgive that.
    However I cannot and will not forgive someone who, in spite of my pleading for years, has emotionally abused me, physically threatened me and has been indifferent (maybe even secretly happy) about my suffering.
    I will get away from that person, will free myself from the anger and pain by simply letting go of the grip that this person had on my life for so long, but will not just “forgive” not “forget” his repeated, conscious and very deliberate (careless and selfish at best) offences toward me. I refuse to forgive and forget constant secretiveness, lying and betrayal. I will not forgive and forget how this person stomped on my heart, my feelings, my value, my wishes, my esteem and my respect without hesitation.
    In such cases, in my opinion, forgovibg and forgetting means don’t trust your own feelings and judgment, ignore the abuse and continue being “nice” to this person who will continue to abuse you.

    Abusers NEVER change. I should know: I’ve lived with this abuser as my husband for 8 painful years. Now I have finally and seriously initiated the divorce process. It’s sad but I’ll be relieved.

    I wish everyone the strength to break away from all kinds of abusers, be it physical, emotional, sexual, financial, verbal…

  41. […] Work­ing from that def­i­n­i­tion — that for­give­ness equals rec­on­cil­i­a­tion — I no longer believe that for­give­ness is a blan­ket man­date. I no longer believe that I have to for­give every­one. Giv­en that def­i­n­i­tion, I must agree with my friend when she says that for­give­ness is bull­shit. […]

  42. kersten says:

    Thank you

  43. Mioca says:

    Just from reading this one post / article, I love you already!
    If forgiveness means ‘to give completely’ (Latin perdonare), then it’s just accepting abuse.
    Of course Christianity prescribes it; the whole damn religion is a control mechanism / psy-op!
    Abused and indoctrinated severely as a child, it sadly took me until my 40s to unwind the twisted thinking of the bible and church doctrine. I finally found my way back to pre-christian and pre-greek thinking, and discovered the true god is the Earth (Sophia/Wisdom).
    How refreshing to find your blog, after a search for “forgiveness is bullshit”.
    Guess I’m not alone after all.
    May you be rewarded for speaking out on this (since blessing is bullshit too)!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post and happy to hear you’ve found a spirituality that works for you. Being able to reclaim and explore spirituality can be such an important part of recovering from an oppressive religious upbringing!

  44. Chris says:

    Yes. You nailed it. We’ve been preached to forever that forgiveness is necessary for recovery. But it’s closer to the other way around. Forgiveness, if it even exists in a meaningful way is the byproduct of recovery.

    • I wouldn’t even go so far as to say it’s always a byproduct. I think it’s been conflated with healing but it may or may not have anything to do with that process for different people.

  45. […] Work­ing from that def­i­n­i­tion — that for­give­ness equals rec­on­cil­i­a­tion — I no longer believe that for­give­ness is a blan­ket man­date. I no longer believe that I have to for­give every­one. Giv­en that def­i­n­i­tion, I must agree with my friend when she says that for­give­ness is bull­shit. […]

  46. theraspberryreports says:

    Great post, thank you for writing this. Forgiveness is overrated. I’ve even had therapists “prescribe” Forgiveness rituals which I’ve tried more than once and to no avail. It felt like it helped in the moment but it was only a matter of time before I found myself back in the same place replaying all the wrongs. It’s bullshit. In some New age circles, there’s this idea that if we don’t let go we will just attract more of the same – now that’s some serious emotional abuse right there. Smh

    • I’m sorry you’ve had forgiveness pushed at you in therapy like that. I can imagine that would be very damaging. I have personally told therapists that I won’t discuss forgiveness with them if they think it’s necessary for healing, and that seems to hold that boundary pretty well.

  47. Keeping it Real says:

    Thank you for beeing so sain and taking the time and courage to post this✊

  48. Evandra says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for saying this. I really needed to see this today. I don’t want to forgive. I’m sick of well intentioned but totally oblivious people petitioning me over and over and over to forgive, telling me I have to in order to move on, that I’m not healthy or moral or enlightened/saved/whole until I do forgive, that it will be GOOD for me, so that I can “let go”. But that’s BULLSHIT. It’s pretentious holier-than-thou victim shaming, and it’s got nothing to do with me (or other victimized people) healing or letting go, I think it’s so people burdened with the knowledge of what happened are able to let go of or heal from their unpmeasant empathy they have to feel every time they remember what happened to someone who’s been badly hurt. There’s a feelgoody message that forgiving empowers and frees a victim and some magical door closes forever, and the victim is now a-ok, closure is achieved, what a pretty end of story, and who doesn’t love a happy ending? Except that’s BULLSHIT. We luve in the real world and not storytime. We aren’t children, and we shouldn’t spout childish platitudes about forgiveness being a magic healing potion and heap on expectations of how a victim should behave, feel, and think. Thanks again for putting this out there, where I could see it in a bad moment. It made me feel more free than any bullshit smarmy forgiveness lecture.

    • Somebody says:

      Well said, Evandra, from deep in your heart. Many people agree and feel just as you do. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experience.

  49. Rianna says:

    I agree with you 100%. Forgiveness is such a fucked up concept. That’s is, forgiveness without the other person doing everything you want them to do to make it right. Even if they do make it right to your satisfaction and you choose to let it go, you aren’t “even” with the person. It is still generous and unnecessary of you let it go and let that person back into your life.
    I had a horrible experience with my future mother-in-law where she verbally and physically assaulted me in my own house. This was after my fiance and I spent at least a couple thousand dollars taking care of her in our own home for 4 months. She got triggered because of something I said and exploded in an abusive fit. The things that came out of her mouth were so rude and offensive that I don’t think I will ever forgive her. Things like “I’m going to kill you” “I curse you to never have a child” “You are a dirty little bitch”. These words and many others were combined with a physical attack on my person.
    A few weeks later she issued a written apology in the mail. Saying “I am so sorry for my harsh words”, “I by no means meant what I said”, “I love you”. These shallow words fell on deaf ears. I don’t really care if she is sorry. That’s nice for her but it doesn’t fix anything. In fact, her weak, insincere apology actually added insult to injury. I have zero interest in forgiving her, though I would be willing to if she did everything in her power to make it right, on my terms. Even if I ever do forgive her I won’t invite her back into my life. She won’t ever see my children, (I am pregnant now). Just because I forgive her doesn’t mean I have any obligation to open myself up to further abuse.
    Here’s the thing, the day I met her, when we picked her up from the airport her face was covered in scabs and bruises. She is a frequent victim of domestic abuse and she blames herself for it. It was because of an abuse situation that her family all pitched in to fly her from Australia to the U.S. to escape these beatings. But then every day she talked on and on about “her love”, “her darling”, “her sweetheart”. Every day she waited for him to text or call, staying up late into the night to get him on the phone, yes, the asshole her beat her. She has obviously forgiven the guy and perhaps because she blames herself for his abuse she finds it quite easy to go back to him.
    I wish she wouldn’t forgive the men that get multiple chances to abuse her. I wish once was enough and she would do anything in her power to keep the psycho animals away. She knows any of her family and anyone that cares about her will take her side and help protect her. But she still chooses to go allow them back.
    I get the feeling that everyone in her life has chosen to forgive her for all the ways she does them wrong. Certainly, nobody tells her no. She is the self proclaimed “Queen” of the family and regularly abuses that power. This my be the first time in a long time that anyone has said no to her and held against her the harm that she has caused. I’m not doing it for her but I do still care about her because I care about my fiance. He lost his mom that day and I know he hopes he will get her back someday. I hoping she will learn something about standing up against abuse, not forgiving people that treat you like shit, and not opening yourself up for further abuse.

  50. Troy Ludgate says:

    Amen this is dead spot on

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