Does a circumstance exist where forgiving is not recommended? Is there a situation where forgiving is a mistake? Can forgiving cause more harm than good in some circumstances?
These questions have occurred recently, and I find that I cannot arrive at an answer. Specifically, in cases of abuse; if the abuser never admits what they have done, and instead, accuses the abused of lying, making false accusations, and of manipulation of facts – is it appropriate to forgive the abuser and try to rebuild the relationship? If the abuser claims not to remember the damage they have caused and instead tries to elicit sympathy from the abused for current problems, should this be forgiven?
I have always felt a strong pull towards forgiving, towards compassion and understanding. After all, I have made many mistakes throughout my life and have apologized multiple times for these mistakes. But I struggle with forgiving when faced with someone whose words are so profoundly at odds with their actions that they seem to be lying. I struggle in cases where the abuser is a deeply religious person and claims, repeatedly, that their faith prevents them from lying or harming anyone – even as they continue the dishonest words and behavior. I struggle in situations where the abuser has verbally harmed someone in the past, and a third individual has defended the abused – years later the abuser and their victim attack the third individual because the abuser has shared his/her dislike of that person with the initial victim. Can this situation be forgiven? Should it be forgiven? And if forgiving is possible, should the relationship be rebuilt?
To forgive is a very personal decision, and one with a path that is long, difficult, and at times very painful. In addition, I have discovered that forgiving does not always heal the wounds created by abuse. I have been told that true forgiveness can take years to achieve, and that until it is achieved emotions will fluctuate between peace and pain. At times, you will think you have forgiven only to feel the harm resurface and create even deeper pain. However, I can’t help but wonder, could not forgiving be a healthier option in some circumstances – especially when continued contact with the abuser cannot be avoided? Is it healthier to forgo forgiving altogether?
And, possibly most pertinent, can we forgive someone we no longer trust?