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An integral part of the human condition, one we are encouraged to embrace at almost every turn in life, no matter how horrible the offense.

Well, what is the real “deal” w forgiveness?
“Tears flow, hugs proliferate, and the inevitable psychological experts solemnly intone that traditional psychotherapy has neglected this essential element of cure and that studies show that forgiving alleviates depression and enhances self-esteem.”
“What's wrong with this picture? The capacity to forgive is an essential part of an examined life. However, enshrining universal forgiveness as a panacea, a requirement or the only moral choice, is rigid, simplistic and even pernicious...”
‘“Yet that is exactly what we have done. Today we demonize not forgiving as much as we idealize forgiving. Failure to forgive, therapists caution, is to "doom yourself to be a victim for the rest of your life," while clergy warn that it inexorably leads to a "recycling of evil."’
“Yet some of the most admirable, sane and emotionally healthy people that I know have not forgiven on occasion. Not forgiving needs to be reconceived. It is not an avoidance of forgiveness or a retreat into paranoia, but a legitimate action in itself, with its own progression,“
”motivation &justification. There are many circumstances in which it is the proper & most emotionally authentic course of action. I have found that there are three types of healthy unforgivers. For moral unforgivers, refusing means telling the truth, asserting fundamental rights”
“& opposing injustice. Psychologically detached unforgivers accept the painful reality that they cannot experience the positive internal connection with a betrayer--usually a parent--which forgiving would require. Reformed forgivers have faced conflicts between feelings...”
“religious principles, ethics or social responsibilities, and reject the conventional attitudes they once accepted. None of these three types is vindictive or against forgiveness in principle; they share the capacity to forgive but do not exercise it indiscriminately.”

“In my family, the very act of unforgiveness is an extortion of my soul," -Katz, a psychotherapist. "It endorses what they did, which was2deny the truth & pressure me2sacrifice myself. 4me not 2 forgive my brother at my parents' behest is my self-affirmation."
“Sandy's parents had looked the other way when her violent bully of an older brother thrust a screwdriver up her rectum--even when he set her on fire. "Afterward they didn't leave tools or matches lying around, but they never acknowledged what he did to me...”
”He continued to behave this way and they continued to insist that I submit; my mother would say, 'He's just trying to get close to you because he doesn't know how to be friends.' She'd confuse me by saying it was all out of love, and I had no recourse."
“Parents define a child's world; there is no escape. Unsure of their own reality, children who have no validation and no protection become prisoners mentally as well as physically.”
”Not forgiving is a recourse they can create only as independent adults, a way to free themselves from years of being coerced to agree that hate is really love.”
“Under the pressure of promoting family harmony, parents who need to deny one child's viciousness & their own negligence often try to force the victimized child to be ‘mature’ & ‘rise above it.’ These more intact, "good" siblings continue to make the same demands of themselves.”
“Their willingness to accept bad treatment, to feel they deserve it, or to define it out of existence then extends beyond their families and damages their later lives. Even those in less extreme circumstances tend to absorb parental values as an unexamined template for their own“
“responses, making it difficult for them to distinguish what they truly feel from what has been imposed upon them.”
“Ten years ago, at age 35, Sandy finally defied her parents by refusing her brother's phone calls. "I started getting guilt-inducing messages from them saying that I was abandoning him and destroying the family. They became increasingly angry and accusatory,“
“haranguing me to forgive and forget. without admitting there was anything to forgive and forget. I wrote him a note detailing what he had done and said I wouldn't speak to him until he was willing to acknowledge it. He sent me back a letter taking the moral high ground:“
that he was just as hurt as I, that all children fight--as if these were normal childhood squabbles--and that he was willing to let bygones be bygones. Why couldn't I?"
“Sandy hasn't attended a family function with her brother since she received that letter. "I've taken a strong position that he's out of my life, even though my parents still try to bully me into capitulating. I know it's difficult for them to have two separate sets of holidays,“
“...but I forbid them to talk to me about it because their Pollyanna attitude enrages me."
“The moral unforgiver makes a distinction between the extreme circumstances where a relationship must be severed and other, more commonplace, injuries. "It's not so much what my brother did as a child, but what he continues to be as a man that I find unacceptable,"
Sandy explained. "He never changed, never grew, and just found new ways to feel entitled. It would only be right to forgive what he did as a child--it would be legitimate and healthy for everybody. But it would be wrong not to hold him responsible for being an undeveloped person“
“now; I would be colluding in creating a false reality, which was what allowed me to be violated in the first place.”
“Contrary to the conventional wisdom, refusing to forgive or have further contact with an unrepentant, abusive relative is therapeutic. "My lack of forgiveness has not impeded my development or my relationships at all; in fact, it's cured me," she said.”
“b4 I took a stand I was always depressed and acceding to others' needs, always confused about my rights & about what was real." It is commonly believed that forgiving promotes mental health & alleviates depression. But doing the opposite can express a person's very right to live
Responsible unforgivers are never antiforgiveness; Sandy regularly forgives outside her family, even when the offender fails to apologize. "In a good relationship-not a perfect relationship-it's different; how bad are the screwups?“
If the person is still loving enough it comes naturally." By recognizing the distinction between actions worthy & unworthy of tolerance, & upholding her own moral point of view, a child triumphs over the masochistic role her family assigned her. Her insistence on truth & justice”
‘“which lead her to refuse to forgive, is the foundation of her sense of self. Says Sandy of her decision: "I've never had a moment's regret."’
>>>> proponents of universal forgiveness refuse to recognize that moral unforgivers exist.
“They find it inconceivable that unforgiving victims of injustice could be outraged but not obsessed by their injuries, that they could even sympathize or retain conditional connections with those they refuse to pardon.”

“Anybody who struggles with intimate betrayal must reengage with the experience, actively choosing to think and to feel what was once unbearable. But understanding need not lead to forgiveness.”
“Indeed, it is a major accomplishment for some men and women to temper their hatred and tolerate their indifference. For the sake of their own emotional survival, they can do no more.”
“Disengaging from a fatally flawed parent or intimate, sometimes seems to come naturally, without anguish. Biochemist Annie Travers remembers never feeling anything but contempt for her father. "He was a selfish brute who considered his children his property.”
Once when I was a teenager, he said, 'I can do anything I want with you'--and he would have if my uncle hadn't threatened to call the police." Annie's uncle, a blind biologist who lived with the family, was her protector, mentor and soulmate. "He taught me how to think," she said
Annie discussed what must have been a miserable situation with scientific detachment, and not a hint of recrimination. Throughout our interview, she referred to her father as "this guy," and seemed surprised when I asked what qualities she had inherited from him.
"I'm my uncle's daughter," she said. Many children who had a poisonous parent identify someone else as their "real" parent.
Under the right circumstances, a traumatic past can be left behind without being consciously mourned. Living with a beloved, admirable uncle who shared & validated her feelings-
“I always knew we would be better off without my father and my uncle agreed with me," Annie said--made her solution possible.
I didn't love her. Not loving her meant I was like her, a person incapable of love. When I realized that I didn't love her because she didn't love me, I understood that I could still love. I haven't forgiven her, but I'm not angry anymore. She had some nice qualities,
“like liveliness. But in the most important way, she was never really my mother."
“In the conventional view, the decision to forgive must not be based on whether the perpetrator deserves it; only then can the independent will of the victim be guaranteed.“
“In fact, refusing to forgive a heartless mother or other betrayer expresses a person's right to his or her own feelings. Recognizing that you are under no obligation to profess love you do not feel is a hard-won freedom.”

We tend to think of forgiveness as the best, healthiest way to resolve an intimate injury, and of learning to forgive as one of life's greatest lessons. Sometimes the opposite is true.
“Learning not to forgive, after a life in which forgiveness has been compulsive, imposed or unconsidered, is an impressive achievement.”
“Daily life provides many circumstances where offensive and unchangeable behavior should not be excused and where forgiving is confused with submerging normal reactions to mistreatment.“
”Yet even when the culprit is a peer and not a parent, and the injury is mundane, it can take years for a person to stop extending second chances.”
“Forgiving without reconciling is acceptable; why not reconciling without forgiving? People often wound one another in the name of truth; a person has a right to employ judicial dishonesty to protect him- or herself against being wounded by others.”
“Forgiveness and unforgiveness are not polar opposites but points on a continuum. The same internal processes can lead to emotionally authentic resolutions in either direction.“
”Anyone who has gone through the profound and punishing process of conscious forgiving or not forgiving emerges more self-aware, more related to others, and less burdened by the past.”
“When it is genuine, forgiveness is a capacity, not a compulsion; this is why the same person can grant it or withhold it, depending on the circumstances. The ability to discriminate signifies maturity and freedom.”
Adapted from Forgiving & Not Forgiving: A New Approach to Resolving Intimate Betrayal by Jeanne Safer, Ph.D. (Avon Books, August 1999).
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