Forgiveness isn’t acceptance

A wild strawberry flower.  (Provided photo — Diane Chase)

I recently was away for work and had a long conversation about forgiveness. It came from a young person struggling with a living situation. The circumstances were vague, but the question was straightforward: How does a person learn to forgive? Do some people find it easier to forgive, or is forgiveness vital?

“Casual” conversations with a stranger can come with many red flags. It’s not the same when offering advice to your child with hopefully cohesive boundaries, expectations, and family rhythm. Someone else’s child comes to the conversation with a fragmented backstory and vague coping skills. I did mention my advice is my opinion. I’d welcome a conversation and learn what forgiveness looked like to him.

Here is my advice. Forgiveness, whatever the infraction, takes time and may not bring immediate closure. It also doesn’t look the same for each person. Some people may walk away while others want to settle differences. Just because one person is hurt doesn’t mean the other person cares or requires forgiveness. Sometimes people need to find forgiveness from within and not give any more power to the other person. It requires strength to make peace.

His response seemed more about relinquishing control. If someone always requires forgiving, is the energy worth it? I mentioned perhaps he was confusing acceptance with forgiveness. Forgiving doesn’t require a continued relationship or absolving the other person. It is a tool to help a person evolve beyond any pain and blame.

Forgiving can allow the injured to heal but won’t necessarily make a person forget. Forgiving someone isn’t giving a person permission to continue to act the same way. Forgiving doesn’t require second chances or making excuses for poor behavior. Forgiving is choosing to let go of the internal critic and move forward. No one deserves mistreatment, but when we release regret, we no longer focus on “righting past wrongs.”

I’m not sure if we agreed at the end of our conversation, but the conversation allowed me to reevaluate my circumstances. It brought up questions to share with my own family. It brought me to a place to accept forgiveness.


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