Food for Thought: The Rush to Forgiveness

“Genuine forgiveness does not deny anger but faces it head-on.” – Alice Miller

“I forgive them”. This is what victims of crime sometimes say when they’re interviewed on the news days, or even hours, after some terrible violation has been committed against them. Perhaps they were brutally attacked. Perhaps someone they love was murdered.

“I forgive the people who did this to me”, they say.

I always feel a sense of concern when I hear this.

Their forgiveness seems so immediate. It makes me wonder what happened to their feelings.

If an injustice has been perpetrated against us, understandably we experience many emotions – anger, rage, hurt, pain, upset, shame, humiliation.

While we may want to forgive because we feel it’s the “Right Thing to Do”, we must nonetheless ensure our feelings don’t become casualties in the rush to forgiveness.

Forgiveness is often defined as an act of letting go. But how can we truly let go if our feelings remain unprocessed? They don’t simply go away because we deny them.

We carry them with us and need something, such as food, to suppress them. Thus, bread becomes a fire blanket to smother rage. A quagmire of chocolate serves to quell fury.

But the relief is only ever temporary.

Genuine forgiveness is a process. A process in which, as Alice Miller says, rather than deny our anger, we face it head-on.

It’s human and normal to feel angry when we’ve been hurt, especially in childhood, and it’s OK to acknowledge our feelings and make peace with them.

Then – and only then – is genuine forgiveness an option.

©️ Julie de Rohan 2019.

28 thoughts on “Food for Thought: The Rush to Forgiveness

  1. Great post, Julie, very thought-provoking. An act of immediate forgiveness may be just as knee-jerk as one which blames or lashes out. True forgiveness surely requires understanding and that takes time to process. It’s always great to check my email and find a post from you, Julie! Lxx

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    1. You’re so kind, Lol. And you’ve put that much better than I have – “immediate forgiveness may be just as knee-jerk as one which blames or lashes out”. I agree that it takes time to process our feelings before we can approach forgiveness. Great to hear you thoughts, thank you.

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  2. That’s so true Julie. An act of forgiveness should be the result of letting go which in itself is a process which happens only slowly. I know some people just let go. If they have trained their minds so much that they can do it so easily, good for them. But otherwise, like you said, it is important to get over it and then let go.

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    1. I think if we acknowledge and express our feelings and work them through, we naturally arrive at the choice of whether to forgive or not. Many thanks for sharing your thoughts, Deepa – good to hear from you.

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  3. I find it a process, almost like grieving – I’ll forgive someone, but sometimes the hurt/anger comes back and I’ll un-forgive them, be mad for a bit, let it go again, and gradually it stays away longer and longer. I *want* to forgive quickly so I can move on, but at times I’m lying to myself if I think I have truly done it. Thanks for another great post, I’m so glad to have ‘met’ you here 🙂

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    1. Likewise, Karen! I’m so glad to have ‘met’ you too. You’ve described that process so brilliantly – and it resonates with me so much. Often, just when I think I’m done with it, it comes back – it’s like there are layers to anger when we’ve been hurt and we just have to work them all through before we can truly forgive. Thanks so much for sharing your experience, I’m sure many people will relate to it.

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    1. Yes, if the injury wasn’t deliberate we can, of course, forgive immediately on the understanding that we’re all human and make mistakes. When the hurt is more serious and deliberate it’s another matter. Many thanks for your comment.

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  4. Thank you for sharing!!.. sometimes when one forgives quickly, it makes one wonder the sincerity of the words… 🙂 but one should not carry the burden in one’s heart too long.. 🙂

    “Holding on to bitterness is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die”… (Author Unknown)

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    1. That’s so true, Dutch, it does make you doubt their sincerity, but feelings unprocessed can feel like a terrible burden. Great to hear your thoughts


      1. This is true, which is why one should relieve that burden soon, but in an sincere way… 🙂

        “Never say I love you
        If you really don’t care,
        Never talk about feelings
        If they really aren’t there.

        Never hold my hand
        If your going to break my heart
        Never say your going to
        If you don’t plan to start.

        Never look into my eyes
        If all you do is lie
        Never say hello
        If you really mean goodbye.

        If you really mean forever
        Then say you will try,
        If not, then never say forever
        Cause forever makes me cry
        (Author Unknown)

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  5. Wonderful post, Julie. I can relate to this and understand the desire to forgive, and not to carry the pain. And it is also good to honor the time and grieving it may take – the loss of our idea of a person, perhaps, in order to forgive them and ourselves for whatever hurt was caused, whether deliberate or inadvertent. Over time perhaps we mature and take things less personally, so it may be easier to let go. But it is a practice, and it is not something that comes naturally to most of us without a LOT of practice. 🙂

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    1. You’re absolutely right, Cristy – it’s a practice and we can’t expect ourselves to be great at it straight away. It takes time and it’s imperfect – sometimes it will be easier, other times less so and that’s all OK. I’m grateful to hear your take on this, many thanks.

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  6. Exactly! True forgiveness takes time, and requires some honest confrontations with oneself, and sometimes with the one who has harmed you. Forgiveness is a wonderful thing, but only if it is genuine.

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    1. “honest confrontations with oneself” – what a great expression, Ann. So often we avoid having that kind of conversation with ourselves, but the pay-off is usually worth it. Many thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  7. I completely agree with everything you’ve written here. Forgiveness is not easy. It is multifaceted and complex. There are so many difficult feelings to deal with – and those feelings are all appropriate. Anyone who’s been there knows it’s a process and a constant battle. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. You’ve put that so beautifully – genuine forgiveness is “multifaceted and complex” and every feeling we experience is understandable. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts here.


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