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Why forgiving someone else is about you (npr.org)
227 points by pseudolus 7 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 239 comments

My therapist has recently recommend "The Grief Recovery Handbook"[1] to me to deal with a breech of trust in my life. I never thought of that as "grief" but as we went through it, it's really put a new perspective on things.

The book also talks about the importance of forgiveness and explains it this way:

"Since you cannot go back in time to change the past, forgiveness is about giving up the hope of a different or better yesterday. It relates to forgiving actions that were taken, that gave you the feelings of loss of control over your happiness. It’s about acknowledging those things that another did or said that caused pain and making the decision that you are not going to let that hurt or control you anymore.

Forgiveness can be very empowering. It can give you the chance to be free of another person’s emotional control. It has nothing to do with the other person. As was said before, it is something that is for you and you alone."

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Grief-Recovery-Handbook-Anniversary-E...

I personally frame it as taking responsibility for your feelings - recognizing that you have in large measure conscious choice over the way you feel and can will it differently - and I think of it in opposition to what I perceive as a modern vogue for playing the victim, or worse, stacking up victimhood cards like they are spell multipliers and using them in a social competition to prove how much bigger of a victim you are than other people. But victimhood, as I see it, surrenders your well-being to forces external to you.

That all sounds pretty political, but everything social turns political above a certain scale.

Forgiveness is underrated, for sure. Take control over your self.

This sounds like a recipe for redirecting the grudge toward some other external target, instead of letting it go. Not to say you shouldn't do what works for you, as long as you don't hurt anyone else in the doing of it - but to find it as you've put it here gives it the sense of general advice and recommendation, and in that sense it seems very much wanting.

Forgiveness can be succinctly summed up as putting something behind you by deciding that it's over and you're moving on. I think the key phrase you perhaps missed in GPs comment is:

"...that you have in large measure conscious choice over the way you feel and can will it differently"

They then contrast this with gathering victimhood cards (my favorite example of this is the scene from Scrubs where Turk and Elliot are arguing over whether black doctors or women doctors have it harder, then both agree that their black woman colleague has it worst of all), which I think you would agree is the opposite of forgiveness.

I'm not sure I agree with their tone about victimhood cards, as another way to phrase that would be that some people have traumas they haven't fully processed. Sounds different when cast in that light.

This sounds like a recipe for redirecting the grudge toward some other external target

I think that's antithetical to the term forgiveness, so I suspect that's not intended by the parent comment(s). In fact, the exact opposite is how I read their comment, that is that you take your grudges toward external targets and let them go.

I don't know. Framing it in terms of opposition to a perceived political trend doesn't read that way to me, and my own relevant experience includes nothing to suggest that framing forgiveness in any way related to any kind of political anything would be a useful way of dealing with the ramifications of past emotional trauma.

Perhaps the original commenter will come along and clarify.

I'm not trying to frame it as oppositional to a political trend, but rather that it's unfashionable an angle to take, to not take up the mantle of victimhood. I was commenting on the relative location of my position because I'm aware of its unfashionability as I write.

If anything, I was being peremptorily defensive, not redirecting to some other external target.

That's fair, but I'm still very unclear on how the one relates to the other.

How is this idea, "to not take up the mantle of victimhood," meant to be useful in, for example, forgiving my grandfather for what he did that one afternoon when I was still a small boy, and everyone else was out on a day trip somewhere? - that one afternoon much of which I'm totally unable to remember, but still, thirty years on, makes me queasy to think about.

To be sure, what happened that afternoon is between me and my grandfather and not likely ever to be reconciled in detail, especially seeing how he died a couple of decades ago. But the facts of the situation are fairly obvious, especially since I'm not the only one in my family with a story like that. So I think it makes a pretty good worked example, or the basis for one at least.

If nothing else, I can attest that dealing with the emotional ramifications of having an afternoon like that in one's past is a long process - I've been working at it for some years now, and even that's just since I realized I needed to start trying. So what I'm asking is, what is "not [taking] up the mantle of victimhood" meant to have to do with a process like that? In what way is it meant to make that easier, or even make that possible?

I mean, this is a fair question, right? Maybe I've misunderstood somewhere, but as far as I can tell you've framed it as a general prescription, so it seems reasonable to think it should be applicable here. But I have to admit that I'm not seeing how.

Not forgiving someone means holding on to a grievance and adopting the identity of a victim. That's mostly what I mean. But there's more.

There's an emotional comfort that lies in wallowing in grievance, and a variety of social rewards from sharing it with others - attention, commiseration, and a kind of cathartic semi-religious feeling of confession from the recital, which takes on the form of a kind of ritual if you've done it enough times; you need to set it up right so that the payoff delivers.

Of course I don't mean to deny your lived experience, and when I say "you" above, I don't mean you specifically. I'm simply aware, and wary of, the psychological traps that lie down similar roads. I especially don't want to let people who've hurt me in the past to get to define my identity or mental or emotional state; or I simply become a fragment of a mirror of their life, and not my own.

This is controversial, but on topic: name the crime (e.g. my partner cheated on me, etc).

Don't be ashamed. You're the victim, and you're supported, mate.

"Hating someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die"

Recently I realized I was poisoning myself with intense negative thoughts and feelings about someone. Then I also noticed those thoughts feelings were only impacting me, not the other person at all. Finally I decided to forgive that person for what they had done to me, and when I started that process it became evident that in order to accomplish it, I actually needed to forgive myself. I had to forgive myself for judging, for holding a grudge and for hating.

Then I wrote down a list of all the people that I felt even a little bit negative about. At first I thought it was going to be a short list, but it ended up including over a hundred people. So I discovered that hiding subtly in my mind and within my feelings, I was secretly holding anger/hate/negativity for a lot of people.

After putting together the list, I started wishing love and wellbeing to everyone in it, individually, one by one. Kind of like going through my body and taking care of every little wound or cut I could find.

I tried going through the list and having positive feelings about those people every day for a few weeks. It did wonders for me.

A Buddhist monk I met used a similar analogy: Harboring resentment is like holding onto a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at another; you are the one who gets burned.

Forgiveness is setting down the coal.

Maybe the easiest way to set down the coal is to perceive why you are holding it. Like GP.

I like your post in that it takes "forgiving" and makes it a practice.

I often think I'm aligned with something only to realize I'm telling myself I'm aligned (that I "know"), but I haven't done anything with that alignment. You have to do it too, even if it's working through the thought process.

I guess "transformation" is taking the "knowing" and making it "doing".

> "Hating someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die"

only true if the hate is affecting your life and taking over you

Hate, almost by definition, is similar to love: you make your happiness dependent on the state of someone else.

If hate is not affecting your life, it's not hate.

you can hate someone but not act or let it bother you. its just that its super easy / common for people to let hate affect their life. Hate can also be channeled in a positive healthy way. I got out of a shitty life situation by channeling my hate towards my studies and self improvement to get the financial and logistical means to leave.

"Forgiving someone who hasn't changed is like encouraging a poisoner."

This quote comes from a relatively juvenile definition of forgiveness, namely forgive and forget. I can forgive someone for violating my trust without giving them the same trusted position they used to have.

Like the article says, it's about you, not about them.

In that sense, forgiveness is about an internal change of your feelings so that you can lead a better life without hate. It is not about condoning what others did. And it's very helpful to differentiate between them.

As somebody who's struggling to forgive somebody who's wronged me, I find this article to be a bit wishy-washy, like this:

> Reexamine your perceptions of life events that have trapped you in the role of victim.

well, what if somebody really truly was a victim? What if one's parents have condescended and belittled them for decades? What if one's mother is abusive and drinks too much? What if somebody spent their entire childhood planning their escape from their parents (successfully!)

That kind of stuff doesn't just go away. Is it even possible to forgive somebody who honestly doesn't think they've done anything wrong?

You caught yourself in a trap (similar to which I also did).

Yes, your parents were assholes. What has to be realized is that yes: your parents were assholes and this probably did had a (severly) negative effect in your PRACTICAL life.

But what must be understood is that what is done is done. This doesn't meat that you say "my parents are ok". This means that you, on a deep level, realize that your parents have issues, and that those issues caused them to act out. In other words: they didn't knew any better.

The side effect of their issues was that your life was misarable, so you moved away from them.

What has to be understood is that yes, you indeed were at a disadvantage. But now that you moved away it's only up to you what you make of this. You don't have to visit them or call them.

What is meant by "forgiveness" is that you have to realize that "yes, your parents have issues and there is nothing that can be done about it. But now I'm free of them, so from now on it's up to me".

Forgiveness also means that you don't actively hate on your parents: ironicaly hating your parents will NOT hurt them: you will only hurt yourself by hating on them because you yourself will create self-conflit & rage & hate withing YOURLSEF.

So it's more of a "what happened happened, I'm free of them now so from now on it's up to me" + the realization that actively hating on them will only hurt you, not them!

But you're not free until you deal with the PTSD, and a trite "I forgive you" is absolutely no help with this. Nor is pretending to everyone - including yourself - that you're just fine with the past when you really aren't.

Worse, it implies a social pressure to "just deal with it" which is completely inappropriate and can be actively harmful.

Good therapists and good therapy can help a lot. The modality doesn't matter as long as it's clearly being helpful.

But cliches about forgiveness are utterly unhelpful to most people who were exposed to real emotional and psychological harm - whether it was a random drive-by crime, a work situation, a toxic relationship, or dysfunctional family dynamics.

> Nor is pretending to everyone - including yourself - that you're just fine with the past when you really aren't.

I don’t think forgiveness is about pretending you are fine with something you are not fine with. It isn’t about covering something up or lying. It is about taking back control of your feelings about the situation so that you can move toward a place of healing. Most people have suffered some form of trauma in their lives, and some choose to dwell on it while looking for the person or situation that brought that trauma to apologize or try to make the situation right. This is giving control of your feelings over to some third party. Forgiveness is saying “I am releasing my own need for you to be part of my healing journey.”

This is well said. I think some people view this as liberating themselves, and some people view this as letting the offender get away with it.

For me personally, it feels oppressive to require anything from the person who wronged me. The fact that they wronged me indicates that perhaps they don't value my happiness as much as they should, and now my happiness is predicated on them acting the right way?

This isn't to say I wouldn't try to, say, get my money back if I got scammed, but making my happiness contingent on the contrition of the scammer seems to give them emotional control in addition to my money, which is even worse.

“ For me personally, it feels oppressive to require anything from the person who wronged me. The fact that they wronged me indicates that perhaps they don't value my happiness as much as they should, and now my happiness is predicated on them acting the right way?”

Thanks for that. That is a powerful thought and did help me right now.

>a trite "I forgive you"

A trite "I forgive you" isnt forgiveness. Forgiveness is a virtue, which means not everybody has it, or can do it. Forgiveness is not "forgiving" someone that didn't actually wrong you. Forgiveness is not pretending to let go but holding on. Forgiveness is not telling the other person they are forgiven, so the weight is off their shoulders. Forgiveness IS "dealing with the PTSD", letting go, and if the issue is caused by someone else, feeling pity on or happiness for them.

>Worse, it implies a social pressure to "just deal with it"

Letting go, and bottling up are two opposites. The latter is not forgiveness.


>Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, and overcomes negative emotions such as resentment and vengeance.

>But cliches about forgiveness

Misunderstandings of cliches make it seem as if the act is something anybody can do at any time, and not a skill people learn or build through practice. Forgiveness is both the knowledge that "letting this bother me will cause me more hurt in the long run, I need to find a way to overcome it, to prevent myself from causing me more damage" and the ability to execute on that knowledge.

So not only must we let those who wrong us off the hook and feel for them, if we can't it's because we aren't virtuous enough.

I'm perfectly comfortable ignoring that moral claim.

If people want to talk about letting go, talk about letting go. Talk of forgiveness is simply misleading.

>If people want to talk about letting go, talk about letting go. Talk of forgiveness is simply misleading.

That is what forgiveness is, moving on, but not bottling it up or pretending it didn't happen.

>Forgiveness is different from condoning (failing to see the action as wrong and in need of forgiveness), excusing (not holding the offender as responsible for the action), forgetting (removing awareness of the offense from consciousness), pardoning (granted for an acknowledged offense by a representative of society, such as a judge), and reconciliation (restoration of a relationship).

Forgiveness is more like pity. Understanding the environment around a persons life led them to do what they did, maybe feeling bad for them, that thats who they are. Reaching a state of forgiveness does not mean you think they no longer hold responsibility for what they did, or that they should be excused from consequences. You can forgive someone (no longer allow their action hurt you) AND still pursue consequences for their actions.

Exactly. There is the case where the person who has given offense sincerely offers an apology, having become aware of their wrong, with an affect of proportionate contrition. The injured party might now deem to forgive them, and restore the offender's previous status in the relationship--e.g. as a friend, good neighbor, etc.

Redefining "forgiveness" from this bilateral way that we have come to traditionally understand it, into this unilateral context of letting go, not only makes language poorer (through dilution in its explanatory power), but also diminishes the bonds of society, which are preserved through various relationship mechanisms including apology and forgiveness (which serves as an improvement over having a physical altercation on the one hand, and an abandonment of relationship on the other).

>Redefining "forgiveness" from this bilateral way

I would argue that the bilateral requirement is the redefinition. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forgiveness

"In most contexts, forgiveness is granted without any expectation of restorative justice, and without any response on the part of the offender (for example, one may forgive a person who is incommunicado or dead)."

>The injured party might now deem to forgive them, and restore the offender's previous status in the relationship--e.g. as a friend, good neighbor, etc.

That is more than forgiveness. It is reconciliation.

It's not just about restoring the previous status (actually, you rarely can't). It's sometimes about strengthening that relationship. It changes it anyway, not necessarily in a bad way.

This is true. No one was ever helper just because society said to him "do it".

Which is why it must proceed through "understanding": you must clearly see the sitation for what it is, from both perspectives: yours and theirs.

The ego can get locked in a victim mentality and this will blind you from being able to see the truth about the situation.


So many here have not had to deal with extensive emotional trauma brought upon manipulations, oversights, ignorance, inexperience, etc. of a parent who was totally a victim too, but THIS DOES NOT NEGATE HOW DANGEROUS they can be.

My own mother whom was beaten and abused by an alcoholic grandmother will tragically never be capable of seeing her own faults due to the trauma that basically arrested her development at the age of 12. She has NPD and persistently bullied one of my sisters for being fat as a child, despite being the parent who kept feeding her McDonalds.

She would never admit how wrong they are to their own assumptions. She bullied and belittled my step-father when he had a medical emergency that forced him back into the family house after years of “mutual” separation.

I eventually figured out she had been lying to me for years and using my “blood relation” as an excuse to triangulate and manipulate my siblings into hating me, and me hating them, with disinfo, seperate sit downs like she was a fucking Mafioso, and other tactics a sick child would make in attempts to show that they “care”.

If you bring 9/11 up, there’s a good chance a histrionic anecdote that has nothing to do with the conversation at hand will pop-up and it will be about her, you will have to shut the fuck up while listening despite yourself being interrupted mid-sentence, otherwise speaking out against a narcissist is forbidden, and eggshell walking is the norm during rare get togethers.

She will instantly fall into victim and paranoid mode if challenged in any reasonable way: you don't really love her if you keep having issues with her behavior RIGHT?! So goes the maddening Cartesian logic.

And yet, according to this article, I should just “let go” of the following: anxiety disorder, binge eating / anorexia, depression, BPD w/ NPD CPTSD features (latest opinion I’ve received at least), the alienation of my family caused by the mother driving everyone apart, and most importantly the distortion lens that comes with being raised and essentially spoiled compared to my siblings, the emotional incest brought upon me when my step-father left at the age of 13 because I was the only man of the house and I guess that also meant hearing intimate details of love lost and her being unhappy and being treated like a therapist for the next 12 years until I was 25, wherein I became so maladaptiveley schizoid while dealing with the persistient and obvious fact that ONE OF MY CARGIVERS WAS ACTIVLEY NOT CARING AND BEING DESTRUCTIVE.

To her credit, she rarely lifted her hand to hit us; lot of reflexes and close calls that are then always minimized as “not that bas” and “you should try growing up in my life, you kids are lucky!!!!” which somehow justifies further incursions because shit, she doesn't drink and is disabled, she must be a fucking Saint in comparison to her mother, especially because of being physically disabled.

She loves to fall on the sword in a conversation about that all of the time. We have only the best parts of Mother Sorporano & Mussolini to thank for this.

She also “forgave” her mother and now all that my grandmother does is fill my mothers head with Trump garbage and YouTube conspiracies that I have to disassemble because she thought bleaching the skin would help against COVID.

So again, forgiveness is fucking trite. Anger about the situation as an adult helped me change my approach and saved me from a further path of self-destructive solipsism and drinking my trauma away excessively.

Anger as a kid was less useful and Was turned inside until another counselor at high school realized what was happening, which sadly didn't help as I quit the school in protest / denial of the chemical and emotional imbalanced brought upon me and my siblings by persistent emotional abuse and neglect.

In sum, she is emotionally manipulative and a vampire, and WHILE her maladaptions make sense in a shitty environment, at some point as an adult you have to take ownership of trauma or it will eat you alive. She will never reach the point of self-actualization and its tragic that she is the only mother my siblings and I will have known.

My sisters and father also deserved so much better than me being an unwitting victim and enforcer of her bullshit when I was too young to know better.

So I agree with any other posts that might more or less say: “fuck forgiveness.”

That must hurt just to talk about. You're lucky to be able to 'bring it out'. I can feel (sort of) what you feel, from experience.

I'm still stuck on 'someone has to pay' and 'it's not fair' although I know these are childish hopes. Pay how... They don't even remember. They don't give a shit. You can pity (they're sick, they did their best) but it gets worse. now you have no-one to blame... No enemy. Left with undirected, unfocused anger.

Oh and the anger on the other parent figures around 'I had no idea', 'I didn't know it was this bad'. WTF?

Forgiveness is hard. Grief is hard. Some of us have a very hard time letting go of those feelings. I can't do those yet. I can't let go of lots of things. I have an unforgiving memory for hurt and it prompts System 1 almost every day, to be on my guard, that something is fishy, I'm about to be hurt. False alarm 99% of the time. Can't work much on forgiveness when you're in survival mode...

I feel for you.

I hope we can both move on one day. Dog knows I'm trying. The anger is not good for your health, I'm learning now...

Be well.

Even if you do not want a relationship with someone, forgiveness is a way to feel better yourself. It's not about making some one else better, it's about your quality of life.

After ten years I'm almost there, but it got better after my first step of deciding to forgive, still get panic attacks though.

I forgive myself for being naive and uninformed. Why would I need to forgive myself for someone else's actions and consequences? Fuck all of that.

I sleep more soundly with each day that I remind myself "This other person does not live in reality, move on". Long stopped having "panic attacks" 10 years ago. Coincidentally, right around the time I began to question the abuser's facade.

And you do want a relationship with these people. But ideally one that doesn't make you want to stab your eyes out constantly with ice picks because they keep digging up the past and weaponizing your own failures against you in everyday fucking conversation.

Peace be with whatever nonsense you're on about. Reason, rationality, empiricism is what brought clarity. Forgiveness is low hanging rotten fruit.

>"This other person does not live in reality, move on".

That is basically forgiveness. It's not a gift you give them, its not letting them off the hook. To forgive someone, they do not need to be aware you have done so. It's you taking control of the damage they did to you, and moving beyond it hurting you further.

Perhaps. I disagree with the general assumption associated with notions of forgiveness that this also means letting go of anger, however. Anger gets shit done.

>notions of forgiveness that this also means letting go of anger, however. Anger gets shit done.

Thats ok, and it's not forgiveness then. It's your choice to hold on to your anger, if you find it has purpose.

Can you e-mail me? I am coming up with a theory of emotion/personality and have some questions. Address in profile.

I get your point, but I don't get how it diverges from what was described in the article. Based on what you wrote, it looks to me that you are actually very advanced in the process of forgiveness: telling your story, expressing your feelings, seeing your childhood through the eyes of yourself as an adult, focusing on your well-being in the present and in the future.

> they keep digging up the past and weaponizing your own failures against you in everyday fucking conversation.

I know that. You have no idea how much your post hits home. This kind of behaviour is exactly what I try not to replicate, because it is the best way to dig one's own grave. There is nothing good which can come out of it.

I think you have an issue with the word "forgiveness", and maybe it is not the right word. What I understand from its use in the article is being able to let go the hatred (way stronger than anger), and being able to focus on yourself in order to improve your well-being and to bring positivity into your present and future life.

The article is wrong, then, IMO. And so is the author's main reference for the article, Ana Holub:


Not a single PhD, degree, etc listed. A track record yes, but Pepsi and Coke both have their consumers despite anyone's individual preference over the other.

Sorry but hatred is a perfectly rational thing to feel towards an abuser. Letting it motivate you to take retributive action is of course not something to do if one wants to escape the cycle of abuse, but regardless: the body keeps the score https://www.amazon.com/Body-Keeps-Score-Healing-Trauma/dp/01...

What ever works for you! But this describes my life:

> Fear leads to hate and hate leads to the darkside.

Is true for me, I understood that I can never feel good hating someone. Because every time I came in contact physicaly or mentally, I felt worse.

I wonder how widespread this is under the radar. It seems like something people don't really talk about.

People are just afraid to recognize facets of human behavior that they don't see as normal. When people talk about schizophrenia they might say it's "difficult" or there's no easy solution or that they're still thinking about how to heal them, but the reality is that maybe these people can never be completely helped in a lifetime, to the point where they're accepted as "normal" again. Maybe there are some classes of neurodegenerative brain disorders where the tissue allowing for fudamental human capability is gone forever, and the functionality can never be fully restored. On one hand we strive to treat everyone equally, on the other some people will end up giving up on their dreams because those dreams will never be within their ability. Or, far more devastating, they will stop being able to realize they could even have dreams to begin with. I remember reading about the tragedy of the co-founder of Cloudflare, and the top comment by a person featured in the article that said there was nothing more to be done for his condition. And it was that much more painful because everyone believed he was still "normal" for the longest time, that his behavior could be explained in terms of human sociability or wit, until they realized that the only reason he acted the way he did was because of an underlying condition of the brain.


Is a certain degree of extreme childhood trauma simply a fork in the road in a person's life that is never completely reversible? Does that kind of harm cause the person to be trapped in their own mind with the mental damage it causes? I personally believe it can in some cases. There is only so much you can do if you have the mental equivalent of your limbs being dismembered.

If my definition of "forgiveness" is giving someone else something of mine, then there are some people I will never forgive so long as I'm alive.

But if forgiveness is just acknowledging mistakes and moving on, never letting them take anything more from me, then I've completely forgiven them instead.

But that doesn't sound like forgiveness to me.

>Is a certain degree of extreme childhood trauma simply a fork in the road in a person's life that is never completely reversible? Does that kind of harm cause the person to be trapped in their own mind with the mental damage it causes? I personally believe it can in some cases. There is only so much you can do if you have the mental equivalent of your limbs being dismembered.

This accurately describes having an attachment disorder from early age methinks, and the fork being realizing it after examining the evidence or never realizing it and being stuck in a hell of self-blame.

An attachment disorder feels like the organ for interpersonal relationships is impaired or amputated, and it occasionally feels like having emotional schizophrenia, particularly when one is triggered.

>If my definition of "forgiveness" is giving someone else something of mine, then there are some people I will never forgive so long as I'm alive.

>But if forgiveness is just acknowledging mistakes and moving on, never letting them take anything more from me, then I've completely forgiven them instead.

>But that doesn't sound like forgiveness to me.

100% this. Much more succinct than my anecdote.

I suspect a lot of my millennial peers deal with it a lot.

Many of us made "surrogate families" and group houses well into our 30's out of our groups of friends probably for similar reasons. A few grew apart for similar reasons (i.e. one or more people having un-diagnosed personality disorders and/or un-dealt with emotional trauma that hampers their interpersonal relationships).

Recently mother showed up unannounced at my house in tears and SCREAMED at my wife and I for HOURS and wouldn't leave. It was an absolute ambush. The reason? She wanted to get together earlier in the day but we had an appointment so we had to postpone it to later in the day. yes, that's all it takes.

Our son was TEN DAYS OLD at the time. That was 18 months ago.

Since then she's been the nastiest, most unpleasant person to be around and my father is condescending as hell and still tries to boss me around at 35 years old.

This doesn't really feel like a "the past is the past, people have flaws". This more feels like an assault on my day-to-day life.

It has been like this since I was a kid and I see not even the slightest bit of progress or self-reflection. When do I just call it quits?

> When do I just call it quits?

If your partner's mom was treating them this way, or if your son was being treated this way, when would you want them to call it quits?

I know you well enough to feel good about making a suggestion, but I can share my data point: I called it quits with one of my parents after putting up some boundaries (~"I love you but it doesn't feel good when you call and text me every few hours or unexpected show up at my work") and they responded very negatively.

My metric: if anyone (from a total stranger to a romantic partner) ever talked to me that way, I'd cut contact immediately. We have no obligation to be outlets for abusive behavior. I'm probably going to talk to a therapist about it because I want to make sure I'm covering all my bases, but most of the time it feels like a net positive to have called it quits.

I hope you can find some peace and balance, with or without the relationship with your mom. I'll be thinking of you, and I'm happy to chat if you're ever looking for perspective from the other side of the fence.

Also: https://old.reddit.com/r/raisedbynarcissists

> When do I just call it quits?

Ten years ago. The second best time is right now. You do not have to take abuse from them because they are family. "the past is the past, people have flaws" is only valid for things that are actually in the past. Sounds like your parents' abuse would be much easier to deal with if it was a part of the past.

Why not move and call it quits? That might actually enable you to forgive them (from afar). Calling it quits was the first step in my forgiveness towards my parents. You could send them occasional updates but you shouldn't feel like you're obligated to otherwise engage (at least for a period of like 6 months - and then reevaluate).

Sounds like she is constantly violating your boundaries. Based on the abusive behavior of the past, it seems like you're also enabling the bad behavior. When dealing with adults, put clear boundaries in place (don't come to my house unannounced, don't scream at my wife, nor come in my home to scream, etc) and if she violates your boundaries, then give her a timeout (she's not allowed to see me/my family/my child for a week).

If it's egregious, you'll need to cut her out permanently. I had to with my mother. (P.S. I've also forgiven her [I hold no grudge towards her and her shitty/abusive decisions throughout my childhood] but...she's still not in my life)

Establish firm boundaries and, if they're transgressed, cut off your parents. Period. Zero contact, even if they show up on your front door screaming.

For me, it was the most difficult thing I'd ever done. The benefits for you and your family though are worth fighting for and it's the only way you might have some semblance of a relationship with your parents in the future. You don't deserve that treatment.

The book Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend is what helped me work through this. It's definitely written for people who are Christians, but I've heard secular people recommend it heavily.

Finally, seek a therapist. If you're like me, you've been broken in ways you can't even identify and a professional will help you work through that.

Good luck

Get yourself a restraining order.

And no, this is not an exageration.

Threaten her that she will never she her grandchildren again.

It's not your responsibility to try and help your mother.

The need/willingness for change has to come from her. If she won't even consider that it might be her fault and not yours she is a loss cause.

Until she realize this she is a lost cause and you are doing yourself a disfavor by guilt-tripping over her letting her upset your life.

Don’t threaten them if you don’t mean do it.

Really. A baseless threat will put your mother in the role of the victim—and the power of the victim role will let her throw more abuse on you. She will feel entitled to say nasty things.

Getting the restraining order or some similar action that cuts her off is what will free you from the role of the victim. From this place you can take pity on her. You have taken action to eliminate the oppressor. Maybe more will be needed. If you are ever so frustrated as to feel helpless about doing that “more which might be needed” then you are back at victim.

Good luck!

PPS — look up the drama triangle and the corresponding empowerment triangle. Might be useful ;)

Unfortunately, narcissists will never learn and any and all problems are because others are the problem unless a truly catastrophic event forced a major reality check on them given what I’ve read so far. Even on a relative scale of attempting to self-reflect they’ll believe they’re “compromising” when it’s not really helpful.

It may be helpful to view narcissists as having a mental disability rather than it being simply a part of their personality. And when people are destructive to others’ lives few cultures would say we should accommodate the minority to a fault.

Cut them out. You are forcing yourself into victimhood by including them in your life.

I'll have to disagree with that. I cut out a bunch of toxic people from my life and moved across the country and I still hate them but people like them don't come across my mind at all unless mutual acquaintances bring them up. I even came across my bully from middle school in a random city I visited, and had drinks with him and his girlfriend that he was calling a retard throughout the whole night and was clear that he was being abusive to her. Do I forgive him? no, especially since he never apologized. But I'm free from these people now too and I get Schadenfreude whenever i hear about their misfortunes in life and see it as karma.

what you are describing is not forgiveness. It's called moving on.

> Do I forgive him? no, especially since he never apologized. what you are describing is not forgiveness. It's called moving on.

Forgiveness is moving on. It is letting go of your negative emotions. Needing someone else to apologize to "give forgiveness" is not how forgiveness needs to work.

If that person hears that they have been forgiven, how do you think that will guide their future actions?

There's a big gap in all the highly psychologized/desocialized talk of forgiveness in this discussion. That is one of its problems.

>If that person hears that they have been forgiven

Because its something private with yourself, I dont see it necessary as something to share for it to happen. Forgiving someone without telling them will change your interactions with them, but you dont need to tell them youve done so for it to be forgiveness.

i moved on with my life without forgiving someone. someone apologizing for what they did is the first step to forgiveness. You can't forgive someone who feels no remorse for what they did. They used to be part of my life now they are insignificant. Seems like your definition of forgiveness is different from mine.

>You can't forgive someone who feels no remorse for what they did.

Yes you can. "I am beyond this event." Making forgiveness contingent on someone elses action removes your own agency. Forgiveness isnt a gift you give someone else.

>Making forgiveness contingent on someone elses action removes your own agency.

says who? Never said forgiveness is a gift. You you have to earn it. One has to be deserving of it. In fact what everyone seems to be saying here makes it sound like it should be a gift, given with no conditions.

>You you have to earn it. One has to be deserving of it.

That removes your agency. You can't forgive without getting something from them first. If they never give, you never forgive, and you continue to live with the hurt.

Making forgiveness contingent on deserving, earning, or being worthy of it is something else entirely. The other person need not be involved in forgiveness in any way.

A gift is something you give someone else. Saying "they dont deserve it" implies you seeing it as something you give someone else. Forgiveness is only between you and yourself.

> That removes your agency...........land you continue to live with the hurt.

My agency is from moving on not based on forgiveness. you can't just blanket classify everyone's hurtfulness. Sometimes even after you forgive someone you're still going to continue to live in hurt. other times you can move on and not forgive someone and not be hurt anymore. It has nothing to do with forgiveness. Moving on is part of and a prerequisite for forgiveness, but not the other way around.

> The other person need not be involved in forgiveness in any way..... Forgiveness is only between you and yourself.

yep that is all true. and me and myself thinks that guy doesn't deserve forgiveness. I'm not losing sleep over it or suffering in anyway. Simply I don't associate myself with that person anymore and not have them be part of my life. Even if I forgive someone I don't tell them.

People in this thread seems to have different definitions of forgiveness and mix up acceptance/moving on with actual forgiveness of someones actions.

>Sometimes even after you forgive someone you're still going to continue to live in hurt.

No, that would not be forgiveness. Forgiveness is you overcoming the negative emotion.

>other times you can move on and not forgive someone and not be hurt anymore.

That would be forgiveness.

>Simply I don't associate myself with that person anymore

That would be a lack of reconciliation. Reconciliation is not a requirement of forgiveness.

What you are describing is either excusing or pardoning.

>Moving on is part of and a prerequisite for forgiveness, but not the other way around.

There are multiple ways to move on, including forgetting.

I am generally a descriptivist. I acknowledge there is a second definition of forgiveness that is incompatible and mutually exclusive with the first, and that many people commonly use the word that way. That second definition however does not invalidate the concept of Forgiveness, with a capital F. It doesn't erase the first meaning of the world. I am not going to call it "misuse of a word" but the word is being used extremely loosely to describe other concepts that have other defined words. In this case, precision and clarity are required in conversation, and using definition two to have a conversation about the meaning of the concept in definition one, becomes a circular argument.

> Forgiveness is you overcoming the negative emotion

no its not

>other times you can move on and not forgive someone and not be hurt anymore.

no its not, its called moving on

> That would be a lack of reconciliation. Reconciliation is not a requirement of forgiveness.

no forgiveness is between yourself so reconciliation has nothing to do with it.

> There are multiple ways to move on, including forgetting.

yep and forgiveness is one way to move on. but moving on is not forgiveness.

> You can't forgive someone who feels no remorse for what they did.

Why not?

cause they don't deserve it

Haha, yeah, that doesn't sound bitter and hateful at all.

This sounds like "You're just bitter and hateful!", but with sarcasm mixed in.

That you can put a label on an emotion doesn't make it go away, nor does it make the emotion unreasonable. It does make you look like an asshole without any empathy, though.

not denying that part. And i have no problem with it since it doesn't control or take up my life. I'm happier now that I cut those people out and watched some of them get what they deserve. Go tell someone who is happy that the person who murdered their sibling got what they deserved that they are bitter and hateful.

> ... so from now on it's up to me

It's... not that easy. We're all wired a little differently and trauma twists that wiring even more. Some people are less resilient than others and need more help moving on. This is not a condemnation of those people. It's an acknowledgment that trauma has a real and different affect on people and we should treat individual needs.

A mantra that I like: “It's not your fault, but it's your responsibility to try to fix things.”

Why do you assume his/her parents didn't know any better? Some people really are selfish and malicious. You're going out of your way to assume the best when you don't actually have any reason to believe that's true.

There's a general sentiment that all dogs are innocent at heart. If the dog has bad or mean behavior, that's the consequence of its bad experiences, like being outcast as a stray, bad owners, having been hurt before, etc.

You can apply the same line of thinking to humans. Everyone is a victim of their circumatances and experiences.

And while I understand that "everyone is innocent at heart" might be true to only some degree both with humans and dogs (nature vs nurture, etc), you can't really tell by the end result.

Even if they are born that way you can still look upon them with pity. They didn't choose their parents and they didn't choose how the wiring of their brain.

But aren't you just redefining terms? I'm wary whenever someone says "I really mean X when I say Y." Why not just say Y in the first place?

It's a valid feeling to believe your parents either did know better or should have known better. And that also does not preclude forgiveness.

I think C.S. Lewis does a good job explaining what forgiveness really means:

“For a good many people imagine that forgiving your enemies means making out that they are really not such bad fellows after all, when it is quite plain that they are. Go a step further. In my most clear- sighted moments not only do I not think myself a nice man, but I know that I am a very nasty one. I can look at some of the things I have done with horror and loathing. So apparently I am allowed to loathe and hate some of the things my enemies do. Now that I come to think of it, I remember Christian teachers telling me long ago that I must hate a bad man's actions, but not hate the bad man: or, as they would say, hate the sin but not the sinner.

For a long time I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life—namely myself. However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. In fact the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things.

Consequently, Christianity does not want us to reduce by one atom the hatred we feel for cruelty and treachery. We ought to hate them. Not one word of what we have said about them needs to be unsaid. But it does want us to hate them in the same way in which we hate things in ourselves: being sorry that the man should have done such things, and hoping, if it is anyway possible, that somehow, sometime, somewhere, he can be cured and made human again.”

Thanks for this quote. Well said, and poignant. I aspire to one day speak English real good.

I certainly agree; the signal to noise ratio is poor about why this stuff is a good idea. But it does get at some practical issues that are quite subtly layered:

1. Be realistic about what is likely to happen. If someone has a history of drinking and hasn't committed to stopping then they will probably continue. 'Forgiveness' doesn't mean stupid.

2. Don't make the past emotional. If someone chopped my leg off, for a silly example, then there is nothing I can do. Revenge does not regain me my leg. Seeking vengeance for the emotional pleasure is tragic; if a matter must be pursued then it should be to prevent a future risk (eg, losing the other leg) or for meaningful restitution (maybe they provide income for me since I can't work as effectively).

3. Strive to create prosperity. If someone hurt me in the past and I have an opportunity to better us both, it is foolish not to take that opportunity unless they are likely to do future harm.

4. Negotiate terms - keep asking for what you want, and be strategic about what you give ground on.

Bundle those four things together and the result is a very productive perspective that is hard to differentiate from forgiveness. The past is ultimately subjective and people who make good decisions going forward will get better results than people who make bad decisions and justify them with history. It is hard in practice.

Revenge is underrated. The opportunities to avenge oneself without also shooting oneself in the foot, or entering an endless cycle of reciprocal vendettas, are very rare. But when they do come, the closure is liberating.

This is one major drawback writing an article about forgiveness and only interviewing authors of self-help books. Whatever it says, right or wrong, it can’t be of much help to someone who is in a situation like you described. Forgiveness, reconciliation, or even just dealing with hurt, are all easier said than done.

I wonder it would be more helpful to interview someone who has been through something hard and actually decided to forgive. For example, maybe one of the victims’ family members in https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.washingtonpost.com/news/pos...

Even so, no one article or book can truly “solve” or “fix” pain, so we would be wise to carefully consider our words. Calling forgiveness “a simple solution to all your problems” (https://www.radicalforgiveness.com/) feels condescending. Even if the statement is true, how would someone who is facing real hurt see that statement?

I also don’t buy the narrative of “nobody intends to be mean they just don’t know any better”. This line is popular in management and self help circles and I feel these people haven’t rubbed shoulders with true evil and frankly are ignorant.

I prefer to think of forgiveness as releasing one’s attachment to the trauma and leaving those folk to stew in their own poison while moving onwards and upwards.

Because its about you not them. It doesn't matter what they think or do. You should do it for yourself to set yourself free of emotional baggage.

Just because you forgive someone does not mean you suddenly think he is a great person, or should forget that he is abusive. Its saying I am done with all this shit. "you" (whomever wronged you) are not worth my time hating you.

At least that worked for me.

Pretty much all actual examples in article are of the "you interpret it wrong" sort.

> A situation you may have misinterpreted as a child can taint your important adult relationships, Kennedy says.

This does not say you should free yourself of hate despite them being wrong. This says, hey, maybe it happened differently. What if I did not misinterpreted it as a child? Or as an adult? What if it is one of those very real situations where you was not stupid, but someone really harassed you, took credit for your work, whatever.

The article does not deal with such situation, rather, it wants you to convince yourself it did not happened.

Forgiveness has become yet another external demand, same as the duty to feel gratitude. The important thing is to work through, then let go and move on. Forgiveness might be part of that process, but it doesn't need to be. It might as well include confrontation, or even a little bit of revenge.

I think the part you're missing is this passage

> soul-level letting-go of our pain, our sorrow, our suffering," Holub says. "And we do that because we want to be free.

I'm not saying that it's easy or something you may want to do, but it will end up improving your life.

Personally I'm in a similar situation to the one you presented, with the overbearing insensitive parent. It's difficult to say that I've forgiven them, but it's a slow process of trying to rid my life of their influence and shedding that negativity and their nagging voice in the back of my head. The forgiveness isn't seeking reconciliation with them, but resolving the blame and anger you have within yourself directed towards the person in order to free yourself to heal. Of course the person will continue with their actions which will cause it difficult to heal, but I've found the strategy of divorcing emotion to the person helpful. Therefore you can heal yourself of the wounds caused by that person on your own even if the person is still ever present. I can't say this works out all the time, but I do feel myself getting closure without reconciliation.

For me, forgiveness is a way of severing myself from the past. It is a way to stop ruminating in the present. It has saved me from myself.

But it's not abstractly total. Not continuous. Forgiveness is a state I can work myself into. That working-myself-into is often a path toward understanding and empathy. Neither of which I mistake for excusing the behaviors. And when someone doesn't feel they've done anything wrong they're not in the market for forgiveness, so all my forgiveness is for me anyway.

So forgiveness severs the past and lets me move forward in the present and take the future with the understanding I found on my journey to it. The understanding shapes my future interactions and non-interactions with someone I forgive.

Forgiveness isn't trust. It doesn't abolish all the consequences of violating my trust. I've forgiven someone and cut them out of my life. Forgiveness doesn't change my boundaries except in so far as the understanding I've found on the road to it has shown my own unreasonableness.

Good luck.

Reframing the situation from “this happened to me” to “this happened for me” has been the healthiest advice I’ve received for dealing with childhood trauma. It changes the perspective from being a victim to being someone who conquered adversity and used it to (a) not repeat the cycle of abuse, (b) learn about other people and how they can act, and possibly (c) how to be a better person than you otherwise might have been had life been easier.

Depending on your personality the following recommendation may be a huge turnoff, but Tony Robbin’s Netflix documentary “I am Not Your Guru” has a number of examples of reframing situations in this manner.

Good luck and I wish you peace and wellness!

I recently went through therapy for some touch up work. I was getting mad at someone because of their shenanigans. Basically the therapist told me "when someone pisses you off, they want you to get mad, so why would you give them the pleasure of getting mad?" After some discussion on methods for how to not get mad, I stopped getting mad.

Might be worth looking into whether it's worth wasting any brain cycles on whether or not to forgive someone.

The advice I've been given is forgiveness + boundaries.

This book is usually recommended [1], but you can discover your own style of setting boundaries by working with a therapist. (it will need to be tailored to your situation)

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Boundaries-Updated-Expanded-When-Cont...

It also seemed a bit on the side of blaming the victim. It seemed, at least to me, to try very hard to walk the line to try to empower people by saying it isn't their fault you're a victim, it's your fault you're a victim and there's power in that. That seems to pull accountability away from the responsible parties. Though, admittedly, I am biased.

I call this stuff self-gasslighting. You convince yourself that you was at fault for own abuse.

> What if one's parents have condescended and belittled them for decades?

It's all a matter of perspective. You see, one day, your parents will show up at your doorstep and expect you do the mature thing and take care of them in their old age. You could then go off on a long rant, wash all the dirty laundry, and finally slam the door in their face. Or you tell them "I forgive you" and close the door in their face.

That's the power of forgiveness.

> Is it even possible to forgive somebody who honestly doesn't think they've done anything wrong?

The working definition of forgive that I use is 'to give myself as before'. It's a useful test for me, I can just ask if I'm giving myself as I was before. It's not always possible to forgive. And religion makes light of it which causes problems for people that want more than just lip service.

FWIW what the article says about the nature of (most, not all) anger echoes some of the best advice I ever got:

'Holub calls anger a "secondary emotion," one that guards our more vulnerable feelings, such as grief, fear, abandonment and disappointment.'

Most of the time (but not always), anger is a barrier to self-consciousness.

I was in the same boat. I have a book recommendation for you:


> As somebody who's struggling to forgive somebody who's wronged me,

Not meaning to trivialize your experience, but first sentence right off the bat you identify with your grudge.

Well, you can't forgive people for something they haven't done. It is assumed that there is something to forgive, so no one really questions the wrongdoing. The question is why should it still define the way you look at life, be the starting point of reasoning.

In which we learn that forgiveness is a suitcase word (prone to useless debate as each party uses a different definition)


Aren't those the only words that matter?

Anything else, that everybody is clear and agrees on, might as well not be discussed at all...

If definitions are clear and everyone agrees on them, then discussion can be about whether those definitions apply. Discussion is then about the real world. The definition of murder is pretty clear and widely agreed on; there is plenty of room for discussion about whether it was Smith or Jones who committed it.

If definitions are unclear or people disagree on them, then discussion may either be about the definitions and not about the real world, or be incoherent.

The activity of unpacking those words is important, because in the process you get to an actual debate and not just people talking past each other. Once you do it everyone involved realizes that they mostly agree anyway, that they actually disagree on something fundamental, or that some people are intentionally clouding the argument to try to make a dishonest point.

The category doesn't necessarily imply any value judgement by itself, at least as discussed in that article.

The real problem is when you and another person have a different working definition of something "everyone is clear and agrees on" and make plans or agreements around the assumption of shared definition. The way you will find out will not be fun.

I've unfortunately run into this concept many times firsthand, but thank you for finally giving me a term for it! Hopefully naming it will make it easier to talk about. As long as we can keep "suitcase word" to a single definition, of course.

I never knew the term before! Thank you. I've heard it applied to love, for women it often means it willingness of others to sacrifice for them, and for men it's dedication, at least in heterosexual relationships in the West. I've found these expectations truthful in my life. Had no idea it was a class of words.

Sorry to hijack your answer here. But you pointed me to the pmohackbook, I read it, and it is helping me a lot. Thanks so much. (Couldn’t reply to older thread)

I'm very happy to hear it! It helped me a lot too!

I would join others here in saying this is a useful concept. I wonder, though, if you were to drop it in conversation that anyone would know what you mean or if it would just disorient them and demand explanation.

this is the most philosophically abject concept I came across in a while ...

Corollary: Never tell anyone else you forgive them unless they ask for it. Otherwise it's just some sort of passive-aggressive way of telling someone they've wronged you and that you're the better person. If forgiving someone is for you and they're not asking for it, you can keep it to yourself.

While law doesn't have place for revenge in a civilised society and rightly so, the need for revenge/retribution I suspect is quite innate. It's healthy to try to forgive but it's quite difficult, almost like you can't fool yourselves into thinking you aren't hungry.

Anecdotal I know, but I tried for 2 years to forgive someone who had deeply wronged my family, but I simply couldn’t get past feeling like we needed to go to court to make it right and it was eating me up inside.

My wife suggested I ask God to help, which I hadn’t tried and didn’t think it would make a difference but I tried it. And it worked. The next day the anger was just...gone and remains so to this day.

I realize it’s anecdotal and I don’t expect most people to take it seriously but it changed my life.

Reminds me of something my Dad sent me when I was dealing with grief over someone who wronged me. It's from the Alcoholics Anonymous book, but I found the advice worked anyway. Here's the scan from the book: https://imgur.com/a/XlkPGLp

Thank you for sharing that. The line at the beginning of the last paragraph jumps out at me.

"This great experience that released me from the bondage of hatred and replaced it with love is really just another affirmation of the truth I know..."

Having really experienced hatred first-hand, the nearly obsessive state of ongoing anger...

It bothers me every time I see people toss around the word "hate" with every disagreement or bias that they believe other people have. Without realizing it, these people are minimizing one of the most dangerous internal emotional experiences that we experience as humans by turning it into hyperbole that nobody takes seriously.

I had a realization about hate quite a long time ago. When you hate someone, 99.999% of the time they don't know or they don't care. So the only one that ends up feeling bad 24/7 is you. You have to find a way to let it go and move on, forgiveness or not..

That's why it's important to "verbally" punish them on some level (if you hate them because they've done you wrong). They need to know, or if they've done wrong in a work/shared social context, then others need to know as well. Otherwise, it's as you said, only you feel bad and they have no idea or don't care.

Too much of the ills happening in the world today is (I would argue) due to us responding to bad things by appeasing, forgiving, or simply "letting it go" without confrontation/conflict.

It does seem to be an innate part of our behavior. It's interesting because the interviewee strongly suggests that we forgive others when it no longer makes sense to hold a grudge.

On the other hand, she also recommends that we cultivate that feeling because it often gives no benefit to not move on from the wrong that was visited upon us.

Couldn’t it have a function of regulating social behavior such that by holding a grudge society is helped if this causes the perp to at least be aware of impropriety of their transgression?

Interestingly, forgiveness plays a part of some systems of law (particularly in the Middle East). If, for example, you accidentally kill a person while driving drunk, you have the opportunity to publicly apologize, and the family of the deceased are offered an opportunity to publicly forgive (though from my understanding, they're under no obligation or pressure to do this, and I believe in an instance this egregious, it would be quite rare). If you're forgiven, the sentencing is less harsh than it would be otherwise.

even in this woke era those legal systems can hardly be called civilised though. i mean the punishment for rape is being wed to the victim. also the "forgiveness" there is bought using wealth, kind of like out of court settlement but even for criminal matters not just civil.

I do think it is something which is greatly variables among individuals. I have felt that I have a dampened sense of anger, that people find it weird/strange that I did not become angry in such and such situations. This could be problematic in some situations including at work, sometimes if you don't have or show anger then your motives can be viewed with suspicion.

> you can't fool yourselves into thinking you aren't hungry

Interesting take. Friends of mine who grew up in poverty would tend to disagree - from what I’ve heard it becomes very natural to ignore hunger to the point of it going away entirely. This is more or less the only way to have a semi-pleasant life, given you won’t be at a healthy nutrition level regardless.

Yes absolutely. But this is subjective as well is part of my premise. Like some people may be genetically predisposed to not saying no to food etc... in my experience the desire to get revenge is hard to overcome for a fairly large part of the population. So teaching forgiveness is equivalent of asking people to diet or exercise... it's really difficult.

Long time ago I went by without eating a few days, your body stops nagging you for food so much, peak hunger is about 24 hours later and then slowly but steadily you feel it less strongly, it never truly goes away, just less powerful.

> a few days

For some friends, this was more like 10+ years in the core development phase of early childhood. I think the two experiences are more or less incomparable.

I was telling everyone else how it works at small scale, not about the experiences being comparable or not.

> the need for revenge/retribution I suspect is quite innate.

Why? I can't imagine feeling this way for longer than some minutes.

perhaps you haven't been wronged in a significant way, and i hope it stays that way.

That probably is a "personality type" thing or something. Some people seem to value "justice" (and this way may want to punish somebody) instinctively. I value comfort, security, freedom and avoid wasting energy on anything which is not a big investment in these. If somebody would wrong me I would only invest myself in punishing him if I had a good reason to believe that's really going to scare whoever might be planning to wrong me or somebody else in future.

And I would not write about this if I wasn't curious about how does this work. Why do some people are the first kind and the other the second? Isn't energy conservation and danger avoidance a fundamental program of every living brain? Why would somebody really want to hurt somebody who isn't a threat any more? That feels so alien to me I become extremely curious.

Do you honestly believe revenge helps you?

There are certainly cases where it can. In a repeating game, revenge can be a useful tool to signal to the other party that their actions were not acceptable and to impose a cost on present and potentially future actions of the same type. That's not to say it's typically a good idea.

If you take the high road while they consistently take the low road long enough, eventually you'll feel like a complete push over who lacks self-respect.

I personally have reached a breaking point in which I realize that if I don't do something different, then the people who've abused me will continue abusing me while all while I take the high road and try to be the better person.

I wouldn't call it revenge, because that sounds malicious. Let's call it tit-for-tat or "taking my ball and going home". If you repeatedly abuse me, you're out of my life. Call it revenge or call it whatever you want, but I'm simply not going to stand for it.

I don’t think that is not taking the high road. When facing abuse, taking the high road is indeed not responding to the abuse with anything more than a firm, non malicious, self protecting establishment and enforcement of your personal boundaries.

Refusing to respond at all and allowing abuse to continue can be construed as taking the high road but it isn’t the only way to healthily manage toxic people.

(Revenge imo is when one actively moves to harm an abusive person.)

> Refusing to respond at all and allowing abuse to continue can be construed as taking the high road but it isn’t the only way to healthily manage toxic people.

In my experience, this is what people usually expect when they talk about "taking the high road" or "being the bigger person". It has zero to do with "healthily managing toxic people" and everything to do with comfort of whoever does not want to deal with conflict at your expense.

I had to unlearn these quite late, when I finally figured this out.

As with all things in life it really depends on how you frame it.

As a young man I encountered many people who were unkind, told me that my goals were impossible and mocked me for my ambition. Now that I have succeeded at those aims and continued to grow as a human being it is a great feeling to encounter those people in life and see that they haven't been as successful as I have. I can't help but think that I perhaps wouldn't of made it through all those hard years struggling had more people believed in me, the desire to prove them wrong and get my revenge remains one of my greatest sources of motivation.

Proving someone wrong isn't revenge. Revenge would be if you used your newfound position of power to actively hurt them in some way.

I think we have evolved an obsessive drive to inflict harm on those who have wronged us—known as revenge. It seems willcipriano's brain has mapped its revenge drive into working hard and achieving good things. And we all benefit. Let us be grateful to willcipriano's brain.

Revenge would be if you used your newfound position of power to actively hurt them in some way.

There is much irony here. If you went ahead and hurt those who hurt you, they are supposed to let go, they are supposed to take the high ground and forgive you! So go ahead, rape, steal, murder and pillage, society will be you your side.

We don't get very far if we confuse forgiveness with letting go. It's a dangerous notion that only enables and empowers bullies.

It appears the difference is I'm using it as a noun and you are using it as a verb.


No that’s your definition of revenge. I agree with the OPs definition of revenge. The first step of any productive conversation is to make sure you have a meeting of the minds on the words being used to describe real world phenomenon.

Your source of motivation is arbitrary. The point is that you had the talent and ability to achieve things, and this or that narrative inspired you to use it. fwiw, I'd imagine you also benefitted from the kindness of strangers and blind luck

If you have talent, use it to make the world better for yourself and others. What any given person thought years ago is completely irrelevant to any significant achievement you may have

what about making sure the person who did it to you does not profit from it?

By itself, that seems like sunk costs to me - preventing someone else from profiting from a disadvantage they put you at does not necessarily remediate said disadvantage.

But there's certain ways in which it could be "rational" - e.g. preventing them from doing you harm again in the future by scaring them off with your revenge, evening out some sort of competitive position so that you are on the same level again, or if your revenge actually re-balances some material loss you suffered at their hands.

Are you familiar with the game-theoretic definition of a threat? A threat is when I say that, if you do X (which I don't want), then I will do Y, and Y hurts both you and me. (If Y benefited me, then we'd expect me to do Y anyway, so the threat would make no difference.)

Carrying out a threat is, therefore, always irrational. However, if I could make you believe that I would carry out the threat, then I could get you to not do X, which would be good for me.

If I can modify my own mind so that, if you do X, then I am obsessively driven to carry out Y—"revenge"—and I make this obvious to you, then modifying my mind in that way is rational for me to do. (Of course, the only key part is making you believe that my mind works like this. But as a species, I think humans are not especially good liars—probably for good reasons, so that threats and promises are possible—and the most reliable approach to making you think I'm like that is to be like that.) I think this is why there is a built-in drive for revenge.

Now, the drive for revenge doesn't always win. In the ancestral environment, carrying out revenge against the wrong enemy may simply get you killed. It's possible that "knowing when to back off" has been selected for. (Perhaps the neural circuitry sometimes perceived natural forces like rain, or stronger creatures like tigers (possibly the relevant evolving happened before we got good at hunting), as the "enemy".) Which then opens the door to trying to intimidate the other party even further so they don't try for revenge, or to bluffing that you're not intimidated, or to guessing (perhaps incorrectly) that the other side is bluffing, and so on.

Anyway, that is the mess we are left with.

You kind of answered the question: revenge does not help the victim. It might feel necessary, but it does not actually help.

Just like masks don't help the wearer, for a sufficiently tunnel-visioned definition of "help" and "things I care about".

(Yes, I know, masks aren't the perfect example because they do have a [smaller] prophylactic benefit to the wearer as well. But if they didn't, it would still be a good idea to wear them for disease containment, and "lol it doesn't benefit me" would be a dubious argument for the same reason.)

I don't know what definition of revenge everyone is using, but if revenge means consequences for the perpetrator, then it could help the victim by sending a message to future perpetrators.

True. I realize that I wrongly assumed that "revenge" was retaliation perpetrated by the victim outside of any legal system.

If I understand right, some people consider that justice is a form of revenge. If the process of administering justice is done by a legitimate third-party, which lets the victim focus on healing/repairing, then I agree that justice will help the victim.

It could in principle, but in practice I think the situations where it would are very rare. If you discovered that coworker A took revenge against coworker B by sabotaging their project, would that make you more likely to deal with A fairly or just less likely to deal with them at all?

Sabotaging their project has collateral damage to the company and to everyone else who was involved with the project or depended on it—unless it was a one-person project that didn't really matter. Collateral damage to innocents is bad form.

If A's revenge took the form of damaging B's car (not while anyone was in it) and costing thousands of dollars in repairs... Well, it would depend on just what B had done to A, and what alternatives A had. But if B had previously inflicted the same magnitude of economic damage on A, and perhaps gloated that there was no way for A to prove it, then... I think the main thing I'd feel for A is respect.

Let's say a man shot you. You don't want any petty revenge so you take no action and forgive. He now shoots you to death and the random occupant in your car. If only there was a way you could have signalled like a real life dislike button or a warning not to do it.

Yeah, it's awesome.

Yes. If you were stung by a wasp does it make you happy when you smack it to death and it never stings you again? Or do you forgive it as it continues to sting you and you gladly turn the other cheek to let it sting your other cheek too? Then when your facial cheeks are all stung, do you let it sting both your lower cheeks so when you sit down you can forgive them? Now the whole village is being stung by wasps and you taught everyone that revenge is not the right way and instead the village worships the wasps and builds more nests for them due to the ability to forgive. Do you honestly think revenge is useless?


>You have just made a speech about non-Aryan sub-human pests… wasps

Are you hearing a dog whistle that I'm not?

Wasps (the black and yellow flying kind, not the "control political discourse in the Boston-DC corridor" kind) in his example are obviously just a metaphor that's being used as a stand in for some thing that is uncontroversially considered harmful.

Well, wasps also consider some things harmful, and they, too, don't turn the other cheek. The outcome is well known. People, on the other hand, supposedly have a little bit of the brain to understand the situation better instead of slandering the “natural enemy”.

“Cleansing” nature is no different from “cleansing” people.

He's making a unfunny joke about white anglo-saxon protestants

Are you reading into this wrong or intentionally attempting to start a flame war?

It makes some decent points, especially with regards to "forgiveness isn't necessarily about reconciling" and addresses other general misinformation about the idea.

What I always say is "Forgiveness is a gift. Trust is earned."

I think people hang onto a lot of negativity precisely because we so often hear garbage like "Forgive and forget" and "let bygones by bygones" which are phrases explicitly used by abusive people to indicate you are the asshole if you use their track record of bad behavior to be skeptical of their latest empty promises. Such ideas get used to facilitate abusive behavior and tell you that the only way you can be a good and decent person is to set aside common sense and actively cooperate with their plans to victimize you again.

"Forgiveness is a gift. Trust is earned." helps make the distinction between the two things. It can say "I may no longer be mad and projecting a lot of negativity at you, but you haven't fixed anything at all from your end, so, no. Don't assume that means I will be a chump and fall for your garbage."

AKA: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

It's okay to say "I was burned by this person. There is zero evidence that they have changed and I will not trust them again." while also saying to yourself "I am sick to death of wallowing in my misery. I would like to leave this emotional pain behind and focus on other things. I would like to stop and smell the roses and be present in the here and now and enjoy today, regardless of what shitty things some asshole did to me in the past."

TLDR: Sometimes, clinging to old pain is a means to shield yourself from new harm. Realizing that can help empower you to protect yourself without wallowing in misery.

My former best friend of 30 years turned into a greedy, vengeful, ego-driven criminal and after 15 years of keeping me away from his gambling (addiction) world (friends) he got me involved.

I am not an innocent party as I agreed to do something that I knew was wrong and stupid. Even kept saying such to him and everyone while we did such. When the stuff hit the fan he threw me under the bus to save himself from the cops. We tried to patch things up a few months later by continuing to run our outdoor recreation business, but the only day we were in business that season he stole portions of the profit.

When this all happened I was harsh and judged him.. saying i didnt even know him anymore and he's turned into a criminal. Thus, he won't ever speak with me again as I judged him (lol). The guy started doing some illegal scary stuff and as a friend I was pointing out he's going in the wrong and a very bad direction. Doesn't matter we will never speak again and I know the only way we will is for me to forgive him and reach out. But no he's become a criminal and ego/being revengeful/greed/being right yet he's so wrong is more important then 3 decades of friendship.

People change... him changing and the loss of our friendship hasnt been easy.

Excuse the cultural reference, but the outdoor recreation thing makes me think of a plot line from The Sopranos where an addicted gambler gets "busted out" by the mafia and ends up being force to do illegal things because of his debts.

Maybe it was the gambling addiction that lead your friend to doing illegal activities? Addictions like that can cause people to go out of control, it's a compulsion and a very sad one.

Yes and so am I supposed to give him a pass? He's going to keep going in the wrong direction until his addiction and it's action lands him in jail or something bad to teach him a lesson. Not sure I can teach him that lesson myself minus cutting him out of my life and all my family's life (he grew up around my family).

Also, when you put out he's doing wrong and going in a horrible direction he says i am horrible for judging him. He already almost got thrown in jail once, yet didnt get time. Maybe time in jail is what he needs to wake himself up from his addiction. Unfortunately, both his parents died early due to drug addiction.

Hard to forgive and reach out when all i can see is he will do the same until he works on quitting his addiction.

What would others do?

*im here in the mid-Atlantic area of the US. Didnt watch the Sopranos that much, but on a different note running that business with him was the best job I ever had. Customers loved what we offered and not only paid us but would write reviews on Facebook without asking. As well I was selling a service I loved and working with friends outside. It could definitely could have become a 100k summer business and more, but he ran the business like a Soprano and I ran it like Walt Disney. The latter is still blossoming decades later ... mob bosses not so much.

Forgiveness as discussed here is an internal emotional matter and easy to make a case for. Forgiveness becomes a public and contentious issue when the injured party is under pressure to once more trust the offender, to do business with them, to "let them back into their lives," etc. That's what the arguments are about, and that's when this idea of forgiveness gets perverted into "gee, you must be suffering spiritually under all that hatred and resentment towards Bob, why don't you let it go and let Bob borrow your car for his bachelor party road trip."

As a rule if I feel someone makes an honest apology, I will almost always forgive them, at least if they did something to me (and I try really hard to apply the reverse and apologize sincerely if I think there's even a chance of something being my fault).

What I've found is that I'm far less-willing or able to forgive people for doing things to hurt people that aren't me. For example, I haven't talked to my grandmother in almost 4 years because she said some really racist stuff that would get this post flagged if I repeated it. Do these comments hurt me, a yuppie white dude who's biggest problem is being bored from working at home? No, not really, but it's not just about me, and I feel like "forgiveness" would be insulting to the people who it does hurt.

I'll admit this might be a character flaw on my end, but I also don't see myself changing on that.

I think revenge and forgiveness are big words with a lot of different meanings.

Someone close to me was raped a few years back. No witnesses (yeah, he was her boss and asked her to stay a bit longer), so the perpetrator could walk of free of worries.

It was enraging, but we simply learned not to care. What's done is done. Is this forgiveness?

However everyone i talk to in the city where it happened know that the particular restaurant is owned by a rapist, and i've said multiple time, to multiple people, to always ask the nearest formation center to know if they forbid/discourage female cook to apprentice in some restaurants, and if they do, which ones. It's not really revenge, it is just not supporting rapists.

One of the most important aspects of forgiveness is a credible apology. We all know people who can't or won't apologize for their transgressions, or heard apologies that don't address the core issues of the transgression. When you hear a small child apologize, it's reflexive, like they hope to use it as a shield for any retribution or punishment. The true purpose of an apology is to convey contrition and growth from the aggrieving party to the aggrieved, which are both important to the ability to forgive any given transgression. A large part of this forgiveness article is about expressing yourself - perhaps to the aggrieving party - perhaps in order to achieve a satisfactory apology. In that way, an apology is like a confession of sin prayer. If you don't mean it, the person upstairs can tell and you won't be forgiven. Maybe this is one function of religion - helping us develop the important life skills of apology and forgiveness.

This is a complete misunderstanding, in my opinion. It is not an accounting of receipts and expenditures, not some “game theory” example, not an investment onto “the betterment of a society”, etc. You don't need anything to forgive, to do the right thing, it is always in your power. It might be hard, but it has always been like that.

Well like elsewhere in the thread, people have mentioned that forgiveness is a complicated word. You should definitely learn to "let it go" regardless of whether you've received any apology, in terms of not letting it affect your psyche negatively, but in terms of future interactions with someone who wronged you and can't show contrition or growth, you have no obligation to put yourself into a position where they can do the same thing to you again. Hence, not a full forgiveness because your interactions with them are altered.

“Letting it go to feel better”, in my opinion, is also an accounting, some self-objectifying robot maintenance. It is strange that people find it hard to imagine how to forgive without receiving anything back.

For one thing, I seriously doubt I'm in position to judge “growth” of other people.

I’m just not sure why I would continue to interact with someone who treated me badly without remorse. You might call it accounting or game theory, I call it self-preservation.

It's interesting to see modern-day “certified forgiveness coachers” transmit the millenia-old Christian teaching on sin, resentment and forgiveness.

was about to remark the same thing. Seeing an article like this in what is allegedly a Christian culture is a little bit funny.

Do we really need to teach people that forgiveness, properly understood, is an act of virtue rather than some sort of bargain?

In Orthodox Christianity they have "Forgiving Sunday" every year. Many people (in Russia, for example) ask for forgiveness once a year, and everyone forgives. Like for real, it's happening to folks of all ages, including progressive folks of 20-30 age.

It's an old virtue that's thought to be good for society, which I imagine is why it's proselytized. But refraining from offering forgiveness need not be a burden. There are people I will never forgive, nor bother to think about. It's not a matter of carrying hatred, it's just a judgment. Forgiveness is an absolution that returns people into good graces: I don't see why, in a blanket sense, everyone who's done exceptional harm should return to everyone's good graces. Petty slights can be more easily forgiven, as everyone will eventually cause offense and consider it a mistake.

There are so many articles on forgiving, letting go and so on, but so little on encouraging people to retrospect their lives and wrongs and give sincere apologies. World would be a little bit better if people were encouraged to talk their differences or mistakes, to give closure, or give an apology, even if it took months or years for them to understand. Moving on is the easy part; reaching out the one you did wrong and asking forgiveness needs tons of courage and mental strength.

For a serious academic take on the topic, I recommend the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's articles on Forgiveness and Reconciliation.



There's some truth to this, but this therapeutic reduction does a disservice to the traditional (and fuller) practice of forgiveness:

> In the new therapeutic dispensation, however, forgiveness is all about the forgiver, and his or her power and well-being. We have come a long way from Shakespeare’s Portia, who spoke so memorably in The Merchant of Venice about the unstrained “quality of mercy,” which “droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven” and blesses both “him that gives and him that takes.” And an even longer way from Christ’s anguished cry from the cross, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And perhaps even further yet from the most basic sense of forgiveness, the canceling of a monetary debt or the pardoning of a criminal offense, in either case a very conscious suspension of the entirely rightful demands of justice.

From: https://hedgehogreview.com/issues/the-post-modern-self/artic..., which I highly recommend reading, as it's super relevant not only to our personal lives, but to the cultural moment we find ourselves in.

I agree. From a high-minded perspective, "Forgiveness has a PR problem" only if one is talking about a group that ignores the canon of religious teachers and what they've said about the importance of forgiveness and mercy, and what that actually means.

From a more basic approach, I don't know what playground Holub was on as a kid leading her to say "we're taught what we'll call "traditional" forgiveness when we're 4 or 5 years old," but I was taught based on Mr. Rogers (and my daughters were taught based on Daniel Tiger), that forgiveness still requires consequences. (See: "Saying sorry is the first step, then how can I help": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oICZVpmtL4c).

I really have issue with the whole often repeated "If something was done to you that actually makes you victim of x, there is something wrong with you. You must not be victim, even when you was victim" thing. Its consequences is "I did not wanted to complain because that would make me victim" which is no good result.

I don't like the part where you have to make yourself responsible for it either.

You've got to make yourself responsible for your emotional reality, because you're the only one who can consistently influence it. Or at least, it's up to you whether you allow others to influence it.

No one denies that people really are victimized. But whether they let that victim vs. perpetrator mindset play out in their other relationships and lived experiences is (with time and practice) up to them.

I do not know what "victim mindset" is supposed to be. Victim is descriptor - something negative was done to you. You don't become victim by looking at things certain way. Nor you do stop being one. If you was robbed, you are robbery victim regardless of what your mindset is.

Most of this is about denying that you might be victim of something either to yourself or to others.

Plus, people actually really do deny that. If you read this article in full, majority of examples are about trying to figure out whether you don't misremember or misrepresent what happened.

In many scenarios you do become a victim by looking at things a certain way. Suppose I get in a nasty fight with a close friend, where she yells at me and calls me all sorts of nasty names and shoves me a bit before running away. There are two different ways I could process that:

* That conversation really spiraled out of control. We should get together, understand what went wrong, and make up.

* I'm an abuse victim! She emotionally abused me and then lightly physically abused me. She'd better apologize for the trauma she put me through.

The first attitude is especially important when I might be misremembering how things went or forgetting about what I was yelling back. But even if I'm 100% confident that my summary is fair and accurate, I don't think the second strategy is healthy, and I'd call the idea that I should embrace it "victim mindset".

The difference between the two options is not just subjective. There is real world difference between misunderstanding and abuse.

The big issue with calling 2 unhealthy mindset is that if you are actually in 'toxic' situation, it prevents you to find solution. This is one of things that makes people stay in abusive relationships. It prevents you to set boundaries, leave or cut people that needs to be cut. "It is just passion spiraling out of control" is real world way how people rationalize staying in abusive relationships. And then everyone is like "why did you not left", well because he/she did not wanted to be victim with unhealthy mindset.

And part of healing is to learn to recognize the situation for what it is and learning to leave.

This is exactly one of my reasons why I object. Because even if you are dealing with narcissist or someone who has abusive habits, you will insist on fault being in the middle, making up, reconciling, enabling.

Also, even in case of conversation spiraling out of control, it should not mean that I have to bend over to make up nor have to have boundaries pushed a bit again and and again each time it spirals. Sometimes, when conversations spiral out of control due to one person lacking self control, it is perfectly ok to NOT make up and decide that I don't have to deal with this.

I just don't agree with the implied dichotomy here, between good people who always treat others well (although they might have misunderstandings) and narcissists with abusive habits. Most people fall in the middle, where they're a bit of a jerk in their own idiosyncratic situations. If you get in a habit of sorting all bad behavior between "misunderstanding" and "abuse", you'll inevitably end up calling a lot of normal behavior abuse and a lot of okay people abusers.

I can fully agree with that.

But that does not make abusive situation matter of victims mindset, it is still matter of acts of the one who is doing it.

And when non narcissist acts abusive or have such habits, the very same person acting differently with different people makes no difference. You still have to solve the abusive situation you are in, nit the mutual misunderstanding nor things "spiralling out of control of no one's fault".

There are situations where you're disempowered, taken advantage of, or abused.

Some people inappropriately generalize those experiences, and instead of being (appropriately) aware of the possibility of mistreatment or risk, they expect such treatment or interpret all treatment through such a lens.

There's no need to deny that you might be a victim. My ex-girlfriend cheated on me, and maybe my current one will too. But recognizing that possibility doesn't mean orienting my approach to the relationship around it, and in fact being clear about what boundaries/behaviors make me feel safe empowers me. Viewing myself as (fundamentally) a victim rather than someone who was a victim in a specific past circumstance does the opposite.

The article might get it wrong in some ways, but the fundamental responsibility for one's self and one's emotional well-being is still an important point.

Responsibility for yourself should not mean that you will now be like "maybe cheating was my fault or maybe I remember it wrong". It was not.

Responsibility for yourself also means that some things are not your doing. You and I are not Gods moving everyone else by our actions.

Precisely. Which is why recognizing that other's actions aren't about you and don't have to disempower you is part of undoing the view of yourself as a perpetual victim and a view of others as having more power over you than they do.

Frankly, what you just wrote is just bullshit.

The whole "perpetual victim" complain exist just to shut up people who tell uncomfortable things about what happened to them.

Sometimes other people do have power over you, other times they dont. Pretending that other people cant affect you and cant harm you is just nonsense.

> Pretending that other people cant affect you and cant harm you is just nonsense.

Yes, that's right. Which is why I mentioned thinking about "others as having more power over you than they do" and acknowledged upthread that "There are situations where you're disempowered, taken advantage of, or abused."

I think you're hearing me say something like "no one is victimized." Far from it. People really are victimized, and they are victims in those situations.

But the question is whether, over time, they continue to engage with the world primarily as victims or whether their victimization is an event that's placed in the past.

I mentioned being cheated on. I do not believe that "maybe cheating was my fault or maybe I remember it wrong." I remember it very well, and I am absolutely confident that my ex's decisions and actions were hers and hers alone. I also spent a fair amount of time in pain.

Now, I could go forward in the world continuing to feel that pain. I could go forward in the world thinking things like "I won't ever be in a healthy, trusting relationship" or "next time, I need to have more control over my partner" or "it must be that I'm an inadequate man."

But I don't. Was I a victim? Yes. Do I have that victim mindset? No.

I was bullied as a child. Well into adulthood, I held on to a number of victim-oriented views, such as: people probably don't like me; other men are threats; I can't be friends with men. That's the bullshit. This painful series of events happened to me when I was young, but I took lessons about how children treated me and overgeneralized from them.

Can people still affect me and harm me? Yes, of course! But I don't need to go around looking over my shoulder and expecting that from everyone. I can remove myself from situations; I can fight back; I can call out the harmful behavior. I'm not in the victim mindset of "other people are hurting me and there's nothing I can do." I'm in the empowered mindset of "other people might hurt me, but there are things I can do about that."

Along with that, I've realized that some people won't like me, but that's up to them, and others do like me. And that some men are threats, but others are kind, and I can choose which men I associate with.

Like I said earlier, no one is denying victimhood. But it's a victim mindset to generalize painful and disempowering experiences, and make those the primary lens in your mental view of the world.

If someone has told you to shut up about uncomfortable things to hear that have happened to you, I'm sorry. That's wrong. In fact, changing your worldview generally requires digging into those things that have happened to you. But a lot of people take and advocate the unhealthy approach of "just suck it up" or telling someone to "stop playing the victim" without recognizing the hard and somewhat lengthy journey it can take to actually develop and reinforce a healthier more empowered worldview.

> I held on to a number of victim-oriented views, such as: people probably don't like me; other men are threats; I can't be friends with men. That's the bullshit. This painful series of events happened to me when I was young, but I took lessons about how children treated me and overgeneralized from them.

None of that is "victim oriented". It seems to me that you are seriously invested into making the word "victim" into something bad.

The mindset you describe is "victim mindset" only because you want that word to mean something bad. You do project everything bad you possibly can into it. I mean, yeah, fear and over-correction are all withing range of normal initial reactions to disempowering situation. Just like they are perfectly normal reaction to getting into car crash.

Then again, other people do get themselves into same situations again and again because they just cant admit to themselves that they are victims in those situations. Which is less likely to happen with car crash.

But only in one case people do work hard to stigmatize the descriptor word. When you are afraid of cars after car crash, people do generally recommend you therapy, but they wont be like "victim mindset you are bad one it is all supposed to be always under your control".

This isn't something I'm just making up. You can read the Wikipedia article[0] about it, as a starting point, or dig further into transactional analysis or the Karpman drama triangle.[1]

I don't want to turn "victim" into mean something bad—rather, as you've made pains to point out, victims have legitimately bad things happen to them, and that's... bad.

Holding onto that pain in the long run is bad, too. It's not about the "initial reaction"—of course fear and anger and whatnot happens! It's about whether one reifies and adopts those initial reactions as a worldview, or whether one places the event in context, learns the appropriate lessons, and moves forward.

I mean, do you think the following views of the world are good and healthy for people to hold?

- that their lives are a series of challenges directly aimed at them;

- that most aspects of life are negative and beyond their control;

- that because of the challenges in their lives, they deserve sympathy;

- that as they have little power to change things, little action should be taken to improve their problems.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victim_mentality

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karpman_drama_triangle

A bit off topic but related, saying sorry means different things and it's used differently in different cultures[1].

In the US in particular, apologizing usually implies taking the guilt or responsibility (and sometimes even liability) for what happened. Unfortunately, this creates a huge incentive to not apologize, which then easily turns into bad feelings, grudges, anger and sometimes even lawsuits.

Interestingly, in the case of malpractice, apologizing reduces the chances a patient will file a lawsuit[2]. I wonder how many fewer lawsuits we would have, and how much healthier of a society we would be if we all apologized more.

[1] https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/12004-apologies-around-the...

[2] https://www.natlawreview.com/article/you-had-me-i-m-sorry-im...

> Contrary to popular opinion, the practice of forgiveness is not about condoning or making excuses for unfair treatment and other hurtful behaviors. It's not about getting an apology or a show of remorse from the offending party.

I'm not sure it's popular opinion to receive some sort of apology or show of remorse. What are other perspectives on this? My view has been that forgiveness is independent of an apology. An apology might lead to forgiveness for some, but shouldn't be expected nor is it a requirement.

As an aside, it also seems forgiveness has fallen out of favor as a public virtue, if not in popular opinion, then in practice. When someone makes a public mistake, many people want to make it as difficult as possible to move on, a vindictiveness that is the polar opposite of forgiveness. Or I'm mistaken, and the change is that everything is more public now.

Also, hope everyone had a laugh at "certified forgiveness coach."

For an example:

It’s very common for victims of rape to be told to forgive the family member who raped them and not “cause drama” in the family.

The forgiveness instructions in the article are very detailed and tie together many current popular ideas. Some people really like complicated systems, so maybe having so much to do helps them by crowding out the bad feelings that cause suffering. Another approach is to decide that being the judge is no longer your job, and to simply stop caring. It can be hard because caring about the injustice to done to you often reflects your best values: kindness, fairness, compassion. To turn off the judge in your brain can feel like you’re abandoning your values. But forgiveness is actually work, and you have to ask yourself if it’s one of those jobs that don’t really need to be done. So the trick is separate your values from the work of being the judge, and choosing to keep your values but let other people be the judge. This approach has helped me.

"To forgive and forget means to throw away dearly bought experience.” - Schopenhauer

I used to believe that those two were the same but since a few years ago I have come down closer to this.

That said I really do forgive even if I don't always forget:

- the person will get cake/discounts/etc and I won't seek revenge

- I might not however hire them / defend them / etc

I've struggled a bit with this and a number of similar problems since according to my religion there's no forgiveness for me unless I forgive others and I actually have a past so I better not void the deal ;-)

The take-away about forgiveness I carry is that doing wrong things has a life-long burden. No amount of self-forgiveness can rid you of the burden of remembering you did a thing you have strong negative emotions about. If you did a stupid thing to yourself its a 'virtuous circle' but when you do it to somebody else (and, I did) then you carry a burden of your impact into another autonomous entitie's life.

I really regret what I did to them, and I regret what it did to me too.

No amount of forgiveness on their part will end this burden.

The phrase “to forgive someone“ confuses me.

If you want to accept, no longer demand anything be said or done and move on wiser—and this is your definition of forgiveness—then I can understand that.

But forgiving someone implies you do, say or treat someone a certain way. Most of the posts imply the opposite.

I generally accept someone’s destructive past actions without demanding an apology and then move on with newfound caution and anger-dissolved-into-disappointment regarding that person, but would you say that is “forgiving someone”?

People considering a two thousand year old idea an original fresh take show how self-delusional the concept of “progress” and believing in being smarter than than brutes of the past are.

Progress is a different thing to having an accurate model of what long-dead people thought.

I mean, it can even be hard to accurately model someone who you’re having a conversation with.

My ex and first love cheated on me in the worst possible way. I'm certain I've been through a kind of grief that few people will ever experience as a result. But I just got over it. I forgave her in the sense that I understand what women are like now. She can't affect me any more. I've become so much stronger. I'm Stoic now. Time is the great healer as always. Therapy and all the rest of it are a massive swindle for the instant gratification age.

This is helped with practice.

Our family’s cultural/religious background instills this process from a young age. Every evening, starting with the youngest child, everyone has a chance to say what they are thankful for that day and they are also given space to say ‘I’m sorry if they feel they have wronged anyone.’

We teach the other children not to respond “that’s okay” but “I forgive you” to properly acknowledge the wrongdoing.

It’s amazing how joyful children get with these simple rituals.

I know this is a difficult subject for many. In any case, I can say this of my own experiences with forgiveness. I find that forgiveness really helps me feel happy.

I think the letting go part they mention is important but letting go can be done in a different way. When you reframe the story, add a new chapter, one where the last battle you lost, but the new one you win. Holding onto toxic feelings is painful, you can either turn it into a good one (revenge), forgive (reframe), or forget (drug use and/or time). Most people forget unless it was really bad.

"Live well. It is the greatest revenge" --Talmud

Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

-- Ephesians 4:26-27

This is something that Christians have proclaimed for a long time.

Shameless plus, I wrote a few paragraphs on this very topic a while back: http://jarbus.net/Forgiveness

A core thing I want to mention is that Forgiveness doesn’t excuse actions, nor does it mean you need to associate with people. Forgiving is purely about letting go of anger.

I was recently introduced to the best article on forgiveness (and some politics) here the other day:


I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup by Scott Alexander

Forgiveness is a tough topic for many who have been hurt, so I expect we'll see many comments along the lines of "what about this?" or "this is unrealistic/too simplistic".

I hope we can be compassionate toward the skeptics in our replies.

I have a hard time thinking that anything one does isn't about oneself first and foremost. Even when that action is self-destructive.

But this is probably just my view of existence.

Plot twist: it's ALL about us, if you keep digging

This podcast feels like Freud warmed over. It doesn't provide much insight into what goes on in people, or what they should do.

> Without forgiveness, accumulated resentments extract a toll, says forgiveness coach Kym Kennedy.

Without snake oil your accumulated borxins extract a toll on your health, says snake oil salesman.

We get angry to have an emotional STOP sign attached to certain experiences, people, things, etc. You should always forgive like you should always forget that fire burns. Go ahead, put your hand back in, get it out of your system.

I live with someone who does not 'forget' and accumulates. It eats at them every day. They get wildly angry at total strangers now for slight transgressions. I regularly have to walk them through how most of what happens is not aimed at them. People are just kinda of selfish or literally did not see you. It eats at them all the time. I find them sitting in a room. "what are you thinking" they will bring up something that happened well over 30 years ago as if it just happened to them 5 minutes ago. Sometimes it is how someone made a bad turn in front of them in a car, sometimes it is how someone swindled them for money. Yes, that was crappy what happened but if you live with that sort of thing all the time you will be depressed and angry (as you can do nothing now). You will bring down those around you. You will always be on edge and guarded against anything that may harm you. Real forgiveness takes 'letting go' of it. You can remember it so they do not do it to you again. But be careful not to hold on to it and relive it over and over.

Getting angry for nothing is completely another topic. There is nothing to forgive then.

Not forgiving does not mean you always think and remeber of. This yet another issue.

Not forgiving means just that. If anybody asks you if you forgave you answer no. Not that you despair every moment thinking about who wronged you when.

The forgiveness is not always for them. It is sometimes for you. That was their point. Forgiveness is a part of a process to 'let go'. Not doing it ever can create distrust issues with total strangers. I have seen it a few times with my own eyes. I am a large believer in 'little things make big things'. Lots of little bad things can accumulate into one large bad thing. The opposite is also true. You can chose to have non-forgiveness in your life. That is your choice. I always ask myself do I want to be the happy dude at the retirement home talking about my good friends or the bitter cynical guy who holds a grudge. One dude I know still holds grudges from the mid 80s. He lives them over and over. Because he can not let go. It has harmed him in every aspect of his life.

False dichotomy.

Taking steps to heal yourself from damage, such as a physical burn or a psychological wound, doesn't necessarily mean not taking the threat seriously in future. Pain is a signal that teaches us a lesson. Once the lesson is learned, holding onto the pain can just be needless suffering.

You would be right if people would be rational, which they are not. They are emotional. If you forgive the abusive partner, the loan shark, the casino, etc, you return to them no matter what lessons you learned rationally. And this happens in real life a lot, it isn't just a theory.

> If you forgive the abusive partner, the loan shark, the casino, etc, you return to them


Forgiveness is the letting go of the past. It doesn't mean going back to or repeating the situation.

When you heal your broken leg, you don't necessarily go back to skydiving.

Does what I said and you quoted happen or not? Because we can argue theory all you want, but reality is what actually happens.

But does what I'm saying also happen? Because if so, you're conflating forgiving with forgetting.

This is advocating forgiveness, not forgetfulness.

But if you forgive them why would you not have further dealings with them?

After all, they haven't done anything harmful in your revised opinion.

Forgiveness isn't endorsement of the behavior. And it also doesn't depend on their changing. Maybe they won't change. Forgiveness is when you change, such that you are no longer unduly influenced in your present life by the pain they caused in the past.

So you might not have further dealings with them because emotionally releasing the power their actions have over you doesn't mean you're going to grant them power over you again. You can forgive and still distrust; you can forgive and set/enforce boundaries; you can forgive and still change how you pick the people you open up to or allow to influence your life. There's lots of ways to both forgive and move forward, rather than backward.

I too think that that's just folk psychology, with little or no proof. I'm pretty forgiving, but there's one person, a one time best friend, I cannot forgive. However, I don't dwell upon it, and it doesn't exact a toll. I think they chose "forgiveness" just to draw attention.

Just forgiving without erasing it from memory wouldn't help, since you relive through that act.

Past is to be learned from, no to live in and no ammount of revenge will bring you peace.

Emily fletcher has a great meditation on forgiveness, it's about 10 minutes long :)

In this and many other conversations nowadays I find myself wondering how the narrative applies through the lens of three different groups:

- Those who are generally in good health (mental and physical) and who may have experienced difficulties in the past but do not dwell on them

- People who are victims and who encounter regular struggles as a result -- likely the intended audience of articles like this

- Sociopaths who at best do not understand the emotional pain of others, and at worst enjoy inflicting it

I hope the advice in the article is genuinely intended to help people in the second group.

Sometimes I fear that content is authored or perpetuated by people from the third group who would prefer to place the responsibility for repair on the victims.

And frequently I find that the audience who reads and discusses it is the first group, without really understanding the others and in particular how charming, reasonable and attractive the third group can appear.

In short and in my experience: it is probably good advice but it should not detract focus from the harm that some people willingly cause.

> a forgiveness author and peace educator

What is a peace educator?

Someone who doesn't want people to speak up.

I'm really glad to see this posted.

I think that "Forgiveness" and "Acceptance" are often confused. I feel that the important part, for ourselves, is "Acceptance."

I won't go into details, but Forgiveness and Acceptance have been a significant part of my life for about 40 years.

I have been on both sides of the coin. There are people who have had to Forgive me (or not), and have had to Accept wrongs that I did them, and I have had to Accept, and, in some cases, Forgive, trauma inflicted upon me.

A big part of my life has been dedicated to making sure that no one needs to forgive me, or accept unacceptable behavior, on my part, and in making sure that I don't set myself up for needless trauma.

In order to move past trauma, we need to "defuse the time bomb." We need to Accept it. We may never be able to Forgive it, though.

I'm thinking about genocide survivors (I've known a few, including from events other than The Holocaust), soldiers (including child soldiers), families of murder victims, and rape/sexual assault/assault victims (I have known many; including a number of males).

It's unreasonable to expect trauma victims to Forgive their trauma-inflictors, but they must get to a point of Acceptance, if they ever want to live a life that's halfway normal.

In some cases, it's because many cultures on Earth (including family/clan/tribal cultures) consider Forgiveness to be weakness, or trauma victims to be "at fault" (I won't get into the specifics, there, but it happens -a lot). Even in those cultures, if we can separate Acceptance from Forgiveness, there's a chance that people can heal.

Despite all that, I have seen some that have truly Forgiven what I consider to be unforgivable acts. Before they can Forgive, though, they have always first reached a point of Acceptance.

Those people are my heroes.

Acceptance means coming to terms with trauma. It happened. It sucked. It was deeply unfair. It was wrong. It may even have been downright evil. It left scars (sometimes, literally). It may even have been self-inflicted, or exacerbated by our own complicity. The perpetrators "got away with it," and are still walking around, unconcerned, unrepentant, and unpunished. It's not happening anymore. Despite all that, it still needs to be put into a place behind us, and no one is going to be able to do that, except ourselves. Time won't heal this. It needs some elbow grease.

A very valuable part of Acceptance, is that it frees us to help others that have gone through (or are going through) the same trauma. If we can't Accept, we can't help others.

Another aspect of non-acceptance, is that unhealed trauma can actually make trauma victims dangerous. Hurt people hurt people.

I know many folks that have never learned to live in Acceptance, and their lives are a vale of tears. When the external trauma stopped, it was replaced by internal trauma.

There's a story I was told (completely made-up):

A man walks into a building, is immediately beaten badly by another man, and thrown out into the street.

They get up, dust themselves off, put up their fists, and walk back in.

Same thing happens.

This is repeated a number of times.

Then, one time, they walk into the building, and the other man is no longer there.

So they go looking for them.

We can have cookie and eat it to: stop being angry at those who wronged you, just start plotting your revenge :) Treat revenge as just another item on your todo list, just like shopping or dentist visit. Or maybe even outsource your revenge by hiring a lawyer/PI/hitman to enact it.

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