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To err is human, to forgive is ….

… a lot tougher than I thought.

Forgiveness is a tricky thing. It’s a hard thing to get and an even harder thing to give. Who hasn’t experienced the inability to forgive?

Forgiveness is far more Godly that I originally thought. It’s tough business offering up absolution when you are left feeling insulted, wounded and deceived. I don’t think that humans were made from a forgiving cloth. If they were, they obviously ran out before I was born.

Hitler, child and animal abusers, Bernie Madoff, BP (yes, I hold a grudge), politicians, the IRS (I hate these guys!), are among those who might see pigs fly before my absolution falls upon them. Clearly I am forgiveness impaired.

I’m not alone in my inability (or unwillingness) to forgive. Pretty much everyone I speak to has someone on their list of un-forgivables. It seems to me that forgiveness comes from the strength and the ability to let go of the hurt and the blame. Wow, can it get any harder? Let’s just say I’m still working on it.

Relationships depend upon it, business leans on it and the world insists on it. Forgiveness is the mother of healing and without it we are left with a wound that constantly needs tending. And many of us do.

They say that until we forgive we are forever tied to the person(s) who hurt us. That’s an awful thought and offers up a pretty healthy incentive.

Still, I do wonder about the difference between forgetting and forgiving. I stand by the notion (possibly completely false) that they are not one in the same.

I subscribe to the chain of thought that forgiving is one thing, forgetting is quite another. To forgive someone who has wronged you is almost saintly. To forget what they did is just plain stupid. I tend to always watch my back once a knife has been placed in it. Color me paranoid, but history has been known to repeat itself.

John F. Kennedy said it nicely: Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names. Smart cookie that Kennedy.

But I do have to wonder; is everyone worthy of forgiveness? And is it really our job to give it out?

I’m told that forgiveness gives happiness and peace of mind to the forgiver. It makes sense to me. What doesn’t make sense is why so many of us harbor and hold onto our hurt. It’s exhausting. Maybe we should just forgive ourselves for having such a tough time of forgiving some of the asinine people we have had the displeasure of trusting. Yeah, I’m thinking that should cover us.

I’ve heard it said that forgiveness is divine; and for good reason. Only a God could forgive some of the unthinkable things that we have done to each other. The truth is I even have a hard time forgiving myself should I do something unworthy of my character. I’m an equal opportunity un-forgiver (I think that’s a word).

I think that most of us have a few people on our list of those we cannot seem to forgive. I’d like to think I’m not the only one. I know ex husbands and ex wives are up there, along with parents, employers; politicians (don’t even get me started).

If Indira Gandhi was right and forgiveness is a virtue of the brave, then maybe it is courage we should be seeking.

Something to think about.

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Ande Lyons - Tammy,

Thank you for your beautiful post exploring the turbulent waters of forgiveness. There are so many ways to view this amazing act of courage.

One doesn’t condone the behavior or action or hurt. However, as my dear friend Robin Casarjian wrote, Forgiveness – a bold choice for a peaceful heart, says it all!


Ande Lyons

Tammy - Hi Ande, you are so right … the waters of forgiveness are indeed turbulent. You have a wise friend there; I for one would fully embrace a peaceful heart. I have been asked for forgiveness only a handful of times in my life. I can remember only once giving it. I’m not sure why it is harder to give than to receive this mountainous gift, but it simply is. I would like to consider myself a giving, loving and forgiving heart. It is a life goal that always has my attention. I’m not there yet … but never underestimate a driven woman. Thanks for posting…very good to have you here!

Joan Cooper - I don’t feel that “forgiveness” is a necessary or even desirable action. People should be held responsible for what they do. I have lived a long time and I have a long list of people here and gone, that I will never forgive. It does not mean that I wish or plan them any harm, but I will not allow their actions that hurt me to be washed away. Let them feel the loss of my being – it evidently wasn’t very important to them anyway. In my opinion – ‘turn the other cheek’ will only lead to more problems and does nothing to enhance my life. Religion and Philosophy lean too much on platitudes and do not deal with reality. Until you really face what reality is – you cannot progress.

Harsh? No. Realistic.

Jeffrey Davidson - I can forgive those that I choose too such as friends who made a mistake and are truly attoning for their error; a family member who also made a mistake because I care for them and want things to be as they were.

However, for those that have done dispicable acts, I feel forgiving them has let them feel that it is alright to do what they did. Murderers, spousal, child and animal abusers, rapists, etc. have taken away something that can never be returned. If forgiving them gives them any peace, I am not for it.

I do not dwell on it and, therefore, do not give up any of my own peace nor feel forever tied to that individual.

I would not forgive Manson, Hitler, Dalmer, Bundy, etc., etc. But, I do not walk around with any lack of inner peace because of it.

Several years ago there was a movie with Lee Remick, George Segal and Rod Steiger. The part played by Rod Steiger murdered women who reminded him of his mother. In the end, when he was dying, he asked George Segal to forgive him and Segal looked at him and walked away while Steiger was crying and died.

Perhaps not as much suffering as he caused others but I feel that he deserves no peace for his actions. Therfore, no forgiveness and I will sleep quite peacefully.

Well written article. You express yourself very well!

Jeff Davidson

Kellie - Tammy great subject. yes forgiveness is a tricky deal. I am on the page of forgive don’t forget. Forgive as if you do not you give that person OH WAY TO MUCH POWER over your own happiness. It takes too much time and energy thinking about and hating that person. So you forgive for your own sanity. But you never forget for your own peace of mind.

Tammy - Hi Joan, Well, this puts a whole new perspective on things for me. I agree with so much of what you said. So many of the ‘inflictors’ are underserving (my humble and sometimes misguided opinion). What bothers me is what harboring resentment does to me. I agree with you about how religion and philosophy depend on platitudes (love this word by the way) and don’t see an end to that in my lifetime. I search for a forgiving heart, the ability to completely and utterly let go of my resentment and venom. The search continues. Thank you for posting here…a great, great comment!

Tammy - Hi Jeff, A very interesting take on things. Forgiving a friend or a family member who has done you wrong is tough but the benefits often out way the alternative. I believe, however, that when someone close to you (whom you trusted) betrays you, it is a much larger infraction of the trust than if it were someone you didn’t know. Hurt is hurt but people who bring value to our lives, as you mentioned, are worth the effort of forgiveness. The movie you mentioned is titled “No way to treat a lady” and was one of Steiger’s finest performances. You’re right … it did end with the cop not giving him the forgiveness he so desperately wanted. I LOVE hearing from my readers, it really opens my mind to a different perspective. Thank you for being here and for sharing. You’re awesome!

Tammy - Hi Kellie, You’ve hit the nail on the head. By harboring my resentment I do give power to the person who hurt me. Damn it! I don’t think about it often (I try hard not to) but when I do I feel angry and hurt all over again. It’s exhausting being me! I am left to wonder if we can let this stuff go without having to forgive. I’ll let you know. Thanks for posting; it is more than wonderful having you here!

Rick Gualtieri - I’d agree that forgiving and forgetting are vastly different things. However, I think sometimes forgetting is the more cruel option. My wife and I were discussing this the other night. She said she had a ringing in her ear…perhaps someone was talking bad about her. My response: at least they’re talking about you. Better reaction than indifference. After all, what’s a worse fate: being hated by me with every fiber of my being, or me not caring one bit about you….not even sparing your memory a thought?

That being said, I personally think a lot of people need others we can’t forgive. As a writer I know dislike (or worse) can sometimes lead to new story ideas. I think our “enemies” help keep us sharp and on our toes. I’ve often thought that life could potentially be a bit dull if I liked everyone. 🙂

Jenny - I saw a talk show many years ago and the subject was forgiving but not forgetting. I came away believing that forgiving did help my heart but I also had to listen to my head and forgetting wasn’t wise. This didn’t mean I wanted to carry the feelings and keep remembering but be smart enough and try my best to not get to the place where I would have to let my heart forgive again. This was the saying from the show that I have always remembered — I can forgive but it doesn’t mean I will ever invite you over to my home for potato salad. Silly saying but it has sure helped me, many times.

Tammy - Hi Rick, wow, what a concept. I never thought of the idea of not caring and the fate that indifference would make. Ooooh, I like it! Something to strive for (heh heh) but I must admit it has a mean spirited revenge like sentiment. You know what…I don’t care! You are so right on here … what worse fate is there than to not be considered at all? I can’t think of one. Conviction like that makes sense and takes courage. I admire it. And, you’re right, of course, as writers we learn tons from those we call our enemies. They do indeed keep us on our toes and watching our backs. I’m not sure if life would be dull if I liked everyone in it. I wouldn’t mind giving it a shot. Approaching the age of 59 my list of un-desirables has grown considerably. I might entertain the thought that the problem was me … um, but that would just be silly. Thanks for being here, Rick. Great having you on the other side of my posts!

Tammy - Hi Jenny, LOVE, LOVE that saying! I will remember it. We are on the same page, my sister from another mother, and am hoping to have enough conviction in the blessings of forgiveness to be able to offer it up. The jury is still out. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. You made my day!

Rick Gualtieri - Often times I think the best answer to “Well I think you’re a XXXXX.” is “Yes, but at least you’re thinking of me.” Instant argument win right there. 🙂

Scott Morgan - Thought-provoking as always, Tammy.

Tammy - Thanks, Scott. I try. So great to have you here….really.

Jane Redfern Jones - I like the saying by Oscar Wilde “Always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much.” Sometimes forgiving someone can make you the stronger person. Having said that, I would never forget, and there are some people I could never forgive either.

Tammy - Hi Jane, welcome to my world. I almost used Oscar’s quote in the blog. He has so many good ones. I think we’d all like to be the better person in most situations. I am no exception. And I would love to have a forgiving heart. But, like you, there are some people I can’t seem to forgive and I will never forget. And so I continue to try to understand and to grow. LOVE having you here! Thanks for posting.

Jo VonBargen - Great blog! So easy to discuss the platitude, but so hard to practice it sometimes.

I always liked Oscar Wilde’s quote, which Jane already offered above.

Forgiveness is, though, the ultimate act of love, which is supposed to be our main job. Sometimes I call in sick.

Greg - A great blog on a very hard subject! So glad I was introduced to your blog.

Tammy - Hi Greg, Thanks for the good review. Hope you come back and visit. Would so love to have ya! Tough subjects; I’ve got a million of em. Thanks for posting!

Tammy - Hi Jo, I’m with you, girl, I call in sick too. (still giggling about that). If forgiveness is the ultimate act of love, then I guess we had better leave it to the dogs who seem to know how to forgive as part of their everyday. Maybe I’m a cat person at heart. Great having you here, hope to see you back! Thanks for the post.

Michelle D Keyes - I can completely identify with this post! Having grown up in an abusive home, I was 25 before I could finally forgive my parents and let the pain go. Unfortunately, because they are narcissistic unhealthy people, when I let the hurt go and forgave them it also meant letting them go as well. Once I had my daughter it opened my eyes to just how cruel and horrible they were to me as a child. I would never do anything to my daughter, who I love to pieces, like all the things my parents did to me. Not only was their treatment intolerable to me but I would never subject my daughter to them! You are right – it is very difficult to forgive and takes a lot of courage. When you’ve been substantially hurt by someone, the pain can be like acid eating at your soul. I was self-destructive for ten years until therapy helped me see what I was doing to myself. It took three years and I still have regular therapy sessions. But forgiveness can be such a relief – I no longer think about them everyday.

Thanks for sharing this inspiring and uplifting post!

Tammy - Hi Michelle, I’ve got to say that some things feel unforgivable. Isn’t it amazing how our children bring out the courage in us? What I would put up with I would never allow to happen to my daughter. Full circles heal. I think you and I are on the same page here. It hurts me to hear how much you have suffered. But my heart sings to read that you have found your way through the woods. I hope that you continue to never give them a thought. So very happy to have you here and so very glad for your post.

kriti - Tammy, food for thought indeed! There is another aspect of this. Can you rest in peace when you waiting to be forgiven? I cannot let go of the person who has not forgiven me either. So I am in deeper trouble that you are… Lord give me courage!

Tammy - Hi Kriti, You’re right, of course, the heart that holds a grudge and carry’s resentment has a very hard time resting in a peaceful happy state. Between you and me, I think it has a lot to do with the pain it feels in the betrayal it did not see coming. In other words, I’m not sure it’s our fault. Sometimes people don’t deserve forgiveness. I just simply wish the cost of not forgiving wasn’t ours to bear. I’m standing in that courage line right along with you! So happy to see you here, it’s been a while. Thanks for posting!

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