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What is and is not forgiveness

What is and is not forgiveness

June 30, 2024

Everyone, at some point, has hurt others, whether in small or large ways. We have also been hurt by people we love, by family, friends, couples and even by people we did not know. We have been damaged directly or indirectly by the hatred of the armed groups, the wars, by the ambition of governmental entities and unfortunately even by organizations that claim to protect the rights of the human being. Why do we keep hurting each other? Why do we continue to believe that the answer to the evil of the world is with more hatred?

We continue to believe that the enemy is outside . But as Khyentsé Rinpoche says, "the time has come to divert the hatred of its usual targets, your supposed enemies, to direct it against itself. In reality, your real enemy is hatred and it is him you must destroy. " Forgiveness is the key.


Matthiew Ricard, in his book In Defense of HappinessHe points out that we do not usually consider a criminal the victim of his own hatred, much less understand that the desire for revenge that may arise in us comes fundamentally from that same emotion that has led the aggressor to hurt us.

  • Related article: "Empathy, much more than putting oneself in the place of the other"

Hate is limiting

Hate is the real poison , and if we are not aware of how anger is transforming into this feeling, we can end up in the position of the criminal, victim of his hatred. Imprisoned. Destroyed. Without peace. Playing an endless chain of pain.


Ricard mentions that this does not mean that we can not feel a deep aversion and repulsion towards injustice, cruelty, oppression and harmful acts or fight so that they do not happen. We can do it without succumbing to hatred and revenge and more motivated by a deep compassion towards both the suffering of the victims and the victimizers.

To hold a grudge, to blame, to cling and to stop too much in the wounds It undermines our happiness and has a considerable effect on our physical and psychological well-being. Studies have suggested that forgiveness is a more effective way of responding, reducing stress and promoting happiness. However, how we react to those injuries depends on us. Forgiving is a choice and a process. Pain and disappointments are inevitable, but they should not control our lives.

  • Perhaps you are interested: "Forgiveness: should I or should I not forgive the one who hurt me?"

What is forgiveness?

Dacher Keltner, social psychologist and professor at the University of Berkeley, mentions that there are four components that help us define and scientifically measure forgiveness . The first is the acceptance that the transgression or damage that someone has done to us has occurred. The second is the decrease in the desire or urgency to seek revenge or compensation. The third (and especially when it comes to minor conflicts or with close people and that you can resume the relationship), is the desire for rapprochement, decrease in distance or evasion of the other person. Finally, the fourth component involves a change in negative feelings towards the other person, such as an increase in compassion and understanding of their own suffering, pain, ignorance or confusion that has caused them to hurt us.


Contrary to what is usually thought, forgiveness also allows us to establish the limits that are necessary to protect ourselves from re-experiencing harm from other people. Jack Kornfield, psychologist and Buddhist teacher, defines forgiveness as the resolution not to allow the transgression to happen again , to protect yourself and others. Forgiving does not mean talking with or relating to the person who necessarily betrayed him. It is not about the other, nor about a duty. It is a way to end one's suffering.

Forgiveness can demand justice and say "No more". He mentions in turn that he is not sentimental nor is he quick. For him, forgiveness is a deep process of the heart that can take a long time and can be difficult, both when it comes to forgiving others and ourselves. But it is a process that frees us and allows us to love.

In turn, forgiveness also involves mourning the loss of things that did not work as we wanted and to stop waiting for a better past, because it has already happened, it is already done and it can not be changed. That grief and pain have a great value, because as Kornfield says "sometimes the things that make us vulnerable are those that open our hearts and take us back to what matters most, to love and to life".

What is not forgiveness?

Forgiving does not mean forgetting the way others have hurt you, nor does it necessarily mean reconciling or relating to the person who hurt you. Neither approve his behavior or his offense, nor absolve him of his responsibility.Forgiving is not weakness or a sign of submission. Instead, it requires courage, it means to stop doing someone constantly responsible for your emotional well-being and change your attitude toward that original wound so that it does not continue to hurt you. It involves letting go of the load that is carried by that person who has hurt you.

Benefits of forgiving about health and relationships

Forgiveness tends to be positively associated with psychological well-being, physical health and good interpersonal relationships. People who tend to forgive others score lower on measures of anxiety, depression and hostility (Brown 2003, Thompson et al., 2005). Likewise, leaving the rancor is associated with lower levels of stress and cardiovascular reactivity (blood pressure and heart rate) (Witvliet et al., 2001).

According to a review of the literature on forgiveness and health by Everett Worthington and his colleague Michael Scherer (2004), not to forgive can compromise the immune system. The review suggests that it can affect the production of important hormones and the way our cells fight infections and bacteria. At the same time, hostility is a central part of the lack of forgiveness , and has been directly related to numerous health problems, having more detrimental effects on the cardiovascular system (Kaplan, 1992, Williams and Williams, 1993).

Researchers at the University of Miami associate forgiveness with an increase in life satisfaction, more positive emotions, fewer negative emotions and fewer symptoms of physical illness. They also found that people felt happier after forgiving someone they reported having a close and committed relationship with before the transgression and especially when the other person apologized and tried to repair the damage, suggesting that forgiveness increases our happiness because helps repair interpersonal relationships , which previous studies have shown to be vital for our long-term happiness (Bono, et al., 2007). Similarly, other studies have found that people who tend to forgive report higher quality, satisfaction and commitment in their relationships.

Of course, there are limits. The context in which forgiveness occurs is important. For example, in marriages, the frequency of transgressions by their members moderates the effects of forgiveness. If a husband or wife continues to forgive their partner for their frequent transgressions, not only does their satisfaction with the relationship diminish, but it is likely that the mistreatment, transgressions or unwanted behavior of their partner continue and even worsen because they do not There are repercussions of their actions (McNulty, 2008).

Forgiving is not easy. It may seem almost impossible for us to forgive those who have hurt us in great ways. Even more unimaginable to come to feel compassion, understanding or empathy for the people who have deeply offended or hurt us. It can even cost us to small grievances. However, it is likely that we all know stories of people who have managed to do so and who have shown us the importance and beauty of forgiveness. Forgiveness, as well as other positive emotions such as hope, compassion and appreciation, is a natural expression of our humanity.

Author: Jessica Cortés

Bibliographic references:

  • Brown, R.P. (2003). Measuring individual differences in the tendency to forgive: Construct validity and links with depression. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29, 759-771.
  • Bono, G., McCullough M. E., & Root, L.M. (2007). Forgiveness, Feeling Connected to Others, and Well-Being: Two Longitudinal Studies. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 20, 1-14.
  • Kaplan, B.H. (1992). Social health and the forgiving heart: The Type B story. Journal of Behavior Medicine, 15, 3-14.
  • Kornfield, J. (2010). The Wisdom of the Heart A guide to the universal teachings of Buddhist psychology. Barcelona, ​​Spain: The March Hare.
  • McNulty, J.K. (2008). Forgiveness in Marriage: Putting the Benefits into Context. Journal of Family Psychology. 22, 171-175.
  • Ricard, M. (2005). In Defense of Happiness. Urano editions: Barcelona.
  • Thompson L. Y., Snyder, C.R., Hoffman, L., Michael, S.T., Rasmussen, H. N., Billings, L.S., et al. (2005). Dispositional forgiveness of self, others and situations. Journal of Personality, 73, 313-359.
  • Witvliet, C.V.O., Ludwig, T.E., & Vander Laan, K.L. (2001). Granting forgiveness or harboring grudges: Implications for emotions, physiology, and health. Psychological Science, 121, 117-123.
  • Williams, R. and Williams, V. (1993). Anger Kills: Seventeen Strategies for Controlling the Hostility that Can Harm your Health. Harper Perennial, New York.
  • Worthington, E.L., & Scherer, M. (2004): Forgiveness is an emotion-focused coping strategy that reduces health risks and promotes health resilience: theory, review, and hypotheses, Psychology & Health, 19: 3, 385-405.

10 Things Forgiveness Isn't (Mark Driscoll) (June 2024).


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