What is Forgiveness?

What is forgiveness? What does it mean to forgive someone, or yourself? Most psychologists would define forgiveness as a conscious choice to let go of your feelings of resentment, anger, or need for revenge toward a person(s) who has harmed you in some way. The key issue, however, is that this is a choice you make for your own well-being, rather than because the other party actually deserves your forgiveness.  There is an old adage that, "The vessel that bitterness and resentment is housed in is always damaged much more than the one its directed at."  So, do yourself a favor and forgive. 

The question “what is forgiveness” also leads to what it is not: does forgiving someone mean you have to forget what happened, or pretend it wasn’t something that seriously hurt you? If you forgive someone, does that mean you have to continue in a close relationship with them?

The answer to these questions is of course no!  Forgiving someone while still remembering any harm they caused you is truly an act of greatness. Pretending things are OK when they are not is not being authentic, which can lead to greater frustration for you.  Also, getting toxic people out of your life can be an important step if possible.  Your physical and emotional safety is important. So, take care of you, and as best possible forgive those who have given you the reason to forgive.  Don't forget to forgive yourself as well.  It is a gift for you that you have full control over.