#42 Reflection: The concept of forgiveness

Trigger warning: this episode mentions (doesn’t go into detail) pedophilia, attempted rape, sexual molestation, murder and emotional traumas.

Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.

Lewis B. Smedes

What is forgiveness? When asked this question, our most common reply would be “the act of forgiving those that have hurt you”. Whilst the definition of forgiveness as a verb is correct, we can’t limit forgiveness to an action. When we define forgiveness as a concept, we embrace the many variations of the definition/practice, be it religious or spiritual, and allow for the concept to be adapted to individual needs. Forgiveness is more than just an act of forgiving a person that has harmed you; forgiveness instead is more a reflection of the person who is giving forgiveness, who they are as a person, their emotional capacity and most importantly, their healing journey and how they transformed from the event that is compelling them to forgive.

However, just like all concepts, we have given forgiveness an universal definition in which the forgiver focuses on overcoming their resentment by channelising their energy to forgive those that have hurt them. We have shifted the idea of forgiveness including both the forgiver and the requester of forgiveness to just being about the person being forgiven. This has led to many of us practicing a version of forgiveness that gives us superficial happiness, which fools us into believing that we are healing when in fact, we have been learning how to tolerate the pain, not heal it.

When we respect people’s decisions on how to forgive, for every situation and person, we allow people to heal in the way that is most comfortable for them and will help them heal in the long-term. Everyone copes with pain differently, so everyone should be allowed to practice their version of self-love and healing, including forgiveness. Whilst this episode reflects Agrita’s own opinions and experiences around forgiveness, her thought processes and practice of putting yourself first, in terms of self-forgiveness, can be replicated and adapted to your personal needs.

Episode Structure:

  • Humans being the most interdependent species, requiring a strong support network of relationships the moment we are born
  • The problems with weak connections in our support networks, whether they are connections we chose to make, were coerced into making or were born into
  • Difficulty in deciding how to manage, or remove, a weak connection in our support networks
  • Need for decategorisation of our complex world, in the context of limiting forgiveness to just a verb
  • The concept of forgiveness that needs to be defined by your experiences and beliefs, not an universal definition
  • The major flaw in the definitions of forgiveness we carry around in our dictionaries
  • Questioning the listener to recall a moment when they had to forgive someone who hurt them immensely and see if they focused on the person wanting to be forgiven or themselves
  • Agrita’s personal experiences with forgiveness and the flaws in her perception of the concept
  • The benefits of forgiveness on physical/mental wellbeing – a scientific study example
  • Questioning whether the “unforgivable” can exist if we are told to forgive, with some example scenarios (based on Agrita’s own experiences) and Agrita’s current mindset on whether she can forgive the person who has harmed
  • The need to set boundaries for what form of forgiveness you are most comfortable with, instead of comparing to definitions adopted by others
  • Switching the narrative and exploring forgiveness when you are on the receiving end – applying the same thought processes as when we are giving forgiveness
  • Accepting that wounds from past traumas can re-open, or may not ever heal entirely, and realising that it’s the mindset of tending these wounds that is more important


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