I think there might be two definitions of forgiveness.
The first is the one I held most of my life: to tell someone that what they did is “okay.”
As in, someone breaks your pencil, and you say, “It’s okay,” therefore absolving them of blame and guilt.
It’s hard to do that kind of forgiveness.
How am I supposed to tell an abuser, either in real life or in my head, that what they did to me is “okay”?
It wasn’t okay.
In the words of Herb from Bojack Horseman, “You ruined my life, and I will never forgive you for that.”
I think Herb was kind of right. Why should the person who hurt you get to live without blame? Get to feel like what they did was okay? Later on, another character tells Bojack that it’s not enough to just apologize–he has to BE better.
Yeah. Absolutely. Bojack has to BE better. He doesn’t just get to be forgiven every time he hurts someone.
But then…why is it a good thing to forgive people?
I’m not religious, but Jesus’s whole thing is forgiving, right? He forgave our sins, and all that? Forgiveness is next to Godliness. It must be a good thing.
I realized recently when fuming at someone for doing something small that they couldn’t take back that I could either be mad at them and fight with them for an hour, then get over it and make up, or I could just skip the “being mad and fighting” part and just get over it and make up.
Or I could do something in the middle: tell them that what they did hurt me so they can try to avoid doing it again in the future, then get over it and make up.
So that’s where I realized that “getting over it and making up” might be the second (or, alternately, the true) meaning of forgiveness. It’s not telling someone that what they did to me was “okay,” but instead telling them that it was not okay, but then getting over it and making up.
I think that that is why the word “sorry” is so disappointing. Hearing “sorry” is so rarely placating. It doesn’t help the situation. It doesn’t make anything better. It doesn’t make you unlate. It doesn’t unbreak the pencil. But it’s all you can say when you know you are in the wrong.
And if someone knows they are in the wrong, 90% of the time they will try to be better next time. To BE better, like Bojack needs to be. Isn’t that the point of telling them that they hurt you in the first place?
(P.S., those 10% who won’t try to change aren’t worth your time)
So now I’m working on a second definition of forgiveness: telling someone, either in person or in your head, that what they did was wrong, and that it was not okay, then getting over it, moving on, and making up.
“Getting over it and moving on” might take years of therapy.
The “making up” part is optional, depending on what they did.
This definition makes more sense and is much less angering than the one that involves telling someone that what they did was “okay.” Especially when it wasn’t.
Maybe this was just me finally understanding what “forgive and forget” means.