Religion

The Truth About The People You Can't Forgive

In a special interview, Father Richard Rohr, founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation shares a few crucial, comforting insights about the people who have hurt us in the past.

As told to Mamie Healey

1. The People You Can’t Forgive Might Not Be Forgiven ‘Today’

“Forgiveness is a decision, but making that decision doesn’t override the emotional residue that often takes much longer to release. That feeling of wanting revenge or wanting to assert your rightness or your victimhood — depending on the depth of your wounding — can take days, weeks, months and even years to dissipate. On certain days, when you’re in a down mood, your psyche will want to grab onto that hurt. You have to go through that necessary period of feeling half dead, half angry, half in denial — this is the liminal space in which we grow for some reason.

T.S. Eliot once wrote, ‘Wait without hope / For hope would be hope for the wrong thing’ I’m going to say the same here: To forgive too glibly or quickly is probably not full or helpful forgiveness.”

2. The People You Can’t Forgive Give You a Gift You Do Not Want

“To hold someone else in resentment, judgment or unforgiveness is a kind of power, a false power that allows you to imagine, ‘As long as I can hold this in my mind and bring it up at the right moment, I can win every argument because I have won the real game of moral one-upmanship. I am now in control of this relationship.’

The ego always wants the same two things: to pretend it is separate and to pretend it is superior. To play the victim to our own advantage and for our own false empowerment is one of the most common and deceitful games that humans play. This will never give your soul comfort, nor will it comfort or heal the other, because it is not based in truth. And if we do not desire to heal and free the other, have we really forgiven them? I have had people ‘forgive’ me only to achieve their own moral superiority, but not to free or love me. You can always tell the difference.”

3. The People You Can’t Forgive Are Not the Exception to the Rule

“I don’t know why God made an imperfect world. We certainly see that imperfection every day and in every way. It’s almost too much to bear some days. But recognizing that there’s an essentially tragic nature to life, one that you have to forgive and accept in a foundational way, allows you to forgive the smaller daily dramas with much greater ease. As much as we want to see the person who hurt us as an evil person — as if they were a major exception to the rule, since we have falsely imagined a perfect world — we need to realize that we’re all an exception to…

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