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To forgive is a conscious choice people make every day and continue to make. It is one that requires intense self-reflection and scrutiny. It means putting aside, at least in part, one’s own feelings to fix what may be an untenable situation. Unfortunately, the pressure put upon people to forgive transgressions could just ultimately lead to further turmoil and more conflict. Forgiving and letting go are not synonymous.

Forgiveness is often made a precursor to reconciliation and leads people towards reintegrating problematic people in their lives. The end goal is, by definition, the repair of a damaged relationship. However, some people just don’t deserve forgiveness and will not change. There is no need to continue unnecessary relationships after something disrespectful has been done. Forgiveness promotes friendliness, but trying to maintain a positive relationship at the cost of one’s own need to set boundaries by knowing that some offenses or actions will not be allowed in one’s life.

Forgiveness is also a challenging process, and there is some research on whether or not being able to forgive is something certain people are inherently better at. Some people’s environments, specifically cultural and geographical factors, may facilitate a different emphasis on forgiveness. It is impractical to ask people to forgive when situational and internal factors do not facilitate it. 

In particular, minor incidents do not require forgiveness and might not even need to be a conversation about forgiveness. When it’s framed that way, it creates the assumption that someone has done something wrong and that there has to be a winner and loser to this argument or disagreement. There are situations where no one needs to play the blame game, and assuming that someone needs forgiveness makes what might have been simply an accident or a genuine mistake into a real problem.

Frequently, forgiveness is illustrated as what people need to feel whole after negative experiences. After a traumatic experience especially, forgiving the person who has caused harm is described as the key to getting back what has been lost. This minimizes and invalidates the experiences of people as well as their need for distance. Demanding forgiveness is clearly a form of gaslighting someone out of their own feelings and shoving a completely new attitude onto them. Forcing an obsession towards forgiveness, instead of facilitating self-growth, confidence and trust, will not allow people to learn from their experiences.

Forgiveness is also often used as a way to ignore feelings about a situation and avoid all negative emotions by shutting down. It doesn’t effectively allow for the growth of healthy emotional regulation but instead teaches suppression as a coping mechanism. The effectiveness of forgiveness to heal oneself is also dependent on the other person and whether or not they take accountability for their actions, which is blatantly uncommon. It allows this person to continue acting without understanding that they are responsible for their own choices. Forgiveness continually forces people to accept unacceptable treatment and re-expose themselves to that possibility. There has to be a threshold or a breaking point of what people can reasonably be asked to accept, and there is a question of whether or not they should be asked to accept it at all.

The pressure to forgive is a roadblock to moving on, not a helping hand. Trying to forget and move on isn’t possible when people are constantly reminded to forgive and hold negative situations in their consciousness. Forgiveness is a conscious process that means having to compromise and negotiate what is an automatic reaction. There’s no way that remembering conflict repeatedly and constantly will mean that it will not dominate your everyday life or keep it from being brought up down the line.