We Can Rebuild Her
Better than she was before… Better, Stronger, Happier. A Breast Cancer Journal

A Question

I love this quote because it makes not-forgiving seem just plain ridiculous.

Now the question is, does forgiveness require reconciliation?

Can I successfully forgive an irreparably destructive force without interacting with it or re-establishing a relationship with it?

What do you think?

Andrea Ross was diagnosed with breast cancer October 6, 2009 and intends to survive and thrive. You can read more from Andrea here.

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Andrea Posted by Andrea March 2, 2010

March 2, 2010 at 6:16 am.

16 comments

  • sagetyrtle

    I think: yes. Even after I moved out of my dad's house two days after graduating high school, even after I moved across the country, even after I'd severed all ties with her, I *still* was obsessing over how much I hated his wife. My dad encouraged me to write her a letter explaining why. His hope was, of course, that the relationship would be repaired. I wrote the letter and – ten drafts later (my partner thought the first draft would probably result in her committing hari-kari, hee) I sent the letter.

    It sounds so new-agey, but sending the letter felt WONDERFUL. I was suddenly able to let go of all of the awful feelings. What I didn't know until a year later was that my father had intercepted the letter, read it, and judged even that tenth draft too mean to show to his wife. She never did see the letter, we never did reconcile – but I never think of her now with anything but indifference. What a relief.

  • bobledrew

    This is a deep question. Could you forgive a dead person? I think it's possible. The “relationship” in that case isn't with the dead person, it's with your conception of the dead person. The forgiveness isn't you forgiving a person, it's you forgiving your memories, your thoughts of the person.

    If you take this back to a person who's alive, think of it this way. Often we're forgiving a person who has hurt us in some way. So when we say “I forgive you”, we're not EXCUSING the hurt. We are extending a gift to OURSELVES, of saying “I've been carrying this pain, this weight that you caused me, but I'm not gonna carry it any more.”

    Now some people are just wild dogs and they can never be trusted not to cause more pain. And if that's the case, there's no upside in “reconciliation”; you'll just get bitten again. And then you have to carry that weight, and then you have to drop it again. That's no way to go on.

    So I would argue that you forgive for yourself, not for the other. And you make the choice to engage afterwards for YOURSELF, not for the other. There's no way of knowing for certain if re-engagement is going to result in benefits or injuries. The best that we humans can do is guess on probability.

  • cherylgain

    I agree with Bob's comment about the fact that you “forgive for yourself”. There is nothing wrong with giving up the control you are seeking by holding onto the emotions from the past.

    Ultimately the “freedom” that comes from letting go of the negativity is what allows YOU and EVERYONE around you to move forward.

    We are always intended to move forward. Each person who has touched MY life has left an impression. I would hope that I have done the same, but I cannot worry about whether I have or not.

    Remaining bitter or unforgiving is just a sign of insecurity and fear of moving forward.

    Let it go.

    CG

  • http://www.julieharrison.ca/ coffeewithjulie

    One definition of forgiveness is “to excuse for a fault, offense,” while another is “to renounce anger or resentment against.” In the case of the first definition, it would seem that reconcilliation is indeed required for forgiveness. But when considering the second definition, I think that yes, you can successfully forgive without re-establishing a relationship. So, if for example, an adult looks back on his childhood and chooses to forgive his father for beating him, I think he can do so without re-establishing a relationship with his father. He may not excuse the actions of his father, but he may forgive them.

    That's the first time I've read that quote — I really love it too. Thanks for sharing it!

  • Steve

    Reconciliation with an 'irreparably destructive force' is not possible. But forgiveness is not only possible but necessary.

  • http://www.thehappyaccident.net Greg Pincus

    I had also loved that quote, yet I think it says that forgiveness is possible regardless of the person/event/thing being forgiven's involvement. Reconciliation, though, is a different ball of wax and requires two to play.

    That's as philosophical as I can be since I haven't eaten yet today! If food sparks more thought, I'll be back.

  • http://tyrtle.wordpress.com toddtyrtle

    Hmmm – I’ll be the gadfly here and say that the quote hasn’t convinced me. Without reconciliation and further, ownership of their actions, forgiveness isn’t happening. Of course I’m talking about serious stuff here, not “you ate the last doughnut” sorts of transgressions.nnOf course it begs the question, what is the nature of forgiveness? I’m never one to say “That’s OK” when apologized to. If it’s not OK for them to do it again, it’s not OK, full stop. That said, I do say that at least in the stupid family stuff I dealt with, 18 years has given me enough distance for me to say “Well, things worked out OK anyway…” or even “Well, it *did* kind of help build character” (no joke, that) so perhaps that’s a sort of forgiveness. But forgiveness in the “It’s OK that you were (selfish, inconsiderate, abusive, insert appropriate transgression here)” doesn’t really exist in my life. There are too many good people out there who *don’t* do things like that that I know I don’t need to lower my standards for what is an appropriate way to treat another human being by excusing previous bad behaviour.nnSo for me forgiveness of irreparably destructive force looked like: Remove the destructive force permanently and completely from my life, realize that despite the destructive nature of the force I was able to move on thanks to the support of others.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with Bob’s comment about “you forgive for yourself”. It is such a freeing experience to let go of the control you seek by hanging on to negative emotions. rnrnMy own life has been touched deeply by the people who are in it. I can only hope that I have impacted theirs. But, I can’t really worry about it. I must keep moving forward. Ultimately that is what we all must do. rnrnHanging onto bitterness or feeling hard-done-by and focussing on that is really an indication of low-self image and fear of moving on. rnrnLet go and let live. rnrnCG

  • http://www.WeCanRebuildHer.com Andrea Ross

    Sage, Bob, Cheryl, Julie, Steve and Greg,

    Thank you so much for following our story and for so generously sharing your thoughts. I absolutely agree.

  • http://www.markblevis.com Mark

    I've struggled with forgiving people in the past largely because I felt it required the participation of both parties and ultimately a renewal of the relationship. However, a lot of what I've read and heard from others over the last year or two is that forgiving others allows you to release yourself from the hurt and anger to carry on with life. In fact, I probably have notes on this from a session delivered at the Leadership Summit 2009 at home. Perhaps I'll revisit those notes and share them here. You'll have to wait a few days.

  • Nancy

    Reconciliation with a “destructive force” EXTERNAL to self is not required for forgiveness because it is something you always do for yourself, regardless of the external. Relationship to other is not necessarily the natural next step. My belief is that the focus of reconciliation needs to be with self, and for me, that reconciliation came with forgiving an external force AND the internal one too. It also came with following “the truth will set you free”.

  • http://www.WeCanRebuildHer.com Andrea Ross

    Hey, Todd!

    Sorry to have somehow missed your comment yesterday. I'm so pleased that you and Sage dropped in!
    I agree completely re: “It's OK”. We have coached Luba from the very beginning, to specify the transgression in their apologies (“I am sorry that I …. and I'll make an effort not to do it again” kinda thing) and to respond to apologies with “Thank you for saying sorry”.

    I've always operated on the “Remove the destructive force permanently and completely from my life, realize that despite the destructive nature of the force I was able to move on thanks to the support of others.” strategy. But some harmful forces are much easier to remove. Others stick around, spewing venom by phone, email, third-party, newspaper advertisement, children's aid reports, police reports or by showing up at your house, beating on the door, screaming accusations of murder, ripping out your mail slot and then shredding your curtains and breaking your curtain-rod (hypothetically, of course, ;O)

    Then I discovered the cancer.

    Now I'm making every effort every day, several times a day, to flush out any traces of hurt, anger, bitterness, fear, resentment and disease.

    I was told this week that my efforts were useless if I don't repair all damaging relationships. I disagree, but I thought I'd put the question out there.

    Thanks again for dropping in and for sharing your perspective. I know you can totally relate.

    Hoping to see you folks soon,
    Andrea
    xo

  • http://www.WeCanRebuildHer.com Andrea Ross

    Thank you, Nancy. “The truth will set you free” is a tantalizing little side note. I'll be giving that some thought.

  • Nancy

    Hi Andrea – For me, that phrase created a post-abuse world filled with light and “radical self acceptance”. In my life, it set me free from being a victim and set me free to heal, at multiple levels. Before embracing it, it always seemed so far away (I had heard it so many times but never felt it possible 'for me'). But once I really got ahold of it, nothing has ever been the same and my life has opened up in ways I never even dreamed of (and believe me, I dreamed A LOT!! hehehe) And while healing continues, and always will, that phrase is both my anchor and my direction.

  • DraftXRider

    First time I've heard that quote – I love it! I believe the best thing about forgiveness is that it doesn't require anything from anyone else – nobody is required to accept if from us, it isn't excusing wrongs (or asking for acceptance) and it doesn't need to be accompanied by reconciliation. Thank you for sharing! (Colleen)

  • Anonymous

    First time I’ve heard that quote – I love it! I believe the best thing about forgiveness is that it doesn’t require anything from anyone else – nobody is required to accept if from us, it isn’t excusing wrongs (or asking for acceptance) and it doesn’t need to be accompanied by reconciliation. Thank you for sharing! (Colleen)