To Forgive or Not

Published on November 28, 2022

Placing Blame – When something negative happens, people often look to place blame on themselves or others.  If you can blame yourself, then perhaps you can avoid the same mishap from happening again.  If you blame someone else, it removes some of the heavy feelings of guilt and shame.

Instead of placing blame, we can learn to take appropriate responsibility.  Appropriate responsibility means taking responsibility for our role in the situation.  However, taking on too much of the fault can damage your self-worth.  We are all responsible for our actions and feelings.  However, we are not responsible for the actions and reactions of others.  People can choose to respond instead of reacting.

A good example would be a child who had to shoulder adult duties and often parented the parent.  This child might become over-responsible and feel responsible for the parent’s feelings.  You are not to blame if you were abused or neglected as a child.  It can be challenging not to blame your parents for past abuse.  It might be possible that your caregivers were too wounded to show up for you.

Is it safe to Forgive? – Anger and resentment towards others can cause us physical or emotional harm.  However, some forms of abuse are so damaging that asking the victim to forgive the abuser is invalidating and wounding.  Perhaps healing from the trauma must come first before you can see your abuser in a new light or forgive them.  Maybe it does not feel safe to forgive them because it will open you up to being harmed­­­ again.

If it is safe to forgive, can you use empathy to place yourself in the other person’s shoes?  Do you need to converse with them before you can move on?  What do you need to feel safe with this person again?  If you can resolve these issues, your relationship might become stronger.  When we are angry or upset with someone, we tend to forget everything we appreciate about that person.  When we are mad at someone, we can only think about the times that this person upset us.  It is at times like these that we must shift our mindset.  What has this person done to show you kindness?  What are the happy memories with this person?

Forgiving yourself – Sometimes, when people have been abused, been through trauma, or a loss, they blame themselves.  “If I hadn’t gone to that party, I wouldn’t have been assaulted.  I would not have been abused if I had picked a better spouse.  I should have spent more time with this loved one before they passed.”  Sometimes this self-blame, shame, or guilt can lead to people not trusting their judgment or decision-making abilities.  If you were to take a step back and imagine another person in the same position as you, having gone through what you have been through, what would you say to them?  Can you offer yourself the same grace that you offer others?  Self-compassion means treating yourself with the same kindness that you would treat others.

Forgiving others with boundaries Forgiving someone does not mean that you are saying their hurtful behavior is ok.  Forgiving with limits means letting the other person know how they hurt you and that you need them to change their behavior.  Boundaries mean that you do not give more of yourself than you can or want to.  If someone continues to push your boundaries or harm you, it might be wise to distance yourself as much as possible.

Here are some key ways to forgive yourself and others

  1. Compassion for self and others. Compassion or self and others mean that you use empathy over judgment.  You can communicate in a way that is not accusing and focuses on needs.  For example, “I was hurt that you didn’t invite me to your party.  I wanted to hear your side of the story before I assume anything.  I want our relationship to work past this.  How can we resolve this?”
  2. Are past experiences making it difficult to forgive? Past negative experiences can add up and make it hard to be objective.  You might assume that this person meant to harm you just like other people have in the past.  Do you have unresolved trauma or relationship experiences that filter into your current relationships?  Sometimes when people assume that people are only going to hurt them, they push people away before they can get too close.
  3. Cost/benefit analysis. How much energy and time is being drained from your life because of anger and resentment?  What would the cost be to forgive this person?  If the cost to you is minimal, the benefit might be high.  ­­­­If the cost to you means more abuse; perhaps it is better to distance yourself from the abuser.   For example, your behavior harmed me, and I will keep myself safe from you.  I will forgive you from a distance because this anger and resentment are causing me harm.

Forgiveness can be complex.  These are just a few ideas to think about.  Please book a session if you struggle with resentment, anger, trauma, or forgiveness. Contact me to set up an online session via email

Category(s):Abuse / Abuse Survivor Issues, Anger Management, Anxiety, Depression, Forgiveness, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) / Trauma / Complex PTSD

Written by:

Dr Monica Borschel

My goal is to help you out of the pain you are feeling from abuse, loss, and unhealthy relationships. I understand how scary it is in the darkness, and I want to help you transition back into the light.

I have helped hundreds of individuals go from suffering to thriving. I have studied the effects of abuse, loss, and unhealthy relationships on self-worth, trust, depression, and anxiety for almost fifteen years. My education and clinical experience have enabled my clients to understand their worth, make positive changes in their relationships and careers, and have more confidence.

I specialize in attachment, trauma, and loss. I am experienced in helping adults, teens, children, and families adjust to anxiety, trauma, abuse, divorce, separation, and loss. This may include deciding what is in the children’s best interest during disputes and strengthening the relationship and communication between the parents and the children. As an attachment specialist, I help individuals understand and deal with relationship patterns that prevent them from developing or maintaining healthy relationships.

I am from Salt Lake City, Utah. I graduated with my master’s in psychology from Columbia University in New York City. I pursued her doctorate in Social Work and Social Administration at the University of Hong Kong. I live in California and am working on my PsyD at California Southern University.

Registered Clinical Psychologist with The Hong Kong Society of Counseling and Psychology (HKSCP). Member of the American Psychological Association (APA), The British Psychological Society (BPS), and the Hong Kong Family Law Association (HKFLA).

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