6 Reasons Not to Forgive, Not Yet

I readily admit that there is a moral imperative to forgive; it is clear that forgiveness can be a powerful force of healing and reconciliation.

However, I must speak out when the advice in the literature (from blogs and articles, to books and spiritual one-liners) treats forgiveness as a panacea for hurt, pain, and “moving on” to a happier life with nary a thought given to the many situations, people, and stages of injury where this counsel is not helpful. Worse, much of the counsel is downright offensive, suggesting that if we can’t forgive we are dwelling on the past, focusing on negative emotions, holding on to grudges, filled with retribution and revenge, addicted to adrenaline, marrying our victimhood, recoiling in self-protection rather than in mercy, or poisoning ourselves with un-forgiveness.

These assumptions and judgments not only dismiss the real pain many people suffer, they also discourage an intelligent analysis of the traumas many people and groups experience. Further, the attitude behind these statements can shame people, making them think that something is wrong with going through a natural process of healing after injury or betrayal where forgiveness may not be the first (or second or third) step. The truth is that many people don’t forgive because it is not time to forgive and taking the time to proceed at their own pace can be empowering, intelligent, and worthy. Simply put, it is alarming how un-psychological many psychologists can be; forgiveness is not the best medicine for all people all the time. In fact, it may even make a person sick.

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