While it is true that a catharsis can occur when we forgive, forgiveness is not something we can do without focusing on the other person. By its very nature, forgiveness cannot be all about us. It has to involve our true feelings for and about another.
Just as revenge is different from karma, forgiveness, the most extreme alternative to revenge, is different from writing someone off and shunning them. Yet today, people conflate all the non-revenge reactions together, as if to fail to take revenge is the same as forgiveness.
All of these are legitimate reactions to being wronged:
- Payment and release
- A lawsuit
- The Cold Shoulder
- The Silent Treatment
There are degrees of anger that we feel for a wrong committed against us. There are degrees of reaction that are possible. All of these are acceptable. Just because you have been wronged, that does not mean you must seek revenge. Just because you have been wronged, that does not mean you must forgive.
While both revenge and forgiveness are the most extreme reactions possible -- and each of them offers a greater emotional catharsis and release than the less extreme possibilities in the middle -- they are certainly not the only choices available,
Most of the time we will choose neither revenge nor forgiveness for serious wrongs committed against us. Revenge can be too costly. We might be too entangled with a person in our business or family life to be able to take full retribution, a lawsuit drags on forever, but still we cannot forgive. So most times, we just have to let it go. We move on. We stop feeling angry, we lose the need to act on the feeling, but still we do not forgive. Letting it go does not mean forgiveness. And we are fooling no one if we call it that.
In the video embedded below, I discuss what forgiveness is and why people try to fake it.