I Forgive You … But Not Really

By Anthony Gold

Those three magic conciliatory words that follow from an apology.

“I forgive you.”

Maybe not those exact words, but it’s the gist of what we’re saying. “It’s OK. We’ll move on from this.”

The challenge is that in many cases, forgiveness often isn’t.

Instead, forgiveness is a veiled form of attack.

“I’m the better person. I’m going to take the high road here and let you off the hook. But I will never forget how you wronged me. And I want to be sure you never forget it as well.”

Of course, we would never say those words. We often don’t even consciously think those words. But we certainly mean them.

Forgiveness is the deceptively detrimental tonic that tricks me into feeling better about myself.

How can forgiveness be harmful?

By being the victim – which is accomplished whenever I can make you a victimizer – then I can, in all justification, demonstrate to myself (and perhaps others) how I’ve been wronged.

“Look at these scars! Look at how I’ve been unfairly treated!”

And the more people who buy into my story of suffering, the more power my victimization possesses.

We hold up a picture of ourselves to the world exclaiming, “I’ve been wronged!”

Even if we don’t overtly share our story with others, we channel and project that energy in everything we do and with everyone we meet.

And here’s where the deceptiveness of forgiveness enters the picture.

Our perceived victimization feels so awful that we desperately want to get rid of it. And the best way to get rid of anything in our mind that we don’t like is to project it out.

This is exactly how the ego works: there’s something in me I don’t like. The first step is attempting to repress it so that it magically escapes my conscious awareness. Then anything we attempt to repress (whether successful or not) automatically gets projected out onto the world and other people.

So, if I can make someone else the responsible party for my victimization, then I can point the accusing finger and say:

Behold me, brother, at your hand I suffer. (T-27.I.4)

Step 1 complete – I’ve gotten rid of the ugliness in me, because I see it in you.

Now, to fully cement the idea that I’m the innocent victim, I forgive you. By forgiving you, I am making a statement to the world that it was your fault, but I am no longer holding on to the grievance. It’s done and over with – we can now move on.

But that’s not what this kind of forgiveness does at all.

In truth, all this does is lock in the victim – victimizer dipole. The one doing the forgiveness must be the victim, and the one on the receiving end of the supposed pardon is the victimizer. Subconsciously what I’m really saying is that I’ll never forget what you did to me. You stole my peace.

Our ego teaches us that by forgiving others we will feel better. But what we are really doing is perpetuating attack.

Whenever we believe that we are a victim – that we’ve been unfairly treated – then we buy into the need for the ego’s version of forgiveness. I’ve been attacked. You are the attacker. And the final step in getting over this will be forgiveness – which is nothing more than me attacking you for your attack on me. Only my attack is much more subtle. And, in my mind, completely justified.

The challenge is that we have the entire scenario all wrong.

You cannot be unfairly treated. The belief you are is but another form of the idea you are deprived by someone not yourself. (T-26.X.3)

Yes, there is hatefulness and awful things going on in the world. “Frightened people can be vicious”. And, on one level, while we aren’t responsible for what other people say and do to us, we are completely responsible for the meaning we give it.

Beware of the temptation to perceive yourself unfairly treated. (T-26.X.4)

When we see ourselves as a victim – unfairly treated – we are saying that we are no longer whole. A part of us has been destroyed.

The truth of the matter is that we are perfect and whole. And so is everyone else.

That doesn’t mean that people don’t cry out for love. And some people do it in very inappropriate ways. Nonetheless, it’s still a cry for love.

And when we can recognize that sorrowful, plaintive wail – then we can respond with true compassion. And true forgiveness – which essentially says that there is nothing that needs to be forgiven.

Join me in Monday’s class where we’ll explore the nature of forgiveness and how we can practice a different way of dealing with our perception of victimhood. I look forward to seeing you then.

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