Resentment and forgiveness

Counselling can explore concepts of forgiveness and alternatives to resentment, retaliation and revenge. Archbishop Tutu argues that holding on to hatred 'locks you in a state of victimhood, making you almost dependent on the perpetrator.' He points out shrewdly that 'to forgive is not just to be altruistic. It is the best form of self-interest'.

Forgiveness means many different things to different people. It is deeply personal, often private and far from the soft option many take it to be. Forgiveness may be difficult, costly, painful – but potentially transformative.

Above all, forgiveness must be a choice because to expect someone to forgive can victimize them all over again. Forgiveness is also a journey and not a destination: in other words it is rarely a one-off, fixed event or a single magnanimous gesture in response to an isolated offence. It is part of a continuum of human engagements in healing broken relationships.

You can forgive small acts or big acts; acts against an individual, or a group, or a god. Such acts may or may not be crimes, for example adultery or betrayal.

Forgiveness is often considered the mental, and/or spiritual process of relinquishing resentment, indignation or anger against another person for a perceived offense, or ceasing to demand punishment. It is quite separate from justice (meted out by the state through the courts or some other delegated authority). But forgiveness does not preclude justice.

Forgiveness can liberate a person who has been hurt, releasing them from the grip of the perpetrator. It is connected with acceptance and moving on. Some have said forgiveness is ‘giving up all hope of a better past.’ In this sense forgiveness is also an act of self-healing, rather than an act of kindness towards someone who has hurt you.

Finally, forgiveness does not condone or excuse the action. It is a gift from one individual to themselves and another.

> back to counselling