Max snapped at me.  Max is a weeeeeeeee bit stubborn. (He calls it determined being an attribute of both the terrier and hound that he is).  When he doesn’t want to do something he DOESN’T do it – even for cookie treats.  He also has a sensitive area on his spine.  I needed him to go to the other room and he needed to stay where he was.  When I tried to pick him up, after many an authoritative “command”, he snapped at me.  It was a “LEAVE-ME-ALONE, I-hurt”-snap as no skin contact was made.

It scared me (as it was meant to do). I forgave him for snapping at me.  I knew this was about him and his limitations to communicate and not about not loving me.  Max cannot exceed his capabilities anymore than you or I can exceed ours.

However, I’m not going to FORGET his “snapping” and will heed his warnings earlier.

Whatever she said, I’m Innocent

I am often asked by clients “How can I ever forgive  my family who inflicted horrible harm on me when I can never forget it”?  Forgiving and forgetting are two separate things.

We should never forget something/someone who has hurt us.  That’s a basic principle of survival. If it’s harmful remember it and avoid it.  BUT do NOT let other’s limitations define who we are. (I’m a loving human, not a dog abuser – Max knows as he regularly forgives me my limitations)

Forgiveness is the realization that those who have harmed us are limited by their capabilities.  Their harmful actions arise from their capabilities, who they are, not who we are.  

  • Forgiving is a mental decision which relieves us of emotional pain, anger, hurt etc.
  • Not forgiving is based on the belief that others are capable of different/better behavior than how they actually behave.

If I can’t forgive Max then I am assuming he was capable at that time of making a better choice and deliberately chose what I perceive as harmful.

If people truly are capable and choose the harmful response that is at best mean and at worst evil:  Most people are not evil; Most are not capable; Most are just immersed in themselves (in ego) and are incapable of taking another’s point of view.

When people’s limited capabilities create painful actions we can forgive them for being limited human beings. We just don’t forget.

 What do you think is unforgivable?

And take a look at:
Maureen’s post on Forgiveness quotes.


6 comments on “Forgiveness

  1. There is, for me, a fine line between forgiving and forgetting. I am working on forgiving, but am still better at forgetting.
    I guess I tend to think of the things that are unforgiveable, not what IS forgiveable. Time to rethink I suspect.


  2. I have been hurt over and over by members of my family. I do believe they could chose other actions and chose not to. I keep thinking I have forgiven them, but then they do something else…how can you forgive the same hurts over and over. I try. I really try. I know forgiveness is more for me, I don’t want what they to do eat at me. So I’ve just decided to ignore it instead. But forget, never.

    I will never forget what they did/do to me. Forgetting these things will leave me open for more hurt. I will always expect them to do something different, and hurt me again. I don’t expect them to change any longer. I expect them to keep secrets from me, to be rude to me, to think I’m not a whole person because I have Bi-Polar I disorder….I’m not even sure they believed anything was wrong with me until I lost my hearing.
    No I won’t forget.

    And as much as I try, and often think I have forgiven them….it’s difficult when I really think they could do other actions. I’ve even told them what I need to feel like more of a member in this family. So they know. They simply disregard it.

    If someone hurts me once, and they ask for forgiveness, or they really didn’t mean to, I’m quick to forgive.
    But it’s when the hurt is inflicted (or tries to be inflicted) over and over, that’s hard to forgive.


    • Wendy,
      I Don’t think you have to forgive. It’s just an option. It’s easier to forgive people for being stupid and callous than family members who disregard you. It seems like they are not capable of acting like loving family, only capable of acting like hurtful family. They are missing out on so much by not having a wonderful, talented and loving person like you in their lives.

      I agree that when the hurt is inflicted over and over one doesn’t have to forgive. But certainly not put yourself in harms way by trying to get what they are incapable of giving. Hard to grasp the idea that family is not loving. The title of family needs to be earned, not just a birth right.


  3. Unforgiveable, hmmmm, I would think anything is forgiveable-depending on the forgiver.

    I’m still working on forgiveness for when you taunted me with the Satruday sirens (faked injury by the “air raid”-I still hate loud noises) and may not be able to fully process or rationalize forgiveness (due to possible brain stem injury) your jumping up and down while holding my head between your knees. But then, I was 2 or 3 and probably thought it was FUN. Doubt if you’ve been carrying around any guilt over these from 50 years ago…but aat any rate, you’re forgiven, and loved!


  4. This is so well written and beautiful with an exceedingly profound message… I remember having Dr. Wyne Dyer on Forgiveness and recall that about 20 years ago I had undertaken an exercise in forgiveness…had made a list of 08 people from whom I needed to seek forgivness as I had made some mistake..I connected with few of them through letters and others in person.. and it was so wonderful to see them forgiving me.. and an essential part of this exercise was that I needed to forgive who I perceived had made some mistake to me.. suddenly felt so light… as Mark Twain wrote: “Forgiveness is the fragrance that a violet sheds on the heel that crushes it”..
    Now what is unforgivable: Living a life in resentment and regret…. we need to learn to practice happiness.. that should be our way of life… Thanks Judy for this wonderful write.. RS:)


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