We all have had the experience of being wronged by someone. Nearly every human on earth has, at some point in their life, experienced betrayal, abuse, dishonesty, thievery, gaslighting, or any combination of these. As we attempt to heal our souls from these assaults, we are faced with the dilemma of whether to forgive the person who has wronged us, and just how to go about it.
Psychotherapist Stephen Farmer boiled this complex concept down for us in a recent article where he contends that there are 3 basic types of Forgiveness: Exoneration, Forbearance or Release.
Exoneration is what we often think of as the fullest form of forgiveness. In this case, the wronged person is apologized to by the one to be forgiven. The offending individual honestly acknowledges their wrongdoing. A full, authentic apology is given for heir offenses. And a promise is made that the offending behavior will never occur again. The victim completely trusts in this promise and in the apology. The sate is clean, and the relationships begins anew.
Forbearance is a somewhat lesser form of forgiveness when the wrongdoer offers only a partial apology or an insincere one. Also, the wrongdoer tries to shift the responsibility to others, even to the person who was wronged by their offensive behavior. Ronald Reagan’s famous “Trust but verify” pertaining to nuclear weapons treaties is an example of forbearance. After a sufficient period of good behavior, forbearance can sometimes rise to the level of full exoneration, possibly leading to the eventual restoration of the relationship, sometimes after a reasonable period of “probation”.
The third type of Forgiveness, Release, is necessary for the victim’s mental and emotional health when neither exoneration nor forbearance is possible. This occurs in situations where the offensive behavior continues, there is no acknowledgment by the wrongdoer of the pain they caused, and no hope for an apology. In order for the victim to move forward, cease from reliving the offensive, painful behavior, while realizing that a healthy relationship with the person who has done wrong may never be possible, they must simply release their hurt, hope for an eventual apology, and move on. Further emotional or physical pain may at least be reduced or eliminated, and mental health restored.
To those in truly abusive relationships, forgiveness of any kind may not be possible, and for one’s safety, those committing painful offenses must simply be avoided. In these cases, “Release” may be the only form of forgiveness possible. To achieve true release, counseling, meditation, prayer or even legal protections may be required.
Forgiveness, as it turns out, may be positive for those who have caused pain. The highest level of salvation, however, is possible for the one who has chosen to forgive and restore damaged relationships to the innocence that existed before the injury occurred.
Dr. John Monaco