Forgiveness as a Way of Being

Forgiveness is an aspect of the workings of love.  It can be a bridge back from hatred and alienation as well as a liberation from two kinds of hell: bitterness and victimhood on one side; guilt, shame, and self-recrimination on the other.  The wish to repair a wounded relationship, whether it takes the form of forgiveness, apology, or some other bridging gesture, is a basic human impulse.  The need to forgive — which may grow out of understanding, gratitude, sympathy, regret over the hurt one has caused, or simply a wish to reunite — may be as strong as the need to be forgiven, even if it comes upon us more subtly.

All sustained relationships depend to some extent on forgiveness.  Successful marriage means an inevitable round of disappointment, anger, withdrawal, repair.  People hurt each other no matter how much love they share, and it’s a truism that the greatest hurts are meted out by the closest of intimates.  No friendship, no marriage, no family connections of any kind would last if the silent reparative force of forgiveness were not working almost constantly to counteract the incessant corrosive effects of resentment and bitterness, which would otherwise tear us apart.  Without forgiveness there could be no allowance for human frailty.  We would keep moving on, searching for perfect connections with mythical partners who would never hurt or disappoint.  In that sense, forgiveness should be thought of not only as a discrete event but also as a way of being.

— Robert Karen, PhD, The Forgiving Self: The Road from Resentment to Connection, p. 5-6

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