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Forgiveness: Forget it or Talk About It?

Today’s topic for the Ride the Wave Tele-Course deals with forgiveness and finding our submerged emotions that are causing us to react.  Specifically I like to think of it as looking ‘under the rug’ as Chapter 5 of my book, Ride the Wave: Journey to Peaceful Living, is titled.

Well it came about the other day that I was discussing this topic with someone, specifically whether or not it was necessary to communicate the hurt we felt based on what the other person did, or to reveal what was being forgiven.  This person asserted that it was not necessary to talk about it and that it was preferred to forgive and keep quiet.  I had never really thought of this as being an issue, but as I carefully considered it, I wondered what the benefit would be to keeping quiet versus opening up and discussing a hurtful incident.  I am still pondering this, but here is what I’ve come up with so far.


The benefits of forgiving and keeping quiet:

1.  It allows you to move more quickly around some of life’s smaller incidents
2.  It gives the other person a break from having to discuss every last offense.
3.  It maintains peace on the outside.  No Discuss = No Tension.

The benefits of forgiving and opening up to discuss it:

1.  It gives the other party a chance to explain their side of the story.
2.  It gives space to explore deeper understanding of the other person and yourself.
3.  It gives you a chance to express what hurt you.  (The other person might not even know what they are doing is hurtful.)

I know there are many more that could go on each of these lists, if you see others feel free to add them to the comment box below.  The other side of the coin is to look at the challenges of each.  What I am doing here is a great exercise you can do to solve many of life’s challenges…list the benefits and challenges to any action you are considering and then make a decision based on your list.  It’s a great way to ‘think things through’ on paper.   So let’s go ahead and continue listing the challenges of each.

The challenges of forgiving and keeping quiet:

1.  If the hurt was too big, you might think you have forgiven because you are not bringing it up, but you have submerged it instead.
2.  It lets the other person ‘off the hook’ when maybe they were thoughtless, reinforcing to them that their behavior was ‘ok’…ie. no one spoke up to confront them so it must have been fine.
3.  It entrenches you with your ‘side’ of the story and doesn’t allow the other person to explain their side.  So you may be tempted to think you are the more noble one who is being ‘forgiving’ and could adopt a victim mentality.

The challenges of forgiving and opening up to discuss it:

1.  It may be difficult to hear the other person’s side of the story because you will find out that you played a role in their eyes too.
2.  Going deeper in any relationship is a time-consuming process and requires commitment from both parties.
3.  Expressing what hurt you, out loud, to the offending party, makes you vulnerable and exposes you.  This can be uncomfortable initially and creates the stage where you could face rejection.

Now that we have explored both sides of forgiving and keeping quiet vs. forgiving and opening up, which do you think is the better option?  Is it possible that each could be used in different scenarios?  For example, I frequently leave my car unlocked in the driveway and it is a source of irritation for my husband.  Should he discuss this with me or just lock the car himself?  This is up to him depending on whether he can bypass it and chalk it up to an oversight on my part or whether he has crossed the line over into resentment of my forgetfulness.

So I would say that part of deciding is based on your feelings about the incident.  Ask yourself can I live with this and see it as part of ‘who’ this person is  (ie. forgetful, messy, disorganized) or are these behaviors or incidents causing me to start to resent this person?  Frequently resentment will build up in the case where you think you are forgiving, but you are not talking about whatever it is that is bothering you.  Over time this is a recipe for disaster!

Forgiveness is always necessary, but the way in which we go about doing it will depend on you.  You have to decide what the situation warrants…was is small enough to forgive and move on or is it bothering you so that forgiveness must be accompanied with communication?   All of this is assuming the infraction was within the realm of forgiving and keeping the person in your life.  There are cases where forgiving and releasing the person from your life is necessary too…but that is another topic for another day.  What are your thoughts on forgiving and keeping quiet versus forgiving and opening up?