A point of clarification

I’m not opposed to forgiveness.

Or to salvaging relationships in which someone hurt you.

Both can be good in a lot of circumstances. People hurt each other, and often it’s something that people can get past and fix.

It’s just that: people put a lot of pressure on people who have been hurt to forgive and/or patch things up. Even to the point of telling them that they’ll never be happy until they do.

And sometimes, forgiving is a bad idea. Sometimes attempting to patch things up would make things a lot worse.

This is a decision someone should be making for themself, and it’s important to be aware that both options exist.

A follow up: When you’re the one who wants forgiveness

Sometimes, you hurt someone in a way that is dealbreaking. I think most people will probably do this at some point during the course of their life. Not to the same degree, and not with the same culpability, but it’s something that everyone is capable of doing.

If you do that, it’s important not to put pressure on the person you hurt to forgive you.

If they’ve asked you not to contact them, respect that. Even if you think that you understand what the problem was and you’ve now solved it. Even if you think you’re trustworthy now. Even if what you really want is a chance to apologize. 

People you’ve hurt don’t owe you their attention, and they don’t owe it to you to help you learn to be a better person. They don’t owe you help getting atonement.

When you’re in a hole, stop digging. Don’t keep hurting the person with constant invasive attempts to apologize or fix things.

Sometimes you can’t make things right. Some things can’t be undone; some damage can’t be fixed.

What you can do is move on, and learn from the experience. You can learn what you did wrong, and figure out how to never do it again. And you can build a life in which you are good to others, while respecting that the person you hurt is no longer part of it.

A short additional point about forgiveness

You can get distance without forgiving the person who hurt you.

In in particular, you can get past a point of being consumed by anger without forgiving the person who hurt you.

Because your recovery is not about that person. It’s about you. And you don’t have to forgive them to get them out of the center of your emotional life.

Sometimes distance is better than forgiveness

Sometimes, someone hurts you in a way that’s permanently and forver dealbreaking.

Some people will tell you that you have to forgive the person who hurt you in order to move on. Sometimes, they will put lots of pressure on you and tell you that if you’re still suffering, it’s your own fault for bearing a grudge.

But… you don’t have to forgive someone to get distance. You can do that by creating a boundary. Sometimes that means you limit contact with them to areas in which they’re safe for you. Sometimes that means you break off contact entirely. In any case, it’s something you can do unilaterally. 

You can break away and build a life that has nothing to do with them. They don’t have to loom large in your life forever. 

And you don’t have to get closure or resolution or anything like that in order to move on. What you have to do is move on and do other things.

It takes time and it doesn’t fix everything (neither does forgiveness, despite cultural tropes). But it allows you to build space for yourself, without that person’s hurt taking over everything. And you don’t have to forgive them or do anything at all regarding them to get that space.

Your life is about you, not the person who hurt you.