Unpopular Opinion: We Need To Stop Fetishizing Forgiveness
The practice of fetishizing forgiveness is ridiculous
I spent my formative years after college surrounded by boys. Yes, I dated, but my barkada is big on the male-energy, too. And as one of the few girls (often times, the only single girl) in the group, I’m very well protected.
Despite this, however, you can’t help the unwarranted attention; boys have done and attempted to do some pretty fucked up shit (no matter how involved or uninvolved we were). Without going into the details, let’s move on and say that I let a friend in on some of those unsolicited instances and he got so angry you would think he was the victim in all of it. On nights those moments find their way into our conversation again, I still see the frustration in his eyes and in the way his knuckles go white around the steering wheel.
But, usually, there is not an ounce of irritation in my voice when I retell my stories. His voice is raised as he asks questions and the tone of my answers never falters. He’s asked me why I can still occasionally talk to them and why I can still speak well about them. The answer is simple: I’ve let go of what they did.
And no, letting go is not the same as forgiveness.
The misconception of forgiveness
Fetishizing forgiveness is common practice—as unfortunate as that is. People claim that forgiving someone is really for the one that was wronged; they argue that forgiveness paves the way to moving on. “Just forgive him,” they say. “You’ll feel better once you’ve forgiven her for what she did.” Well, give me a minute here to lay out an argument that flourishes an old saying: People tend to bite the hand that feeds (or keeps) them.
If we start doling out mercy to people that wrong us, what does it say? We’d look like saints, sure, but it would also seem as if what they did is okay. It’s like saying: “You can keep hurting me because I’ll forgive you anyway”—and that’s just ridiculous. The fucked up things that were done are just going to keep being done. I would know.
What’s the alternative?
The alternative is to let go of the wrong done to you, which frees you but still keeps the other party accountable. You let go because keeping all those negative feels makes no sense—and because it continuously gives power to someone else. But if you don’t want to make amends, then don’t. Their redemption is not up to you; you are not required to grant it.
You can hear an apology out without accepting it.
So stop fetishizing forgiveness. Stop pushing people to it, stop forcing it on yourself and don’t feel pressured to hand it out if you aren’t ready. And to the one that’s so confused by how I stay calm and undisturbed, let me say this again:
It isn’t that I forgive what they did, it’s that I don’t let it in anymore. You see, I’m bigger than what happened and what happened won’t define anything—not the relationship, not the person, not me—because I won’t let it. They already fucked me over; why let them keep doing it? But thank you for your anger.
Art Alexandra Lara