November 12, 2022

Stop Saying “Forgiveness is Selfless”—It’s Not.

What is your definition of forgiveness?

I stared down at the writing prompt in my inbox. It was an interesting topic to show up that particular day, being I was in Peru—the land of sacred sites, deep wisdom, healing ceremonies, and sacred plant medicine. Forgiveness seemed to be a theme that most people were struggling with.

So, I could share what the dictionary definition of forgiveness is and all the other cliché catch phrases we’ve heard over the years about forgiveness, ones like:

“To err is human; to forgive is divine.”

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

“You don’t forgive someone for them, you do it for you.”

But I won’t bore you. You’ve probably heard them all before, and when you’re deep in the anger and resentment over something someone did to you, do you really care?

No, you don’t. You can take those forgiveness quotes and shove them right up your ass, right?

We want to hold onto that anger because we want to be right, and besides, they were wrong and they suck. How dare they treat you the way they did or not do what you feel they should have done? And no way are you forgiving them because then they’ll have the audacity to think what they did was okay and you sure as hell are not allowing that to happen, so I’m gonna just sit right here and hold onto it.

Because I’m right. And you’re wrong. Period. The end.

You know, just writing that was exhausting for me. The energy of sitting in that spiral of right, wrong, he did, she did, they said…I don’t have energy for it—which leads me to what the definition of forgiveness is for me:

Forgiveness is choosing my happiness over anything you may have done to me.

That’s it. It’s not an act of letting anything go for me. Or freeing myself or being a good person.

I forgive because selfishly I just want to be happy.

Many of us believe that forgiving someone is a selfless act. And for them, that may very well be the case.

For me, it’s more selfish. I do it solely for myself. I have no other intention behind it than to free myself of any feelings of righteousness, anger, resentment, or judgment.

I don’t want to feel icky or victimized by what someone has done to me. Because when I choose not to forgive someone, that’s exactly how I feel.

I’m not doing it for them. I don’t even need for that person to know I’ve forgiven them. It’s a silent act. It happens in my heart and deep in my soul.

I do it for myself and I find I’m much happier since I’ve started this practice. It’s freed up so much time and energy I used to waste obsessing over a situation or person from the past who hurt me, wondering if they ever thought about what they did and how much they hurt me and what a total d*ck they are.

Nope, they don’t. Just for the record, when someone is a d*ck, they don’t know it. Stop waiting around for them to have some big realization about themselves. It ain’t happening sister.

All that time and energy I used to waste thinking about, talking about, hoping someone would see the err of their ways was just wasted energy. I selfishly want that energy back so I can put it into things that make me truly happy.

Besides, everyone is human and makes mistakes. I believe that our ability to forgive someone else is a reflection of our ability to forgive ourselves.

I understand that some things are really difficult to forgive. I’m not suggesting it’s easy or that you adopt my practice—maybe, only if you want a shot at being just a tiny bit happier.


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