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Sometimes forgiveness isn’t the answer Oct 27

This guy I know, he has a habit of making fun of other people he knows in various social contexts (parties, discussions, meetings etc.). My theory is he does this mostly to attract attention and show off. A while later, he will be talking to the person he made brutal fun of and saying: “I hope you didn’t take my jokes seriously. I was just having some fun. I’m sorry if they affected you!

This is his way of asking for forgiveness, which almost always works. I know that forgiveness is seen across the globe as a virtue, but I think there are cases in which it’s a weakness people can use to manipulate you. This is one of those cases.

Forgiveness is a complicated and slippery word. Its exact meaning is hard to pin down. What does a person mean exactly when she is asking forgiveness? Is it just an emotional thing? The way I see it, she is actually asking for 3 things, the last 2 things being a bit more subtle. She is asking that:

  • You don’t feel bad or angry at her for what she did;
  • You don’t form a negative perception about her for what she did;
  • You don’t change your behavior towards her in a negative way.

The first part, I think it’s a good idea. Whenever someone does something towards you that you don’t like, get over it emotionally as fast as possible. Not for that person, but for you. The other two, well, that’s where I have a problem with forgiveness.

When the guy I was talking about asks for forgiveness, he is actually saying “Don’t’ feel bad”, but he is also saying “Don’t think of me as a mean person” and “Don’t stop being my friend or helping me, just because I made fun of you repeatedly”. Doesn’t it sound like an arrogant, selfish and absurd request when you put it this way?

People fall into this trap every day. Because we are taught that if a person is really sorry for something she did, she apologizes and seems to be hurting, then we owe her as decent human beings to forgive her (according to the definition of forgiveness presented above).

We don’t. Talking in terms of equity, it is natural and effective to change your perception about a person’s character depending on her consistent behavior patterns, as well as your own behavior towards her. It’s how things go with mature, responsible people.

Asking forgiveness is often just a way for a person to not assume true responsibility for her behavior and its consequences.

My advice: whenever a person repeatedly asks forgiveness from you for a repeated behavior, give her just the first part of forgiveness. And tell her that. Let her know that you got over they way she acted, but it does influence your perception of her and your behavior towards her. And if she doesn’t like that, let her give some forgiveness.

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10 Responses
  1. I agree with you. I would also like to add that asking for forgiveness sometimes is a quick escape from taking responsibility for our actions.
    Oscar – freestyle mind´s last blog ..The Pomodoro Technique My ComLuv Profile

  2. Steven says:

    Eduard, this is the first time I’m reading your post on your site, and you’ve already got an interesting idea that caught my eye here, beside from the “masturbating” thing (I forgot the other words on post title…good job Eduard…:()

    Anyways, I agree with the stuff that you said about how when people repeatedly asks for forgiveness it is just an act of self-interest. But it works well both ways in my opinion.

    When the person forgives, then voila, the person who is hurt by others lets go of the grudge, and the person who hurts others feels “approved”,”saved”, and “equalized”.

    However, when it is something stupid and little like the person you mentioned in your post, that is not REAL request of forgiveness, that is a superficial assuring method blurted by a person who wants to keep his friends, and not because he wants to be “cleansed of his sins”.

    But I understand where you are coming from, and you are right, forgiving other people easily allows them to take advantage, because forgiveness induces flexibility of boundaries, and sometimes getting pissed off is just the right way. Never spoil your friends :)

    Nice post with the truth. Eduard.

    Steven´s last blog ..Comic Lesson #2 : Don’t Ever Disrespect Yourself My ComLuv Profile

  3. Eduard, this is right on but we must be careful to follow your advice “whenever a person repeatedly asks forgiveness”. The keyword being “repeatedly”. We all make mistakes and we must forgive people for being human, but we absolutely do not have to accept habitual misbehavior.
    Stephen – Rat Race Trap´s last blog ..7 Simple Principles for Living the Good Life My ComLuv Profile

  4. Eduard says:

    Agree Stephen. I was extra careful to put the word “repeatedly” in there.

    10x for all the input guys. Forgiveness is a big and juicy topic.

  5. Hi Eduard.

    Hey that’s a great point. I haven’t seen this mentioned before but it is certainly valid. When I see a person do the same negative thing more than once, apologizing each time, it gets old real quickly. At a certain point you realize they are not really apologizing, and that you shouldn’t really forgive them.

    I like what you said here about telling them that it changes your perception of them. That is the real material they need to hear. I can think of a few times where I should have let them know that, and it would have helped. I did sort of mention it, but not as directly as you said there, and direct is always the way to go.

    Thanks for hitting on a concept that needed to be illuminated.
    Armen Shirvanian´s last blog ..Timeless Information Video #2 My ComLuv Profile

  6. Eduard, what I’ve seen with repeated apologies is the offense is often the same — a bad habit that the offender can’t kick. Take yelling for example. Yelling can be oppressive to the person getting yelled at, the yellee. I think that when the person being asked for forgiveness begins to feel daunted, oppressed, or defeated, then it’s time to confront the yeller. It’s the yellee’s responsibility to broach the subject as, in this situation, it’s the yeller that has the more serious problem and the one requiring help.

  7. Amit Sodha says:

    Superb post Eduard. I was taught when I was younger to forgive people regardless of their trespasses but over the years I’ve come to realise how poor that attitude really is. Yes it’s ok to forgive in the beginning but repeat offender will continue that patten if you continue to forgive. There must be a point where a stop must be put to it lest it continue. You can still forgive them from within but you must let them know it is not acceptible.
    Amit Sodha´s last blog ..How To Let Go And Move On Quickly My ComLuv Profile

  8. Great post Eduard – and my first time here on your colourful blog:-)

    Like many others I have been taught to forgive others and I continue to forgive others for any perceived trespasses.

    In the past I used to hold strong grudges for a long time and once a person had got on the “wrong” side of me, they were out of life friend’s lists.

    Nowadays I have learnt that most of the time when I feel aggravated by something or someone it is more about me and not them, so the question of forgiving doesn’t come into it. The moment you decide to focus on yourself than the other person, you create compassion for both of you.

    I ask myself – do they really need forgiveness or compassion?

    So if a person asks me for forgivenss, I will do so from a place of compassion and try and understand just where they are coming from.

    If they are constantly making fun of me, I would wonder what it is about them that leads them to behave in that manner?
    Arvind Devalia´s last blog ..Make It Happen in 30 Days – Just Go On An Adventure! My ComLuv Profile

  9. Eduard says:

    Nice insight Arvind, the one about needing forgiveness or compassion. Welcome to my blog!

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