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Forgiving When It Isn’t Deserved

Forgiving the Undeserved - Learning to forgive when it isn't warrentedI recently wrote an article on forgiveness and how I believe it’s really an act of love. It’s not possible to be in a close, loving relationship with a person without ever finding the opportunity to forgive. Whether it’s in marriage, with your children, parents, other family members or close friends, the core of your closeness is often in the ability to embrace the good and to move on from conflicts.

But what about other relationships? The ones that don’t contain love, or even like? The relationships that you don’t hold in high regard or that don’t require your act of forgiveness in order to continue? These situations are often found in blended families and with individuals after divorce or separation.

You aren’t in a relationship with them anymore, you don’t need to ‘give them’ forgiveness! They don’t deserve it! The same could be said with the relationship between the new spouse and the ex-spouse. You don’t need to get along or even communicate! You don’t need to forgive the horrible acts and words exchanged!

And it’s true, isn’t it? Forgiveness often isn’t required and it is rarely earned. There is no love between you that depends on a softening of hearts or an exchange of peace. You can choose to go on, year after year, holding onto anger, resentment and the now exaggerated memory of every instance you’ve been wronged. You can certainly go on living like that. And they deserve it, don’t they? One year ago, five years ago, ten years ago…they hurt you. They broke a vow, abandoned you, picked another, neglected your needs…and on, and on, and on.

It can feel like forgiving them is letting them off the hook. If you forgive you have to take off your victim glasses which can expose areas of personal accountability or your own mistakes along your path. You can feel that if you forgive them that they will never truly know how much you were hurt or how much damage they caused. If you forgive them, you may never get that apology or hear the acknowledgement that you deserve. But are you getting it now? Are your actions of hurt and anger causing them to go – “Woah! Wait a minute! I obviously hurt you and I am deeply sorry!”. Probably not.

And in all of this time of not forgiving and choosing to give them ‘what they deserve’, are you getting what you deserve? Are you getting the joy that you feel robbed of? Are you getting the life, relationship or family that they destroyed? The dreams that they crushed? I will take a guess and say that you aren’t. I would bet that you are still fighting emotions and memories on a regular basis. Perhaps you are left steaming every time you see them move on or witness a moment of their happiness. Maybe you are still left crying over missed opportunities, broken promises and the state your life was left in.

We’ve all been there because it’s an easy place to live – at first. Why do we complain about our accused or recount their mistakes? Because, lets be honest, it feels good. You feel the need to vent. They did yet another thing to make you mad and you need to get it off your chest. And with each vent, you gain a short-term fix, a short-term benefit.

Think back on your stories, statements and anger – where is the control in your story? Do you really have it? Or is it all smoke in mirrors trying to grasp onto some resemblance of control in a situation that makes you feel helpless?

Forgiveness isn’t about giving another person what they deserve. Forgiveness is about giving yourself what YOU deserve. It’s about taking accountability for what you have control over. It’s about taking back your present and your future. It’s about deciding that while the past was hard, your future will be bright. It’s about opening up possibilities that are not there while you are stewing over a past situation or an undeserving person.

Forgiveness will always be about love. Sometimes it’s not the love between two people, but instead the love you have for yourself. Give yourself the freedom of letting go.

Forgiving When It Isn’t Deserved

Amy Bellows, PhD

Amy Bellows holds a PhD in Psychology and has had the opportunity to work in various settings including leading adolescent group therapy sessions, working with victims of sexual assault, helping woman inmates adjust to post-prison life, conducting parenting education classes and assisting with drug and alcohol dependency treatment plans. The unique challenges and opportunities that come along with being a part of a step-family is a special interest of hers. Amy is currently working in the corporate environment with a interest in group dynamics and change management. You can find her on her website, or on Twitter @AmyBellowsPhD.

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APA Reference
Bellows, A. (2016). Forgiving When It Isn’t Deserved. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 12, 2020, from


Last updated: 27 May 2016
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