When We Refuse to Forgive

When We Refuse to Forgive (Forgiveness Series Video 3)

What Is Refusing to Forgive?

When we refuse to forgive, we hold on to our hurt, our anger, and our bitterness. We stew in our feelings of hostility and resentment. But this comes at a great cost. In her book How Can I Forgive You? Janis Abrahms-Spring identifies refusing to forgive as a second approach to forgiveness.

To learn more about refusing to forgive, watch the video above or keep reading!

Natural Caution after Hurt or Betrayal

It’s natural to feel cautious after we’ve been hurt. Oftentimes we put too much pressure on the hurt party to grant forgiveness quickly. This can lead to all sorts of continued damage. Rushing the process sets us up for cheap forgiveness (for more on this, see our previous video).

We exercise wisdom when we take time to understand what happened. This offers us needed space to determine how to move forward safely. Offending parties need to do the hard work of looking into themselves, taking accountability, and changing their behaviors.

Why People Might Refuse to Forgive

Still, some people stay stuck in their refusal to forgive for years, decades, or even a lifetime. This can come from several different places.

History of Unhealthy or Abusive Relationships

Some life experiences teach people that it’s not safe to trust. For example, this can happen when a person grows up in relationships where others are deceitful, abusive, self-centered, or neglectful. This person can go into other relationships with a sense of wariness, fragility, or outright hostility. They can feel that the only way to protect themself is to be forever vigilant, never relaxing. They feel that holding to their pain, anger, or cynicism is the only way to stay safe.

Little Experience of Sincere Remorse & Change

We heal best when those who hurt us express sincere remorse and make real and lasting changes. When we don’t experience that heartfelt change and sorrow, we might reach the pessimistic-but-understandable conclusion that people can’t change. You can hear this in phrases like “A tiger can’t change its stripes.”

The Consequences of Refusing to Forgive

When we harden in an unending refusal to forgive, it also cuts us off from life. It may feel like a protection, but it is a cold refuge. It isolates us from others and cuts us off from the best possibilities in ourselves.

Furthermore, refusing to forgive can keep our bodies in an ongoing state of stress and alert. This contributes to depression, anxiety, physical symptoms, and overall dissatisfaction with life.

We Need Better Options

In the aftermath of damage to our relationship, we need better options than cheap forgiveness or refusing to forgive. We need options that allow us to maintain safety, reclaim dignity, and hold people accountable. In some cases, we need to grant the chance for reconciliation and restored trust.

Are you curious to learn about what healthy approaches to forgiveness look like? Make sure to tune-in to our last two videos in this series:

Stuck in Refusing to Forgive?

If you feel stuck in your pain over past events, but want your forgiveness to mean something, schedule an appointment today! We’d love to help you find freedom from the captivity of the pain in your past.

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About Paul Sigafus

Paul Sigafus is the Executive Director and Founder of Colorado Counseling Center. His passion is helping people learn how to love each other and themselves, and supporting his team in providing excellent counseling services.

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