Forgiveness: It’s a Process


You read a lot about forgiveness these days. Some experts advise us to let go of anger and hurt. I understand forgiveness differently. In my opinion, you can’t will yourself to forgive. Forgiveness is a process.

Two Roman Catholic priests who teach Focusing, Peter Campbell and Ed MacMohan, call this premature attempt to forgive process skipping. You can’t grunt up a change in how your body carries a situation, they say.

That’s certainly my own experience with forgiving my parents. I knew enough to listen to and be compassionate with my rage for my mother, the non-offending parent who failed to protect me. My only regret is that I hadn’t reached a place of forgiveness before she died. In recent years, I feel only love and caring for her. That happened on its own. I didn’t have the power to make it happen.

Gradually, I just noticed I was feeling differently about the adults who betrayed my childhood innocence.

These days I tend to remember the good acts of my father and his father, my grandfather. They weren’t just perpetrators. They were both much more. My father is still the man who patiently taught me to drive a car, and so much else. My grandfather is still the old man who waited for me to walk with him to the public library each week. Those are good memories.

Forgiveness, then, is something that just happens as long as we allow all our feelings the space they need. Suppressed feelings spring up somewhere else in our lives, harming our bodies and interfering with our relationships.

What’s your experience?

I welcome your comments. Please share your thoughts.


  1. Gisela says:

    Dear Mary, what you say is so true! Actually, it is true for many more instances in our lives: whenever somebody tells us what we should think, how we should feel, we betray ourselves if we follow their advice. We can only truly think what we find true out of our own experience, and we can only feel what we truly feel, not what we wish to feel, or what we consider “right” how we “should” feel. You mention “spaciousness” of our feelings, all of them. That is very interesting. Allowing the whole range of feelings their space. And they may be seemingly contradictory! In a certain respect, we love somebody, in regards to other aspects of that relationship, we may NOT love them. And this is no paradox! It’s normal. Life is more complex than one way straight forward! Thank you for this post. Yes: everything is a process. We cannot voluntarily just push a button!

  2. Trina says:

    I have been told many things about forgiveness. Experience, for me anyways, has been it is easier to “forgive” when the “rapists, enablers, abusers” are no longer around. Seeing the people who tortured me always brings memories. Seeing the people who knew things were going on and did nothing, always brings memories. Sure there were some “good times”, with my rapists (I don’t call it incest or child sexual abuse, I name it rape, because that is what it is), they made sure there was good memories. It is about power, control, sickness, and evil. These days I focus more on loving and “forgiving” myself. I don’t concern myself with my abusers or the enabler. I have reached the place where my healing and moving forward has nothing to do with them. My healing is not dependent on “forgiving” them.

  3. This is very interesting and helpful. I’ve linked to this from another post about the pressure to forgive

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