“He did it!” "She hit me first!” “He never said he was sorry!” "She doesn’t care if I forgive her so why should I?”
From the time we are very small, our interpersonal relationships are based on conflict. How does the saying go? You can please some of the people some of the time, but you’re not gonna fool me a second time… Hmmm we’ll look that up later. In the mean time please forgive us for getting it wrong.
Why? You may ask.
Forgiveness, as Dr. Markman points out, benefits the forgiver. It allows us to get past the wrong we’ve received and move on. If we don’t forgive we have a hard time forgetting the negative elements of the event, and subsequent interactions are therefore imbued with retribution; it’s hard to start over.
But what if my enemy is not sorry? In fact, that doesn’t really matter from a psychological perspective. You can still reap the benefits of forgiveness even if your aggressor doesn’t repent.
The roadblocks we place in the way of forgiveness are often cultural and even though it may feel like we don’t have a choice in the matter, we do.
We might say, “I’m not going to forgive him, until he says he’s sorry.” But this may never happen. So why wait? If we hold on to the pain and refuse to let it go “until”, we are the only ones hurting.
Like Oscar Wilde said, “Forgive your enemies—nothing annoys them so much.”
It’s a win-win!