//Forgiveness requires active repentance from the offending party. What if that’s not possible?
“…. Until now, there has been no healthy alternative, nothing that lies between the fluffy, inspirational concept of “pure” forgiveness (asking nothing in return) and the hard, cold-hearted response of not forgiving.
What I’ve developed is a radical, healthy alternative to forgiving that I call “acceptance.”
Acceptance is a healing alternative that asks nothing of the offender. When the offender is not sorry, or is not physically available — when he or she is unable or unwilling to make meaningful repairs — it is not the job of the hurt party to forgive. But it is the job of the hurt party to rise above the violation and heal him or herself.
In my book, “How Can I Forgive You?,The Courage to Forgive, The Freedom Not To”, I spell out 10 steps hurt parties can take to tie up their wounds and heal themselves — without forgiving an unrepentant offender. These steps include:
-Honoring the full sweep of their emotions
-Giving up their need for revenge but continuing to seek a just resolution
-Stemming their obsessive focus on the injury and reengaging with life
-Protecting themselves from further abuse
-Framing the offender’s behavior in terms of the offender’s own personal struggles, which may have begun before the hurt party came on the scene
-Looking honestly at their own contribution to the injury
-Challenging their false assumptions about what happened
-Looking at the offender apart from his offense, weighing the good against the bad
-Carefully deciding what kind of relationship they want with the offender
-Forgiving themselves for ways they’ve blamed and shamed themselves with regard to the injury
What I call “genuine forgiveness” is reserved for those offenders who have the courage and character to make meaningful amends. Genuine forgiveness is an intimate dance, a hard-won transaction which asks as much of the offender as it does of the hurt party.
To earn forgiveness, offenders must perform bold, humble and heartfelt acts of repair, such as bearing witness to the pain they caused, delivering a meaningful apology, rebuilding trust, and addressing those vulnerabilities that led them to mistreat the hurt party, so that they never violate that person again.
In exchange, hurt parties must work to release their obsessive preoccupation with the injury, accept a fair share of responsibility for what went wrong and create opportunities for the offender to make good. Acceptance is intrapersonal; genuine forgiveness is interpersonal.”