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The GEM Debate: Do We REALLY Have To Forgive?

Oh, yeah, today’s GEM Debate is right up my alley!

This morning I found this interesting piece on The Huffington Post titled Why Forgiveness is Overrated. The author is a divorced woman whose husband left her for another woman. In the piece she questions the long held concept that forgiveness is always the best policy.

I can certainly identify… When I was fired from my job on the CBS morning show, it came exactly 30 days from my scheduled, preventive double mastectomy. I was given the proverbial “We’re going in another direction” explanation and that was cool. But it didn’t change the fact that I had told them a few months in advance that I was having what would be a life-altering surgery.  Being fired added more stress to an already stressful time. Add to that, my agent of 15 years stopped returning my calls and rebuffed my efforts to reach out.

I know what we SHOULD do; I know what I teach my children and what I was taught myself. I know what Christians believe and agree with the famous saying that ‘holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die’.

But I also know me. I’m going to be a big person here and say, it takes some time for me to forgive. A long, long time. I have to process the hurt before I can really let it go and to be honest, I’m not sure if I am ever really free of it all.

There. I told you my truth.  But what do you think?

Look deep inside yourself before you answer today’s GEM debate question and tell us – do you think forgiveness is REALLY necessary?

I’d love to know who betrayed your trust – and how you dealt with the pain and anger…

Okay, have at it!


  1. Rich

    January 30, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    One thing I know for a fact is that karma is ALWAYS at work…

    If someone treats you wrong you can bet some bad luck and energy is on the way to them soon. Guaranteed.

    Keeping this in mind definitely helps you keep going when you’re struggling with feelings of anger and forgiveness…

  2. juli

    January 30, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    I agree. Some things are just too wrong to forgive sincerely.

  3. Mike McGinley

    January 30, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    I’ve always gone with my inner self. If I can truly find a way to forgive someone, then I do. But, I’ll never be a fake and pretend to forgive someone when the hurt is so bad that I know I can’t. I’ll just try to avoid that person as best I can.

  4. Auntie Lisa

    January 30, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Agree with the quote about UNforgiveness is like taking poison and waiting for the other guy to die! It does YOU more harm than it will ever do to the one you’re not forgiving. Also, remember forgiveness is NOT excusing whatever the offender did. AND… sometimes you have to forgive BEFORE you feel like it. The feelings will usually follow.

  5. M.E. Johnson

    January 30, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    To me forgive is right up there with forget ~ you don’t, usually. If you’re not thinking up ways to get even and just go on with your life, it feels like forgiveness. Would you help that person in a time of need? If so, that’s forgiveness.

    I once ran into a person I hadn’t seen in years. We laughed and hugged and chatted. Well into our chat we discovered we had parted friendship in great anger, hatred almost. I hadn’t thought about her since. As we talked, It seemed so stupid now. We’ve kept in touch ever since. What does this story mean? I have no idea.

  6. Peppercorn16

    January 30, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    I know they say that one should forgive in order for them to move on and in many ways that could be true. But there are times when one just can’t keep forgiving because now it boils down to trust and respect. And just because u forgive someone for doing or saying something horrible doesn’t mean u havae to have the person or person in your life. Just forgive and not have that person around anymore becauseyou can’t trust them because he or she doesn’t respect you

  7. Rene Syler

    January 30, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    LOL last line gave me a chuckle 🙂 I do think that forgiveness is the right thing to do, it sounds good to say we can do it, but personally, if the wrong was so egregious, I find it difficult to do. Keepin’ it real..

  8. David Freeman

    January 30, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    No time for whole story now, but I can tell you I agree with mike above. I’ve just found that forgiving not only helps the whole situation, but it really helps ME…to leave old baggage I don’t need behind. And it does not mean you forget it or you forget the lessons you learned, or you have to be friendly with that person again. It just means “you let the poison out”. And we all know we are healthier when we do that. So I do it more for my own well being than anyone else’s.
    Your old agent avoiding your calls? I might forgive, but I’d never forget or speak to them again unless they owned up tome in writing why they showed such cowardice!
    It’s a tough but important concept we NEED to impart to our kids. So we may have to fake it once or twice before they are old enough to get the subtle nuances. But I want my kids to be forgiving people.
    And by forgiving but NOT forgetting, we have important roadmarks in our life that forever remind us of important ways we ourselves wish NOT to behave for fear it might hurt another the way we were injured.
    As someone else said, “Karma is a bitch”. And I truly find that people who go around hurting others in unforgivable or constant manners usually get right back that same energy. Thats just another reason TO FORGIVE. You can put it behind you because Karma will deal with the offending party.

  9. Auntie Lisa

    January 30, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    It’s kind of like housework. Sometimes you’re inspired to do it. But most of the time, you just have to do it anyway. And afterwards, you feel SO much better!

  10. Rene Syler

    January 30, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Yeah, maybe for some.

  11. Irene

    January 30, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    Sorry but some days I think forgiveness is overrated!

    I try hard to forgive anyway cuz I just don’t have time in my life to carry around the baggage….

    Mama always said forgive and forget…well mama I forgive but I don’t forget! That’s my twisted g.e.m.m.e.r…

  12. PiecesOfEight

    January 30, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    Its hard for me to forgive in cases where someone has done something so egregious to me.

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  14. thebossesdaughter

    January 30, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    My willingness to forgive is completely and utterly selfish as hell. It has nothing to do with the other person. In fact forgetting is a crime but forgiving allows me to move on in my life. I may never speak to or associate with that person again but releasing the hurt and leaving it behind is more important than putting back together that broken bond. Things cannot go back to the way they used to be, because we are in a constant state of change. Forgiveness is not about the other person and once you realize that, you understand why your Sunday school teacher thought it was a good idea. Who has betrayed my trust? LOL…..Damn near everyone.

  15. carol

    January 30, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    Well speaking from a personal perspective I think I find a way to live with and deal with the situation at hand but that does not always include forgiveness. I am not sure forgiving someone is always possible, it depends on how deeply you have been hurt, I do think you have to deal with the hurt in order to move on. Recently my daughter was hurt very badly by her husband and while I have not forgiven him for the pain that he caused my daughter, I have found a way to not hate him the way I did when I first heard about the situation. But, yes forgiveness is over-rated in my book.

  16. Jen (ImoBlog)

    January 30, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    I think sometimes we confuse forgiveness with exoneration. Just because I choose to forgive someone doesn’t mean I have condoned their actions. It also doesn’t mean that I now will continue my relationship with that person.

    Unforgiveness is the seed that leads to bitterness. Let’s face it, bitterness will make you UGLY. We have all seen those old bitter looking ladies- right? Come on- you are picturing one right now! Pinched lips and perpetual frown and she looks older than she is!

    To protect what beauty I have I do what I can to forgive. Like I said, I don’t have to like the person or agree with their actions. I am just not going to waste my brain space and emotions on them.

  17. April Brucker

    January 31, 2011 at 10:41 am

    I think it depends on the situation. Sometimes we have to look at both sides of the arguement and our side of the street. While we may get upset sometimes we have a role in the disagreements and drama that play out in our lives. When we do that sometimes we are not as innocent as we believe ourselves to be.
    On the other hand, there are some people who cannot be let back into your life after they have wronged you because their energy is just too toxic and they will only continue to make you angry and take you down to their unhealthy level. These include the cheating spouse, the backstabbing friend, etc. Letting these people back into your life not only is a mistake but once they have broken your trust you always have to second guess them which makes them an emotionally damaging presence. Maya Angelou once had a quote, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

  18. jacki marie

    February 1, 2011 at 1:43 am

    Forgiveness is often confused with a lot of things. The main one I think is trust. Forgiveness isn’t trust. Forgiveness is moving on, Forgiveness is learning from the experience, Forgiveness is not planning revenge, but NOT allowing them to hurt you again either. Forgiveness should feel good. Forgiving someone and then allowing them to hurt you again and again, is ultimately not good for you or for them.

    You were wronged and you have every right to speak out and tell your story. … and I’m at that point in my life.

  19. Dina

    April 27, 2011 at 7:33 am

    For me, I must choose to forgive. Most ppl who know me, know I am a Christian. I am not here to force my beliefs on anyone else. Everyone must choose for themselves. Since I believe God is Who He says He is and Jesus is real and the messiah, Savior then I must live according to Scripture.
    There are at least 60 verses on Forgiveness. It is important to God. So important that He tells me if i don’t forgive others, He wont forgive me. He never said to forgive if I can, forgive if the wrong isn’t so bad, God tells me to forgive PERIOD. No where does it say that forgiveness is easy, just that we are to forgive. It doesn’t matter if I “feel” like it. I must choose to do it.
    I have had to ask for forgiveness as much if not more than I have had to forgive!!! Not something I am proud of. But when we do forgive we realease ourselves and others from the pain of the wrong. The guilty party must also ask for forgiveness and give forgiveness in order to be completely released From that pain and guilt. Still, some won’t forgive, ask forgiveness or be forgiven.

    I recently learned that the root word for love is obligation. So if I love something, I am obligated to it. Because I love God, I am obligated to do what He pleases Him. Forgiveness pleases God. I choose to forgive to please God and be in right-standing with God. That is why I forgive.

    I love the words and message of this song: it’s by Hillsong United: Mighty to Save:
    Everyone needs compassion
    A love that’s never failing
    Let mercy fall on me

    Everyone needs forgiveness
    The Kindness of a Savior
    The hope of nations

    Savior, He can move the mountains
    My God is mighty to save
    He is mighty to save
    Forever, Author of salvation
    He rose and conquered the Grave
    Jesus conquered the grave

    So take me as You find me
    All my fears & failures
    Fill my life again

    I give my life to follow
    Everything I believe in
    Now I surrender (I surrender all)

    This song says it all for me. It’s not about being perfect or better than anyone else. It’s for whosoever will!! I love it!!!

  20. barbara davis

    May 26, 2011 at 5:28 am

    I, too, am a Christian. My son was murdered. The murderers were never brought to justice. The word “forgiveness” is liberally demanded of anyone who has been harmed. Take it from me, it is an insult to hear this when your only son was brutally murdered. Every one preaching forgiveness, walk a mile in my shoes. When your child is brutally murdered, then come talk to me about forgiveness. More importantly, the biblical interpretaion on forgiveness is quite clear, but so often confused by not only Christians, but even pastors. God does not tell us to hand out “blanket forgiveness”. He clearly tells us in the scriptures that if someone has harmed us, REPENTS AND ASKS FOR FORGIVENESS, then we MUST forgive them. My son’s murderers have never asked forgiveness; expressed remorse; have even joked about getting away with it. God does not expect us to be Him. We are only human. However, in the bible even God requires of sinners who harm Him, the same thing he expects us as Christians to do to those who harm us. He says, “Ask for forgiveness, REPENT and ye shall be forgiven.” I am not bitter nor have I ever been angry with God. My peace came, not from forgiving people who don’t want my forgiveness. It came from my “reconciliation with harm”. I”ve reconciled the harm done to me and my son and have chosen to leave these murderers to God’s justice. I journey through life, hoping that my spirit and faith in God is a testimony that God can carry his Child through the most tragic of times.

  21. Rene Syler

    May 26, 2011 at 6:40 am

    @barbara: Oh I am so sorry. Thank you for lending your personal experience to this forum and I pray that your faith buoy you through what have to be very difficult times. Bless you.

  22. karen

    May 26, 2011 at 9:13 am

    Jesus is always our example. He is the ultimate example of forgiveness. If God can forgive each of us then how can we not do the same for others? God, whose own Son was brutally murdered by every one of us, has forgiven us. Our forgiveness of others does not say that their actions were acceptable – it simply breaks us free from the chains of bitterness and hate that keep us from being all God wants us to be. Someday God will judge all actions. He will ultimately make sure justice is served.

  23. Dawn

    May 26, 2011 at 11:08 am

    I agree totally with Barbara!! The best thing you can do is forgive the harm done to you and move forward in God’s peace trusting in His judgement. The person who betrayed me most was my fiance (lies, infidelity, etc.) which I forgave until I became pregnant and found out that not only had he not made any changes but was now getting so egregious in his behavior that he was denying paternity of our child. Needless to say, our romantic relationship ended; however, in order for me to be the best parent possible, I had to realize there were some things I would be unable to give my son, things that come only from a father. While my ex wasn’t the man I needed in my life, could I really make that decision for my son without giving him an opportunity to really grow up and change. Fast forward 4 years, and we are happily co-parenting our son who has never seen any tension between us (I would refuse to engage my ex when he tried) and often tries matchmaking for his parents (with some prodding from my ex). While I fully support his presence in our son’s life and I have forgiven him the pain he’s caused me, I also am realistic enough to know that while I trust him to do what is best for our son (he lights up every time he hears “daddy”) I do NOT trust him to treat my emotions with the same care. I fully support the idea of my ex finding his own happiness, I just no longer believe that I can be a part of that equation. Getting to this point was THE SINGLE MOST DIFFICULT THING I’ve ever done, because this man destroyed my soul with his actions; however, I realized that the only way I could move forward with my life was to forgive him and release the pain and anger that kept me CHAINED, WEAKENED, and CONTROLLED BY HIM. Have I forgotten, no, but I will not allow the pain of the past to control my actions moving forward. That is the gift of forgiveness for me: I was released from my chains.

  24. barbara davis

    May 26, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    Karen: The one thing that kept me together in the beginning was knowing God had walked in my shoes…that His son was brutally murdered. But even God, requires Repentence in order for Him to give His own forgiveness to us. I wanted to assure those troubled victims out there that they should not require something of themselves (forgiving the offender) when even God requires repentenence of the offender. When repentence is not offered, God does not offer forgiveness. But alot of us are further tortured by the guilt of thinking we are evil for not forgiving people who aren’t repentant of the harm they’ve caused, and that’s okay. Reconcile the harm they’ve done you and build a new life based on this peace snd then just turn them over to God. He will take care of the rest.

  25. Brenda Adelman

    May 26, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    My father murdered my mother and then married her sister. I spent a good 5 years in inner turmoil, wanting my father to repent, take responsibility. He denied it even through a jail sentence and the facts. At some point I realized that through my need to have him take responsibility I kept rewounding and revictimizing myself. Anytime we depend on something outside ourselves for peace-we put ourselves in a powerless place. I forgave the judgments I held of my father while at the same time taking him to court for Wrongful Death. I didn’t condone what he did. I worked my process on so many levels–taking full responsibility for my own hatred and anger and when I surrendered to a knowing that God is present in all things and good I realized that ultimately there was nothing to forgive. I teach about forgiveness coupled with healthy boundary setting. I’m now in a wonderful relationship, express myself creatively and live from my authentic Truth. Thank you to everyone for your big hearts and your ability to communicate authentically.

  26. Sherry T.

    May 28, 2011 at 6:24 am

    I always forgive because there are so many times in my life that I need forgiveness back. If I can forgive, it gives my heart a sense of peace. I just hope others will be forgiving toward me in return. We all have faults, we all need forgiveness at some point when we offend another. I can go with the forgive and forget philosophy. Unless you can forget, you have never truly forgiven. God forgives and that transgression is erased forever. I am thankful that I serve a gracious God. And I have wonderful friends. Thanks G.E.M. I am so happy that I found your great blog…thanks Irene.

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