What Forgiveness Is Not: Debunking Myths.

In our daily lives, we may encounter various situations that require us to forgive. We might forgive a friend for a small mistake or forgive our partner for an argument. Forgiveness can be a powerful tool for healing, but it is still a misunderstood concept. Forgiveness is often portrayed as a simple way to move on from any wrongdoing or hurt. However, there are a lot of myths that revolve around forgiveness that need to be unlearnt.

Learning what forgiveness is not is a necessary step to understand the true meaning of forgiveness, which can lead us to long-lasting relationships and inner peace. Here are some of the misunderstandings that need debunking.

Forgiveness is Not Approval

Forgiveness does not mean that we are condoning the behavior that hurt us. Most times, people assume that forgiving someone means we accept their behavior as right or acceptable, even if it is not. Forgiveness means relinquishing anger and releasing ourselves from the burden of carrying hurt and resentment.

Forgiveness is a step in the healing process, not an act of inviting more harm. It is essential to differentiate that forgiveness is forgiving a person’s actions, not justifying them. By forgiving, we are choosing to let go of the pain that accompanies our negative emotions.

Forgiveness is Not a One-Time Event

Many think that forgiveness is like a mathematical equation: you forgive once, then move on. It is not so. It is an ongoing process and can only come from a true desire to let go of the negative emotions that come with hurts. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we have to forget what happened. It means we choose to release the grip our negative emotions have on us continually.

Forgiveness can be challenging, and sometimes we might find ourselves struggling to hold on to unforgiving emotions. In such cases, it is essential to be kind to ourselves and keep practicing forgiveness until we find complete healing.

Forgiveness is Not a Promise to Forget

Forgiveness is not about forgetting or erasing memories of the event that hurt us. Even when we forgive, it is not easy to forget what happened but to release oneself from the negative emotions that come with the memories. Forgiving someone does not mean we don’t remember. It means we choose to move forward instead of remaining stuck in the hurtful past event.

It is essential to remember that memories of hurtful events can stay with someone long after they have forgiven. Still, forgiveness allows people to regain control of their well-being and not let negative emotions consume them.

Forgiveness is Not a Sign of Weakness

Forgiving someone who caused us harm is not easy, and it takes a lot of courage and strength. Many people still view forgiveness as a sign of weakness, but it is far from the truth. Forgiveness is an act of courage and strength because it requires vulnerability and confronting one’s emotions. It is an expression of self-love and respect for others.

Forgiving is not easy, but it promises long-term freedom from the negative emotions that come with unforgiveness. The show of strength is to acknowledge and let go of those unforgiving emotions instead of giving in to them.

Forgiveness is Not Obligatory

Forgiveness is a choice, and no one can be forced to forgive someone. Sometimes, people may feel obliged to forgive someone, especially when the offender apologizes, and they fear that not doing so may lead to further animosity.

However, forgiveness must come from a genuine desire to let go of the hurt that accompanies unforgiveness. It is okay not to forgive if you are not ready to release the negative emotions or if it seems too immense to forgive. Sometimes, as much as we want to forgive, it may take time to reach that point. Forgiveness must be done at the right time and from a genuine place.

Forgiveness does not Equal Reconciliation

Forgiving someone does not necessarily mean that we have to reconcile with them or restore the previous relationship. Relationships can be challenging, and sometimes it is impossible to mend them. The decision to reconcile with someone should be separate from the decision to forgive them.

We can still choose to forgive someone and still maintain healthy personal boundaries that prioritize our well-being. Forgiveness can help us move on from negative emotions and painful experiences, but it doesn’t guarantee that everything will be okay or that we will need to reconcile.

Forgiveness is Not About Fairness

Forgiveness is not a matter of fairness or justice. Sometimes, forgiving someone can seem unfair, especially if the offender doesn’t seem to be remorseful.

However, forgiveness is not about the offender getting their deserved punishment or about making things even. It is about giving oneself the freedom and relief from controlling negative emotions that come with unforgiveness.

Sometimes, forgiveness may seem impossible; however, it is crucial for individuals to work towards forgiving someone rather than seeking revenge.

Forgiveness Can’t Undo the Past

Forgiving someone does not erase the experience that caused us hurt. Forgiveness is not a superpower that erases hurtful experiences, and it does not undo the past. Rather, it allows us to move forward and let go of the negative emotions that would keep us stuck in the past.

Forgiving helps us avoid ruminating about the past events that caused us hurt repeatedly. Forgiveness helps individuals focus on what is essential; the present moment, and rebuilding themselves.

Forgiveness is Not Always Necessary to Move On

Although forgiveness can help us find inner peace and live in harmony, it is not always necessary to move on from hurtful experiences. There are cases where people may see forgiving as impossible, and that’s okay.

People can still move forward and let go of the negative emotions that come with unforgiveness without necessarily reconciling or forgiving someone. Forgiving is personal, and everyone’s journey towards forgiveness and healing is different.


In conclusion, forgiveness is an essential step in resolving conflicts and finding peace. However, forgiveness is a concept that is often misunderstood. Recognizing what forgiveness is not is necessary to understand the true meaning of forgiveness. Forgiveness is not a one-time event, approval of the offender’s behavior, obligational, or a sign of weakness. Also, forgiveness does not equal forgetfulness or fairness, and it does not undo the past. Forgiveness is a powerful tool for healing, but it is also a personal journey, and everyone’s journey towards forgiveness is different.

Frequently Asked Questions about Forgiveness

  • What is forgiveness?
  • Why is it essential to forgive?
  • What are the common types of forgiveness?
  • How do we forgive someone?
  • Can we forgive without forgetting?
  • What are the benefits of forgiveness?


  • Forgiveness is the act of relinquishing anger towards someone who has caused us harm or hurt.
  • Forgiveness is essential to finding inner peace and breaking free from negative emotions that come with unforgiveness.
  • The common types of forgiveness include interpersonal forgiveness, self-forgiveness, and the collective forgiveness of a group or society.
  • We can forgive someone by starting with acknowledging the hurt and pain caused, choosing to let go of resentful emotions, and developing empathy towards the offender.
  • Yes, we can forgive someone and yet not forget what happened.
  • Forgiveness comes with benefits such as reduced stress, better mental health, stronger relationships, and a sense of well-being.


  1. Karremans, J. C., & Van Lange, P. A. (2008). Forgiveness in personal relationships: Its malleability and powerful consequences. European Review of Social Psychology, 19(1), 202-241.
  2. Moore, K. L., & Diener, J. (2016). Forgiveness and its associations with prosocial thinking, feeling, and doing beyond the Big Five Personality Traits. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 11(1), 32-42.

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