When You Forgive, You Do Not Accept the Situation

I recently was talking with someone who said that her therapist is helping her to accept what happened to her in childhood. When we have been traumatized, we should not expect ourselves to accept the situation. No one, for example, would expect an abuse victim to accept what happened.

Forgiveness is not about accepting situations. Why? Because The Pastforgiveness as a moral virtue is centered on persons and not primarily on situations. All moral virtues, whether it is love, justice, kindness, patience, or any other, is a form of goodness for other people’s good. We are not kind to tornadoes, for example.

When we forgive, we reach out to persons, those who did wrong. We work at accepting the humanity in that person, despite what he/she did. We do not accept what he/she did.

When therapists ask traumatized persons to accept unjust situations, they may be asking the impossible, which could lead to frustration and even guilt in the client. After all, if I am supposed to accept that I was brutalized, and then cannot accomplish that, I might feel inadequate. Clients need to know that it is not their job to accept situations, but instead to work on accepting the inherent worth of all persons, even those who are unjust.  Even this thought takes time and effort, but is achievable with persistence and a good will.


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  1. Samantha says:

    I used to think that to forgive is to accept what happened and then to move away from it. I guess what I learned was not correct. It does make sense because many of the injustices any of us face should not be “accepted” at all.

  2. Tesch says:

    It makes sense. Accepting situations is kind of passive. Forgiveness as I understand it is very active in that you are good to someone who did wrong to you. Even accepting that person is hard work.


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