In my part of the world, and especially in Scandinavia, we are constantly told that we should forgive. By forgiving those who did us wrong, we are supposed to become free and able to move on with our lives. Forgiveness has become such an ideal for us that we tend to view those who don’t forgive as hateful and mean individuals. But in reality, those who never feel an obligation to forgive might be the healthiest individuals around.
Let’s put things where they belong. The concept of forgiveness comes from religion. It does not come from the human sciences. No professional psychologist will try to make you forgive — they know that our minds just don’t work that way. So by suggesting that someone shold «forgive and move on», we know that it’s really only that last part — the «move on» — that is sensible advice. The first part — the «forgive» — contradicts the «move on». If you want to forgive, you need to change your subconscious mind’s perception of the person who did you wrong, and to do that, you are doing the opposite of moving on.
When I worked as a therapist, I sometimes had clients who had been victims of horrendous crimes. They had been beaten. Some had been raped. Not one of the victims ever felt a need to forgive. But those who knew about the crimes without being directly involved, often thought that the abuser deserved «a second chance», which was also often reflected in the sentences they got if they ever were brought to trial. The «second chance» concept, which I believe is closely related to the «forgiveness» concept, usually resulted in the abuser going back to his old habits, destroying more lives and leaving a trail of broken human beings. One of these abusers, who by the way was never brought to justice, can now be seen in Norwegian social media, where he writes about topics like «good values» and women’s self-esteem. He is a fit and fashionable man in an expensive suit and he has that thoughtful and understanding look in his eyes. The fact that he beat up most of his family, his girlfriends and his wife, is not commonly known. Yet.
Individuals such at him could carry on with their violent and abusive behaviour because people around them believed they should forgive and give him a second chance. In reality, they never should have. They should have gone straight to the police. Forgiveness only created the opportunity for him to find new victims.
So I don’t believe in forgiveness. In fact, I think it can be very harmful.
Now, the absence of forgiveness doesn’t necessarily involve hatred. It can, but it doesn’t have to. I would say that in those cases where serious crimes have been committed, a feeling of hatred is only natural and healthy. But nevertheless, after the legal part has been dealt with, I believe we are best off moving on or at least try. Hatred can grow and become an obsession. We need to be able to combine both the «I hope that shithead dies tomorrow» and the «I’m moving on and my life will be great» attitudes. By doing that, we maintain ourselves and our self respect in a sound and healthy way. And there really isn’t any other way to do it. If you hate someone so much you want that person dead, you will either have to accept that feeling and move on, or you will have to help karma a bit and take matters into your own hands — and end up in jail. I don’t believe in karma, by the way. That too is a religious concept. Criminals are often idiots and idiots tend to fuck life up for themselves, but some criminals are unfortunately quite intelligent and they hide their tracks well. Which is why it is so important that victims don’t try to forgive and instead report to the police.
Maybe this provokes someone. (It wouldn’t be the first time!) Maybe some would say this is only common sense. But as we all know, common sense isn’t that common. If these words can help at least one of my readers or at least brighten your day … Well, that is what blogging is all about, isn’t it?
-Bjørn Andreas Bull-Hansen (copyright)
Read more: The Loneliness of the Einherjar