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Do The Right Thing

Blog: Are You Forgiving for All the Right Reasons?

By Dr. Laura on July 10, 2023
Woman places hand under chin while man sitting next to her on couch places his hand on her shoulder

Forgiveness should not be thrown around like confetti. I get very frustrated hearing how many of you go through tragic situations in your family, relationship or marriage, and then get pressured to absolve the person who wronged you. Some damage cannot be repaired, and forgiveness may be the worst thing you can do in these situations. 

You should not forgive someone until they have earned the potential. How do they earn it? By meeting the 4 Rโ€™s of Forgiveness.


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What are the four Rโ€™s?

  1. Take RESPONSIBILITY. That means the perpetrator acknowledges what theyโ€™ve done. Theyโ€™re not coming up with excuses or blaming anybody else. Theyโ€™re saying, โ€œI did this, and it was wrong.โ€
  2. Show true REMORSE. Saying youโ€™re sorry because you got caught is not true remorse.  
  3. Try to REPAIR the damage theyโ€™ve caused. Some things are irreparable, but they can still put forth the effort to make things right
  4. Do whatever it takes to make sure they donโ€™t REPEAT it. 

    Anything short of that shows disrespect to the victim as well as the principles and values that were ignored. I believe in accountability and justice. I donโ€™t think you can pass on either of those and expect a civilized society. 

Not everything is forgivable

Thereโ€™s a lot of confusion regarding forgiveness and letting go. Letting go of being angry is letting go; itโ€™s not forgiveness. And I think certain things are inexcusable. 

Many people will get on their high horses and say, โ€œYou have to be open, receptive, compassionate, and let go of past hurts.โ€ No, you donโ€™t! There are times when itโ€™s perfectly healthy to reevaluate a person in your life and decide youโ€™re not going to stay in contact.  

If you choose to not forgive a person, donโ€™t spend every day ruminating about them. This is when letting go becomes important. Assess the situation, put a label on it and then drop it. Letting the situation consume you will cause more frustration. 

Will you forget everything? No. Will it never bother you again? No, it may always bother you. But when anger raises its ugly head, you can put it in its place. Remember, a bird can land on your head. But itโ€™s up to you not to let it build a nest. 

And if someone continues to judge you for refusing to forgive what you consider an unforgivable act, send them to me. 


Follow through with the 4 Rโ€™s

People who continually forgive their alcoholic or cheating spouse over and over again only give perpetrators permission to repeat their behavior. Did they really take responsibility? Did they demonstrate true remorse? How do they plan to repair the situation? And have they taken the steps to ensure they donโ€™t repeat it?  

Don't be weak. Follow the four R's. 


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