5 Myths About Forgiveness That Keep You Imprisoned

Forgiveness - Dove

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” ~ Buddha

Do you struggle to let go past hurts?

Would you like to be free of the burdens of the past but simply don’t know how to go about it?

Extending forgiveness is one of the hardest things we can do, but it is absolutely essential for spiritual growth and well-being.

Probably the biggest obstacles to forgiving are the unconscious myths we hold about the process of forgiveness. Learning to forgive inevitably involves exposing and debunking these myths.

If you’re struggling to forgive, one or more of the following commonly held myths may be holding you back:

1. The offender must ask for forgiveness first

Here’s a thought experiment. Imagine you were suffering from a debilitating migraine but had medication that would relieve your suffering. Would you wait for another person to give you permission to take your medication or would you just take it when you needed to?

The answer here may seem obvious but when we refuse to forgive because the offender has not asked for forgiveness, we’re basically waiting for their permission to relieve our own suffering.

Though forgiveness may involve pardoning a person who acknowledges their wrongdoing, the essence of forgiveness is about healing our own pain. It is only by addressing our own pain that we are then able to offer a sincere pardon.

2. Forgiveness means offering a free pass

Sometimes we withhold forgiveness in an attempt to punish someone who’s hurt us. But as the popular saying goes, “resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

Forgiveness has nothing to do with condoning or accepting the actions of another person. It means choosing to let go of any internal resentment such actions may have precipitated.

Letting go, by the way, does not mean that you give up your right to seek reparations in appropriate circumstances—as long as you understand that seeking justice is not a precondition for letting go.

3. Forgiveness is about being reconciled with another person

While letting go of hurts may pave the way for repairing broken relationships, this is not always possible. Some mistakenly believe that if they’re unable to be reconciled with another person, either because the person is unwilling to participate or because they have died, they’re doomed to the prison of resentment, bitterness, or self-loathing.

In his book Forgiven and Forgiving, Rev. William Countryman writes:

“Forgiveness means, among other things, that we’ve recognized the ultimate impossibility of putting the past fully ‘right.’”

The process of forgiveness means recognizing that, even in cases where broken relationships are repaired, things will never quite be the same as they were before the breach. This reality is ultimately freeing because it allows us to let go rather than wait for the right conditions to appear before forgiving others or ourselves.

4. Forgiveness is a one-time process

When we treat forgiveness like it’s a magical potion, we can feel disappointed, even betrayed when we still experience feelings of anger and resentment after we’ve consciously decided to forgive.

Making a conscious choice to forgive is not the end of a one-time process, but the beginning of a journey that can have many emotional twists and turns. The decision to forgive is really a commitment to remaining present to these emotions. As hurts resurface, a forgiveness mindset will allow you to let go the emotion in that moment—and to let it go in as many moments at it will take to be healed of the underlying hurt.

If you’re committed to playing the long game, you’ll find that it becomes easier to let go as time goes on.

5. Forgiveness will help you forget the past

The great value of forgiveness is not that it will help you forget the past—for this is neither virtuous nor possible—but to help you let go the negative feelings associated with these memories.

This process transforms our memories from nightmares into powerful motivators for reducing future suffering in yourself and others. Remembering your past will allow you to have greater empathy for others going through similar pain.

And your witness about how forgiving allowed you to carry on despite the pain will be a source of hope for those who need it most.

Drop the Myths and Free Yourself

There’s no question that learning to forgive is hard.

But the process can be made easier by dropping the myths you may be carrying about what it means to forgive.

Because life’s too short to waste away in a prison of your own making.

Forgiveness will give you the keys to free yourself for good.

Editor’s Note: Cylon has generously offered to give five readers free access to the Kindle version of his book Self-Love: How to Love Yourself Unconditionally. With this book, you’ll learn how to overcome negative thinking, grow your confidence, and transform your life.

To enter for a chance to win, leave a comment below. You don’t need to write anything specific—“count me in for the giveaway!” is sufficient. You can enter until….28th October.

Cylon is a spiritual chaplain, musician, devoted husband, busy dad of six, and author of Self-Love: How to Love Yourself Unconditionally. He blogs about practical spiritual tips for living well at Spiritual Living For Busy People. Sign up and get his free guide 20 Little Tricks To Instantly Improve Your Mood Even If You Feel Like Punching Something (or Someone).

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  1. Stev says:

    Thank you for sharing this. It really resonates with me

  2. Stick says:

    Please count me in for the giveaway.

    Thank you for making things more transparent like “resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

  3. Valerie says:

    Count me in for the giveaway. I am struggling with forgiveness right now.

  4. Rosetta says:

    Count me in for the giveaway. Thanks for the enlightenment on forgiveness.

  5. Please count me in for a giveaway!
    This is so profound! Many struggle with forgiveness including myself. Thank you so much for posting such VALUABLE information!

  6. Mark Tong says:

    Wonderful post Cylon – forgive for yourself – absolutely!

  7. Doug White says:

    Thanks for your insight, I’m a work in progress.

  8. Belinda Johnson says:

    “Please count me in for the giveaway.”

    Oh My God. I was guided to this reading during my quiet time this morning. It was indeed profound, powerful and full of common sense. Hinsight is 20/20! Thank you.

  9. Grace Foster says:

    Very good article. I wish it also made clear another myth, that it is necessary to tell the forgiven person that they are forgiven. Not so.
    Forgiveness happens in my heart. I know when I have forgiven enough when I can remember the offender/offense and not have it bring up the original anger, fear, or other emotions surrounding the event.

  10. Jose says:

    Thank you for the article I believed that unless the other one asked sorry, I needn’t forgive. Now I know, I kill my self by holding such a stand. Thank you.

  11. Vinitha says:

    Please count me in for the give away

  12. ceedee says:

    This is good information. I appreciate receiving it. It is helping me already.

  13. William Ford says:

    “count me in for the giveaway” is sufficient?

    Sure no problem. But I would like to say, “First face to face and tell clear what happen, whether she or he doesn’t take it, just say “forget you” and lets go.

  14. Kim Orr says:

    What a succinct and beautiful post Cylon!

    Among the many thoughtful points you make, this one is the one that I think people most often are not aware of:

    “Making a conscious choice to forgive is not the end of a one-time process, but the beginning of a journey that can have many emotional twists and turns. The decision to forgive is really a commitment to remaining present to these emotions.”

    When we undertake that commitment and repair relationships, they won’t ever be the same, as you say. The miracle is that they may become even better — deeper, more profound, more insightful because of the “journey” of forgiveness that you describe.

    Thank you for this post.

  15. Shirley Walker says:

    Please count me in for the giveaway!!!!

  16. Gretta says:

    I would love to read your book I find your words very soothing and true. Thank you for sharing your positivity with the world

  17. Hi Cylon
    What a great post to read. I couldn’t agree more with all that you wrote and hope many more people get to read it too. It is sorely needed in todays world.

  18. Hi Ceylon,

    This is a very insightful piece about forgiveness. It reflects that our state of mind holds us back from becoming free from hurt.

    There is one more myth that can be added.

    We feel the other person is responsible for my pain but in reality it is me and my thoughts that are responsible for the pain as I am repeatedly creating my negative response to the situation in my mind.

    True forgiveness means not to keep feelings of being hurt in our heart and mind. By holding on to pain, we are making ourselves victims and our state of mind and emotions become dependent on the actions of others.

    So it is true that holding on to the feeling of being hurt is like drinking poison and burning ourselves in that emotional pain. This is the reason that being unable to forgive imprisons us.
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  19. Lori says:

    Thank you this us very helpful today.

  20. Franky says:

    Please count me in for the giveaway 😉

  21. William says:

    It is very important to forgive others and yourself. For me, I struggled to forgive myself for my past for many years, and this kept me depressed and using drugs to cope with how I felt. I knew that I had to truly forgive myself in order to be happy and move forward with my life. Thank you for this post!

  22. this is awesome really awesome.. thanks…

  23. tarun says:

    nice blog thanks for the information

  24. bharat says:

    you should forgive everyone
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  25. Daniel says:

    Nice post here cylon. I was just stumbling on how to deal with my grudge and I got here. “Forgiveness is a one time process” Yea!

  26. Lan Hoang says:

    Forgiveness comes to me when I understand that them all were misunderstandings, people misunderstand themselves and others

  27. Jo says:

    Thank you so much for this! Too many miserable people walking around because they cannot just forgive and let go. I try to tell my friends this but they just don’t get it. That energy meter is running high while you carry resentments around. I don’t have extra time or energy to waste on that!

  28. Thanks a lot, Cylon.That was awesome, really awesome!

  29. Adam Smith says:

    Forgiveness make you happy and fresh. to be continue we must learn to forgive others.

  30. I agree with all of the above statements. As the old adage says “Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

    In the sameway with ourselves, if we cannot forgive ourself for the mistakes or failures or decisions we made in the past, it’s like killing ourselves.

    And God called us to love one another. Therefore we should forgive one another. A failure is an event not you or even the person.
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  31. happy wheels says:

    Thanks for sharing this great. Keep sharing more useful and conspicuous stuff like this. Thank you so much

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  35. Julian says:

    Great article…the wierd thing is, we forgivenesss comes easier when we’re young, and yet it’s tricker when we’re, ‘wiser’, despite the fact that it should be more easier as we’re more, ‘maturer’. These days, I try to practice gratitude to help with the process. How to you feel about gratitude when it comes to the forgiveness process?

  36. Thank you for sharing! Can you sharing some updates on how you have made this powerful post!

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  39. Thank you for bringing more clarity to this important subject of forgiveness. Myth #3 is one that stops many people when they consider forgiving someone. Forgiveness is not equal to reconciliation.
    As you pointed out, this means that the forgiven person might be someone who has died.

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