Are You A "Bad Forgiver"? Read This And See.

"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."—Mahatma Gandhi

Love & Relationships

Yeah. I'll be the first to raise my hand in this class and say that forgiveness is a process. What I mean by that is, whether you choose to forgive someone while looking them dead in the eye, while journaling at home or while standing at the foot of an altar, rarely do you say the words, "I forgive you" and, immediately following, everything is fully resolved. Or healed. When you decide to forgive someone via your words, it is basically like making a public declaration that you are going to put yourself on the path to, as the dictionary definitions of the word state— "to grant pardon for or remission of (an offense, debt, etc.)"; "to cease to feel resentment against and absolve (to cancel an indebtedness or liability of", or "to set free or release, as from some duty, obligation, or responsibility)".

Pardon. Not resent. Release. Hmph. No wonder so many mental health professionals say that when we choose to forgive a person, it's far more for our benefit than it is for theirs; that to choose (because it is always a choice) to hold onto the fallout of our experiences is holding us back, stressing us out and, according to many reports, even making us sick. No joke. There are studies that reveal unforgivingness can keep you in a state of anger and raise your blood pressure. Unforgivingness can also increase levels of depression and PTSD. Shoot, unforgivingness can even cut your lifespan short. And really, y'all, is holding a grudge really worth all of that?

That's why I wanted to take out a few minutes of your time to first say, if you know there is someone you need to forgive, for your own health and well-being, please consider doing so. And second, if you're reading this and you someone who hurt you, offended you and/or totally pissed you off immediately comes to mind, just to make sure that you're as free from the situation as you may believe that you are. You can do this by going down this checklist of signs that a person isn't as good at forgiving as they might think that they are.

Why Is Forgiving So Hard to Do?


Since most of us know that bestowing forgiveness is essential in life (because none of us is perfect, right?), why is it that so many of us seem to struggle so much with forgiving others? In a good article that I read on the topic, the author brought up three good points. A lot of us don't forgive others because 1) we don't want the "offender" to think that what they did was OK; 2) we don't think that the person who hurt us deserves forgiveness, and/or 3) we don't trust them. Thanks to my own forgiveness journey, what I have learned is, far too often we are hesitant or even afraid to forgive someone because we think that forgiveness and reconciliation are one in the same, when that is not even remotely the case.

You forgive as a way to heal from the hurt or harm that was done to you. You also forgive in order to release yourself from the temptation to keep the cycle of pain going by hurting or harming the other person (or someone else because you are still holding onto unforgivingness).

Reconciliation is another matter entirely. If it is even on the table for discussion, the offender has some work to do in order to restore what has been lost (and if they are truly sorry, they are all for putting the sweat equity in with their words and actions—no question about that). So no, never feel that just because you have forgiven someone that you are invalidating your feelings about the offense or that you have to have the same kind of relationship with them moving forward. Forgiveness isn't designed to make you more vulnerable; it's actually meant to empower you by helping you to let the pain, fear and frustration go.

Now, with all of this out of the way, here are some pretty telling signs that you're not as good at forgiving as you probably need to be.

1. You Don’t Really Ever Let Things Go


Something that I deal with a lot in marriage counseling are people who forgive with their mouths but not necessarily via their actions. What I mean by that is, although one spouse will claim that they've forgiven their partner for something that they've done, the moment they do something else that they don't like, the past issue comes up. It's almost like they hold onto it like a trump card to use in an argument in order to "win" it. Nothing healthy comes out of it because really, who wants to constantly hear about their past missteps and mishaps all of the time?

Say that you are married, your husband misspends some money and it caused a check to bounce. You talk it through and then tell yourself and him that you are willing to let it go. But then he forgets to pay a different bill five months later and you bring his misspending from before up, even though these are the only times in recent history that it has happened. This is a good example of not being able to let things go.

If your man really isn't the best with money, perhaps it's time for you to handle the finances or for you guys to get a financial consultant. But to berate him every time he does something, even though you claim you've forgiven him, means that you actually didn't. Not only that, but the more that you "stockpile" his mistakes, the harder it will be to get past a challenge or problem the next time one comes up.

Interestingly enough, this is one of the reasons why a lot of couples end up divorcing after 20 years of marriage; they never really forgave each other for much of…anything really. And you know what they say—eventually a collection of snowflakes end up turning into a huge avalanche.

2. You Take “Forgive but Don’t Forget” Totally Out of Context


One time, I heard a guy named Cedric Dent say something about forgiveness that I think is pretty good. He used the hypothetical example of him telling someone something in confidence, them turning around and telling other people, and then them ultimately asking for forgiveness for the betrayal. According to Cedric, the best way to handle an instance like that is to forgive the person, but to also not tell them any more secrets for a while. It's not because you are holding things over them; it's actually their actions have shown that they have a weakness when it comes to respecting someone else's privacy.

I think this is the healthy way of applying the old adage "forgive but don't forget". You're not "not forgetting the offense" in order to weaponize the offender with it later up the road. You're using it as a teachable moment so that you can do all that you can to prevent being in a similar situation again. It's not about holding something over a person; it's about making sure that you apply wisdom in the future. No more, no less.

That said, forgiving while not forgetting shouldn't be about not being open to giving someone another chance. It's simply about asking yourself, "What did I learn from this experience?" and then applying it across the board. For instance, if someone revealed one of your secrets, what's the lesson? Perhaps it's something as simple as learning how to vet people better in the future. "Not forgetting" should be more about how the situation can make you better rather than how to make someone feel like they cannot be redeemed for what they have done. If you've truly forgiven them, sometimes they can be—once trust has been restored. It's close to impossible for that to happen if you're holding onto the out of context take of "forgive but don't forget".

3. You Lack Empathy in the Forgiving Process


I remember when I got my first abortion and a "friend" that I went to school with, who was a virgin at the time, told me that I was going to go to hell for it. Fast forward to her having a late period two years later and—surprise, surprise—she was asking me what clinic I went to for my procedure.

Yeah, it can be really easy to think that someone is not worthy of your forgiveness—or forgiveness, in general—when you haven't done anything similar to what they did to you (or you have selective memory when it comes to some of the past things that you have done). But we've all done something that some human, somewhere, would deem "unforgivable". Not only that but, if a lot of us were truly honest with ourselves, the reason why we don't extend the forgiveness is because, on some cryptic level, we want to have some sort of power over the person who offended us.

I can speak from very up close and personal experience that the sooner you bring empathy—" the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person's feelings"—into play, the sooner your heart will soften to a situation; any situation, really. Try it.

4. You’re Stuck in the Past


An author by the name of Criss Jami once said, "Grudges are for those who insist that they are owed something; forgiveness, however, is for those who are substantial enough to move on." Now put a pin in that as we touch on the main points from the article, "8 Signs You Have NOT Forgiven Someone", the author shares some of the following points.

Here's how to tell if you still need to do more forgiveness work. When you:

  • Use what the person said or did as a topic of conversation.
  • Daydream about getting revenge or some kind of justice. A good example of this is attending your high school reunion and showing them.
  • Preoccupy your mind day in and day out either reliving or dwelling on the situation or the person's behaviors.
  • Get annoyed if someone even mentions the person.
  • Have a tendency to avoid the person.
  • Are secretly delighted to hear about the person's current difficulties and losses.
  • Strongly believe you have been unfairly treated and are an innocent victim.
  • Have friends and family that are tired of talking about the person and the latest drama.

In another article on forgiveness, the author said this:

"…forgiveness brings the forgiver peace of mind and frees him or her from corrosive anger. While there is some debate over whether true forgiveness requires positive feelings toward the offender, experts agree that it at least involves letting go of deeply held negative feelings. In that way, it empowers you to recognize the pain you suffered without letting that pain define you, enabling you to heal and move on with your life."

Something that a lot of us refuse to acknowledge or accept about forgiveness is that it can keep us mentally, emotionally and relationally stagnant. Here's an example. Back when I was dating my late fiancé, it took for-e-ver to let him fully into my heart and life because my first love had done so much emotional damage. Looking back, I stand amazed by how much my fiancé was able to tolerate me bringing up my ex or sometimes even comparing the two of them. By the time I finally did let my guard down, Damien (my fiancé) died just a few months later.

That's the thing about unforgivingness. In order to remain in that head and heart space, you have to keep thinking and looking backwards. And that is what can prevent you from truly moving forward. Hmph. The real "ouch" about that is while you're still stuck in your past, there's a pretty good chance that your offender…isn't. They are moving right along.

5. You Think That Karma Is YOUR Job


If you hop on Google, put "karma quotes" in the search field and then click on the "images" tab, you'll see a slew of karma references. Two that cracked me up were "Karma's just sharpening her nails and finishing her drink. She'll be with you shortly" and "In the end, karma will be a bigger bitch than I'll ever need to be". Two that had me like "hmm" were "Karma isn't a bitch, it's a mirror" and "You will never understand the damage you did to someone until it's done to you; that's why I'm here. Signed, Karma." But the quote that all of us should keep in mind as it relates to forgiveness is the one by Dr. Wayne Dyer—"How people treat you is their karma. How you react is yours." (Louder for the seats in the back, please.)

Although most of us consider karma to be "what goes around comes around", did you know that another definition of the word is "destiny" or "fate"? I can personally attest to the fact that karma has a way of handling what someone has done (ourselves included) in a way that we couldn't even begin to come up with on our own. Plus, when we let karma do its thing without trying to help it along, we avoid reaping seeds of bitterness, resentment and revenge.

Along these same lines, the Bible tells us that we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:6-10). What's really a trip about that Scripture is it doesn't put an expiration date on when that reaping will happen. The warning here is that you only waste time and bring unnecessary drama into your own life if you think it's better to be the "karma bestower" rather than forgiving someone. What's really crazy is, by trying to do karma's job, you keep the vicious cycle going—and usually end up doing further harm to yourself. (Something that unforgiveness knows will happen, by the way.)

Bonus: If You’re a Christian, You Don’t Factor in Just How Much You Need to Forgive


If you're a Christian (or you're simply someone who tries to apply biblical Scripture to your life as much as possible), I think it's imperative that I end this article on forgiveness on a particular note. Matthew 6:14-15(NKJV) tells us, "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

What this basically means that in order to be forgiven by God, we need to forgive those around us. It's a Scripture that actually keeps me pretty humble because it reminds me that just like I need to forgive others for what they've done, there is stuff that I do that I need to be forgiven by the Most High for; that nothing should keep me from wanting to live a free and forgiven life so that, at the very least, I can spiritually thrive as an individual.

True forgiveness ain't easy. Not by a long shot. But if you really want to evolve and heal as an individual, it's important that you do it. Not the "bad way" (you know, saying that you do even if you don't really mean it); the right way. Hopefully this article helped to point you in the direction of just that.

Forgive. So that your karma will bring forgiveness unto you. Amen. So be it, sis.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

How I Learned To Forgive People In My Life That Weren't Sorry

Jada Pinkett Smith Reminds Us Forgiveness Isn't About The Other Person

Why I Don't "Cut People Off" Anymore, I Release Them Instead

Here's How To Know You're At Total Peace With Yourself

Feature image by Shutterstock

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

Naomi Osaka has recently released her self-titled Netflix docuseries, and giving us a rare glimpse into the 23-year-old tennis player's personal life. She shows off her relationship with rapper Cordae, and we also see her close bond with her older sister, Mari Osaka. Like Naomi, Mari is an experienced tennis player. The 25-year-old made her professional debut in 2014, then retired in early 2021.

Keep reading... Show less
The daily empowerment fix you need.
Make things inbox official.

I started dreaming about moving abroad when I was about 21 years old. I remember returning from a two-week study abroad trip to Dublin, Ireland having my eyes and mind wide open to the possibility of living overseas. This new travel passion was intensified after graduating from college in 2016, and going on a group trip to Italy. I was intoxicated by my love for Italy. It's hands down my favorite place. However, my post-grad life was one twist and turn after the next. I'm sure you can relate.

Keep reading... Show less

This article is in partnership with Staples.

As a Black woman slaying in business, you're more than likely focused on the bottom line: Serving your customers and making sure the bag doesn't stop coming in. Well, there's obviously more to running a business than just making boss moves, but as the CEO or founder, you might not have the time, energy, or resources to fill in the blanks.

Keep reading... Show less

If you are a frequent reader of my articles, then you know that I am front-of-the-class here for the culture. Using all of my platforms to be vocal about Black women and all things Blackity, Black, Black, Black is how I get down, and frankly, if you aren't here for me bragging on my people, then we probably won't have much in common. The wave has been snowballing too, because so many feel the same way I do, which is something we've had to consciously build up as a community.

Keep reading... Show less

Whether still dealing with the aftershocks of the pandemic, not being able to get enough time off or money being a little on the tight side is what's preventing you from going on a romantic vacation this summer, who's to say that you can't do a sexy staycation instead? If the mere thought of that feels like a poor man's — or woman's — consolation prize, I promise you that it absolutely does not have to. Opting to stay at home while possibly throwing in a couple of day trip adventures (which is a classic definition of a staycation, by the way) can be loads of fun, super romantic and also really cost effective without feeling mad cheap.

Keep reading... Show less
Exclusive Interviews

'Insecure' Writer Mike Gauyo Talks His Journey From Med School To The Writers' Room

"Meeting Issa Rae was a story of perseverance, following up, being persistent and all of the characteristics and attributes you need to be a successful writer."

Latest Posts