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“”To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”” – Lewis B. Smedes
“When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.”
– Catherine Ponder


Forgiveness can be a complicated path that takes a long time. What is forgiveness? Ultimately it is about letting go. Forgiveness often begins with authentic acknowledgement of anger being witnessed.

The witness does not have to be to be the person directly involved with the forgiveness. Sometimes it can be the person you are directly involved with. This is what makes forgiveness complicated.

A number of years ago when the Pope forgave the man who had shot at him, it seemed a great symbol of forgiveness. Now it seems like a hollow gesture because it skipped over anger. Where was the Pope’s anger? In reality it’s hard to forgive someone you haven’t blamed.

If there is someone in your life you want to forgive, try writing an unedited, angry letter first, one that you don’t send. It’s even better if you write a letter and have it witnessed (someone neutral listens).

Anger needs a safe way to breathe before it can move into a different emotion. Emotions in and of themselves have the principle of movement. It’s humans who interrupt that process of forgiveness by carrying grudges. Forgiveness requires movement.

If you hold a grudge, ask yourself what is the purpose? There is always a reason that can be understood underneath every nutty thing we do.

Grudges are holding yourself against someone else. You will not change unless you honor what the stuck-ness is about. Self-protection is one possibility of the purpose of a grudge. Make a choice about whether it is useful to be more truthful directly with the person involved..

One of the hardest parts of life is to accept that some level of betrayal will happen in every relationship that matters to you. This is one of the harsh truths of life. As humans it is also inevitable that we will betray we ourselves.

There are so many examples in life & television: The 10 yr. old raw with anger who swears at his parents. “Everyone lies.” says House on t.v. & sure enough patients lie to the physicians who are trying to save their lives. Betrayal of self or others have are widely represented possibilities in Shakespeare & theatre. There is surely someone you know who has done penance for decades & then they give up on life.

So forgiveness entails accepting betrayal as a part of relationships.

There are many examples of betrayal; the college kid who steals from her roommate whom she likes very much. Anyone 25 & under is likely to make terrible mistakes because their prefrontal lobe is not chemically wired. Parents have to cross their fingers that not too much goes wrong before they learn to embrace integrity.

If a partnership lacks a sex life you are betraying your partner as much as a partner having an affair. No sex life is also a betrayal of self. If a therapist fails to bring up sex in couples treatment then they betray the couple.

Betrayal is part of the human condition which is why forgiveness is important. Discovering a betrayal can open the door to more fearless honesty & true dialogue. Then the infrastructure that addresses problems can evolve from the crisis and forgiveness is more likely to occur..

Betrayal often wears the veil of self righteous silence & stashing resentments. The thin veneer of martyrdom does not excuse silence as betrayal. Silence really contributes to an inability to have forgiveness.

Our humanity means we will betray ourselves and the people we love. Thank goodness for the possibility of forgiveness. Isn’t that why hearing Amazing Grace brings tears to our eyes?

If we are forgiven, then the deal has to be, that it can’t happen again. It’s easy to apologize. It’s harder to change enough to prevent repeats. Forgiveness requires not repeating the betrayal.

We need to find ways to stay honest about what’s not o.k. & what’s missing in relationships. That’s what having integrity in relationships means.

Books on Forgiveness:
forgiveness,what is forgiveness,forgiving,how to forgive,forgiveness A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela
In a review of this book, the Time magazine reviewer Lance Morrow says that the author “knows that forgiveness is less a matter of understanding than a more profound motion of the heart-a transcendence. The importance is not so much that it absolves the one forgiven as it cleanses the one who forgives.” This describes the essence of forgiveness. The book is the complicated true story of a South African psychologist who served on Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. She interviews Eugene DeKock, a white commander of the state sanctioned death squads.

Mr. Ives’ Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos
A father forgives the man who murdered his son.

A Map of the World by Jane Hamilton
One of the saddest things that can happen is when someone signs up to do penance for decades with the result of giving up on life. This novel really illustrates this.

About Grace : A Novel by Anthony Doerr
Another lovely book about heartbreak & self-forgiveness.

How Can I Forgive You? by Janis Abrahms Spring
If you struggle with Betrayal.

Movies about Forgiveness:

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Forgiving the Unforgivable

forgiveness,what is forgiveness,forgiving,how to forgive,forgiveness What I Want My Words to Do to You (2004)
Documentary of mistakes & self forgiveness issues for women in prison.Read a review of this movie on my blog

forgiveness,what is forgiveness,forgiving,how to forgive,forgiveness The Straight Story (2000)
A 73 yr. old man rides a lawnmower 327 miles to reconcile with his brother.

Secrets & Lies (1999)
Directed by Mike Leigh.

forgiveness,what is forgiveness,forgiving,how to forgive,forgiveness Unforgiven (1992)
Directed by Clint Eastwood.

forgiveness,what is forgiveness,forgiving,how to forgive,forgiveness The Fisher King (1991)
With Jeff Bridges & Robin Williams.


irony.irony example,the irony,irony situational,irony “”Irony is a disciplinarian feared only by those who do not know it, but cherished by those who do.” – Soren Kirkegaard

To truly know yourself is to understand the ironies of your life. These ironies really capture truths that might be hard to face.

A high-powered example of irony can be found when on 60 Minutes, Hillary Clinton attacked (and apologized to) Tammy Wynette, whose signature song is “Stand by Your Man.” Hillary is now herself a cultural icon for this song. An example of irony that exists for many women who are homemakers: they are excellent caretakers of everybody in the family and yet often they remain very invisible themselves.

The tricky part of irony is to understand what your responsibility is in allowing this to happen. For both Hillary and the homemakers in these two examples, they have enabled the pattern.

There are people who too readily repeat a pattern that defines them as victims throughout their lifespan. Their irony is that they need to look at how they’ve learned to abandon themselves. They’re repeating the role that’s been learned in childhood instead of learning new ways to think, feel, and become empowered to create a healthy future.


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“Pity is treason.” – Maximilien Robespierre
It is safe to say that all choices based on pity will backfire. Pity is an emotion to be erased from the emotional tool box because it lacks respect.

Pity is only acceptable when applied to objects, never people. If you are in a relationship with someone you feel sorry for, you lack respect for that person.

My daughter invited a new girl to her 10th birthday party because she felt sorry for her. I advised her that nothing good comes from feeling sorry for people, and at the same time I respected the fact that it was her decision. Sure enough I was proved right at 2 am when the new girl refused to let anyone else on the couch and several people ended up in tears.

Another example of pity being false, is all the people who feel sorry for mentally retarded people. Meanwhile, mentally retarded people are extremely savvy at steering clear of people who feel sorry for them and know when they are in the safety of honest respect.

Pity erases the clarity of truly seeing the other person. Don’t spend ten minutes in a relationship marked by pity. Keep in mind, though, that there is a distinction between pity and feeling honest sorrow or compassion for another, which has the quality of respect.

This is very different from feeling sorry for them and wanting to fix it for them because you know better than they do.Pity is the beginning of the path to codependency. Codependent people believe they know what’s best for someone else.Empathy is understanding what someone else is feeling or going through. Empathy is a building block in relationships to assist in respecting differences. Pity means you believe that the other person is not capable of fixing their own problems. These are two very different qualities.

In general, pity includes a lack of awareness of the disrespect that’s involved.


“”Men are respectable only as they respect.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

As the polar opposite of pity, respect is the infrastructure of any solid relationship. Respect is the only way we can help each other grow. The lack of respect is why racism and sexism are such vital forces in our culture. Even littering is a lack of respect for the environment.

When respect is missing in a couple’s relationship, I hear the death bell toll. Change cannot occur without respect. A client feeling respected by a therapist is crucial if the real struggle with change is going to take place.

A lack of self-respect can mean a lifetime of people pleasing and losing your sense of self. This is an issue for people who are, “Too Little” (see the couple’s problems section for a better definition). When you lose track of defining your own wants & cater to others, you will end up resentful. A hoarded pile of resentments is a bomb waiting to go off in a relationship.

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Sheldon epitomizes the complete absence of respect.
Like Sheldon in the T.V. show “The Big Bang Theory”, steamrolling others & making sure only your needs are met is just another way to wreak a relationship. A lack of respect for others is the central issue for those who are “Too Much.”

Respect is more important than love to help relationships last.

Movie about how Important Respect Is:

respect,what is respect,respectful,respect me,respect,respect Midnight In Paris (2001)
In this movie directed by Woody Allen it is completely obvious that Gil (Owen Wilson) is not respected by his girlfriend.