The Complicated Nature of Forgiveness

A Patreon exclusive post about not letting go

Alex Mell-Taylor
2 min readMay 8, 2024

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Photo by Anna Kovaļova on Unsplash

There are some people I will never forgive: bad exes, assaulters, politicians, priests, etc. Their names bring up a deep ambivalence I will probably carry for the rest of my life.

The standard advice I hear is to forgive them, to let go of grudges and bitterness. In American society, forgiving the mistakes of others is seen as a virtue. “To err is human; to forgive, divine,” goes the famous quote by Alexander Pope.

A popular rationale is that this virtue is good not only for the target of our ire but mostly for ourselves. “Resentment is like taking poison and hoping it’ll kill someone else,” goes the popular saying. If all we do is fixate on how others have hurt us, the argument goes, then it becomes challenging to live your life.

I can empathize with this reasoning. In the past, I have been so angry at some people that bringing the subject of them up in conversation has caused me to shake violently with rage. It’s not healthy to carry that anger around so much it paralyzes you, and if it does, that’s certainly a problem that needs to be addressed. It’s fine to let it cool — if only to make space to experience other things.

However, I don’t think I must forgive someone to let that anger go.

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