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September: Kiss and… Forgive!

In case you missed it, August 25th was “National Kiss and Make Up Day.” It sounds so nice, so easy, doesn’t it? It works in the movies, sure, but what about real life? Well, maybe for small things – a snippy answer, or a little misunderstanding. By all means, kiss and make up. But sometimes the wound is more than just a scratch. No one is perfect. We have all made mistakes, and we will continue to make them. Even those who love us (perhaps especially those who love us) will hurt us sometimes. If intimacy means openness and vulnerability, that includes the danger of being hurt. That’s when the ability to forgive comes into play, and it’s critical for a healthy relationship.

When we are hurt, there is a conscious or subconscious desire to “balance the scales of justice,” i.e. to hurt back, to get “even.” Revenge. Payback. This is at the root of most violent behavior, even if it is directed (incredibly) toward an innocent third party. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t even make you feel better in the long run. Keeping it to yourself doesn’t work either. Holding a grudge against someone else is like drinking poison and hoping the other person gets sick!
What’s needed is forgiveness – real forgiveness. Some things can’t be ignored, and shouldn’t be swept under the rug. But what is real forgiveness? Let’s start by talking about what it is NOT:

Forgiveness is NOT…

…Forgetting (that’s a sign of brain malfunction). With true forgiveness, the memory of the injury may fade over time, but it will never disappear completely.

…Pretending that unacceptable behavior is acceptable. Saying that an injury or breach of trust is “okay” doesn’t make it so. Unacceptable behavior needs to be identified as such, and the person held accountable for it.

…Release from consequences. Behaviors have consequences, and forgiveness does not reverse the natural (or civil) laws that come into play. I can forgive you for breaking the dish, but it doesn’t put the dish back together again.

…Immediate reconciliation or restoration of trust. Ideally, that will happen eventually, but it will take time. As the offender continues to demonstrate trustworthiness through his or her behavior, the offended party may choose to risk trusting him or her again, but it is a process.

…Denial of pain or grief. Forgiveness is a choice to let go, and to go forward, but the hurt will not disappear immediately, and there is a sense in which one may continue to grieve over the injury or loss. But by choosing to forgive, a person is choosing to not let that grief control his or her behavior or attitude toward the offender.

So what is forgiveness? Real forgiveness is giving up your perceived “right” to get even. It is recognizing that the relationship is more important than the argument or injury. It is choosing to treat the offender with grace, and to give up all thoughts of retaliation. Honest discussion, consequences, grief, and reconciliation all need to be considered and handled with loving care as you work to repair the damage to the relationship. Then, and only then, can you truly “kiss and make up.”

Contributed by: Larry Compter, Executive Director

Above image courtesy of nenetus at