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  • Friedhelm (Counsellor)

Why are some people unable to forgive?

Updated: Jan 24, 2019

I saw a live TV transmission once, of the wife of a famous teli-evangelist whose husband was in jail for serious offenses. She acknowledged that she still loved him but had divorced him. When asked why, she answered: “I know myself. I know I will never forgive him.”


In another TV broadcast a well-known psychologist conducted a half hour live counselling session with a woman who committed adultery. Problem was, this happened more than 10 years ago. After all this time she still was utterly depressed and did not want to live. Her husband as well as her children pleaded with her to forgive herself for they all did so long ago, and start living again. They all loved and needed her.


Whatever rational argument this famous counsellor tried, it just made no difference to what she felt. At long last giving up, he declared: “I know what you need: You need absolution. But I am afraid that, I cannot give you. Only God can.”


The answer to the question why some people don’t seem to be able to forgive has often to do with two things:


1) It normally has to do with personality (pattern of behaviour) in which bitterness is deeply entrenched and serves as a driver of behaviour. The bitterness is caused by early experiences of injustices by their caregivers and a deep disappointment in a mentor figure. Symptomatic of this condition is the constant need to blame others and the disability to take ownership for their bad behaviour. They are never wrong and won’t say “I'm sorry”. Any hint which may suggest it is their fault is met with aggression and anger. Verbal abuse serves as barrier to keep others away and barricade the bitterness. The implication for a spouse in such a relationship is the draining of all energy until he or she “can’t take it anymore”. The battery has gone flat. It passed the critical and sustainable level.


Without dealing with the underlying trauma, there is no chance of forgiveness and change in behaviour. Only giving up of the bitterness and releasing others that have harmed you, opens the way to forgiveness.


2) In some cases a higher power than the natural is required. A fact which doctors often acknowledge to terminal patients who have to face the truth that no doctor can change their fate. And a truth accepted in programs dealing with addicting like AA.


Prayer and the appeal to God for help, still has a place in healing the soul. There are many who can testify to that.



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