There are lots of quotes and sayings about forgiveness, not least from the Bible, and there is an abundance of published psychological and psychiatric “research” about it and its relationship to mental health. But we know that when so much discussion and argument about a subject persists, the total truth is generally widely unknown or unacknowledged, and speculation predominates.
Current research is limited by the fact that there is yet no consensus on the definition and measurement of forgiveness. Yet it is not necessary to know everything about it in order to use it. It’s not necessary to know “why” in order to know “how.”
It’s not that forgiveness is necessarily good or bad, but there may be more to know about it. And there is more to know about how psychiatry and psychology continue to promulgate crackpot theories for dealing with it, particularly how psychiatry focuses on harmful psychotropic drugs as the cure-all for all things related to mental health.
What Might It Be?
A common definition for forgiveness is a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.
One opinion is that forgiveness should also include offering something positive—empathy, compassion, understanding—toward the one who hurt you.
A contrary opinion is that forgiving someone is a sign of weakness.
Another opinion is that prayer is required.
Some psychiatrists suggest that a part of the brain monitors and controls forgiveness and revenge, and that functional magnetic resonance imaging can illustrate this notion; which leads to the speculation that bombarding the brain with electrical or magnetic energy can influence this.
And there are several different proposed psychological multi-step process models that purport to move one through various emotional stages in addressing a given situation.
The psychiatric billing bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), lists a number of diagnoses for which forgiveness might be considered as a treatment, but which more likely result in a money-making prescription for an antidepressant. Here’s an example: a diagnosis of “Victim of crime.”
We’re not going to give a conclusive definition here, nor specify how to definitively handle such situations. We think guidance from one’s own circle of supporters is a primary consideration. But we do have a bit of advice we can add to the fray.
When one forgives, one validates and accepts that another’s action against one was bad. There is no reason one must accept it. There may be such things as justice and mercy involved, but the real way to deal with it is to continue loving one’s fellows because one understands them in spite of their provocation. Considered in this light, forgiveness is pretty low on the scale of usefulness.
The wrong thing to do is accept a psychiatric diagnosis and a psychiatric treatment.