The Enigma of Forgiveness

We are genetically programmed to resent the wrong-doers and thus survive.

I am sure you all know the saying “Forgive, but don’t forget”. There is an interesting counterpart in my mother tongue Slovene, which can be translated: “Only a fool goes on the ice twice.” Actually it is ‘a donkey’, but in the meaning of ‘a fool’. So, essentially, if someone betrays us, we will no longer trust the person. That is, if the betrayal is done on purpose, not as a mistake, which can be forgiven and forgotten. Just as the legal system imprisons criminals and thus gives them a change to pay their debt to society, likewise are we, in my opinion, entitled to protect ourselves from more hurt and sorrow. Of course, this is not always easy. If a friend betrays us, we unfriend the person and find somebody else to hang out with. But what about a spouse – the decision to get a divorce will be much harder. Not to mention the almost insolvable problem of abused children – how are they supposed to leave their parents? All difficulties in mind, taking care of ourselves by remembering the wrong-doing is, in my opinion, the right orientation. We forgive, let go of the resentment, but remember the danger for the future.

The upper argument sounds logical, at least to me. Yet, there is a problem. We tend to forget events, unless there is a strong feeling attached to them. And in our case the strong feeling is resentment, which is proven to do harm to our soul, so we want to forgive. But on the other hand, if we forgive, we are more likely to forget the whole incident. Whereas, if we keep the resentment, we will definitely remember the incident and not get in another similar dangerous situation. Thus, maybe resentment is preserving our life and well-being. Therefore, resentment may be a useful trait in the process of natural selection as defined by C. Darwin. To put it simply: the one who resents is less likely to expose oneself to new dangerous situations, which means one survives and one’s genes are handed over to one’s offspring.

To sum up, maybe that is why it is so hard to forgive. We are genetically programmed to resent the wrong-doers and thus survive.

What are your thoughts on the subject?

Take care,

Helena Smole, author of:

– a fantasy novel with romance Vivvy and Izzy the Dwarf: A series about relationships

Balancing the Beast, a book offering a bright view of schizoaffective disorder ˗ bipolar or manic-depressive type

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