• Dr. Melanie O'Neill

When Forgiveness Isn't Possible

Some damage is irreparable. Trust may be shattered, a sense of safety destroyed, or hope becomes too dangerous to keep alive. We treat forgiveness like a finish line. On the other side, we're promised freedom from the same pain and resentment that keep us from ever crossing it.

Sometimes, the only thing a person has left after trauma is anger about what happened to them. Letting go of that can feel like losing everything.

Processed anger is a vital emotion. It can empower someone in pain to rise from victim to survivor. Working through anger takes time, and there is no help in rushing through it in pursuit of forgiveness.


"I'm sorry," is the beginning of a much longer conversation. When someone truly deserves your forgiveness, they will work with you to earn it. Alternatively, the person who hurt you may never respond to the depth of injury they caused.


Finding Your Way Back to Peace

Let go of the idea that forgiveness is the only path to freedom. If you can't reach forgiveness, it says more about the strength of the injury than your weakness as a person.

Open to the possibility of accepting you cannot forgive what happened. Remind yourself that you can fully heal, whether or not forgiveness is part of the equation.

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Melanie R. O'Neill, PsyD, BCB

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© 2019 by Melanie R. O'Neill, PsyD, BCB