Fake Forgiveness

Another Saturday night. Jake sat at the table with a group of friends, sipping at his wine while inwardly bracing himself. His wife, Marci, had started in again with the jokes―the thinly-veiled criticisms―told at his expense. She slipped easily into these demeaning and embarrassing comments whenever her way had been wet with enough alcohol. Friends laughed, some of them glancing at Jake to check his reaction. He pretended to join them in the fun.

Driving home, Marci felt uncomfortable in the familiar quiet. “Don’t take it so personally, Jake. I was just joking around. Nobody took it seriously.” Jake remained quiet. “Com’on, Jake. You’re not going to be mad about this, are you?”

He measured his response.”I’m not mad. It’s okay. We don’t need to talk about it anymore.” Marci, satisfied enough, slumped against the passenger door. Jake stared at the road as he continued the drive home. All forgiven. All forgotten.

Not really.

Fake forgiveness is offered with a smile covering clenched teeth. It’s an attempt to gloss over an offense and pretend everything is fine when, in truth, unresolved hurt and resentment remain. Whereas premature forgiveness is soon cast aside, fake forgiveness is usually held onto as though it were the real thing.

Sometimes people get so good at being Fake Forgivers they don’t even realize they’re doing it. They profess forgiveness, but find themselves experiencing feelings of anxiety, anger, or depression they cannot explain. Their hidden resentments are often expressed in passive-aggressive behaviors (e.g., “Oh, I’m so sorry I forgot to do that for you.”).

Why do people fake forgive? Some do it because they are afraid of conflict. Others believe forgiveness is always required so they need to “just do it.” Regardless of the reason, fake forgiving inevitably fails to provide genuine healing.

To make sure you are offering genuine forgiveness, keep these things in mind:

1. Genuine forgiveness can only be offered after your hurt from of the offense is acknowledged. 

If you are not honestly recognizing and admitting your hurt, then you are not honestly recognizing or admitting the offense. If it is not truly acknowledged, it cannot be truly forgiven.

2. Genuine forgiveness is usually a process, not an event, especially if the offense is significant. 

Small offenses, like small cuts, can be easily mended, but major wounds require more time. Forgiveness of a deep hurt will also take more time; it is offered and then repeatedly reaffirmed as healing progresses. 

Tim Tedder