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Anger Revenge and Forgiveness

By Edited Mar 10, 2016 3 5

I'll Never Forgive You!

"I'll take 'To forgive or not to forgive' for $500.00 please, Alex."   "The answer: 'A best friend who has an affair with your spouse. A business partner who embezzles and bankrupts your company. A friend who spreads gossip about you.'"  Buzz! "Who are people I don’t have to forgive?"  "Oh, sorry; the correct answer is actually 'Who are the people I SHOULD forgive?'"

Surprised?  Most people would probably agree with the first answer.  When someone has done such an egregious act that stings you beyond any imaginable hurt, it feels empowering to say to that person "I'll never forgive you!" But beware, staying angry or holding grudges may seem like a punishment against the person that hurt you, but in reality it's a punishment against yourself!

I remember watching a woman being interviewed on television, when asked a question about anger the woman said; "Being angry with someone or harboring a grudge is like drinking poison, then hoping that the person you're angry with dies."  The woman's teenage son had just died in a small plane crash. The woman could have been angry at the pilot who survived or the other survivors. She could have been angry with the manufactures of the small plane, the people in charge of inspecting it before take-off, or she could have been angry with God. Instead she chose not to be angry with anyone.

In stark contrast was a story I heard on the evening news about a man who got angry after being told that the tacos at his favorite fast food restaurant had gone up in price. The man was so enraged that he went home, got his gun and then returned to the restaurant. Luckily, the police were waiting for him and no one was hurt. Imagine, being that angry over the price of a taco.


Forgive and Forget?

There's an old commercial for an antacid that poses the question "How do you spell relief?"  The announcer then answers the question by spelling out the name of the antacid. For many angry people, relief is spelled R-E-V-E-N-G-E.

I read a story about a truck driver who stopped to grab a bite to eat at a diner.  He'd just gotten his food when two leather clad motorcyclists walked in looking for trouble. They began to harass the trucker, taking a bite of his burger, throwing his French fries on the ground and drinking his beverage. The truck driver ignored the bikers, got up, paid his check and walked out the door. The waitress watched him drive away then walked over to the two bikers. One of them said "He's not much of a man, is he?"  To which the waitress replied "I don't know about that but he's sure not much of a driver. He just ran over two motorcycles in the parking lot." 

Revenge: you hit me and I’ll hit you back harder! You cheated on me, I'm going to cheat on you, with your best friend!  You stole from me, I'm going to send my buddies to rough you up, they owe me a favor. This attitude will never solve anything. Revenge may feel sweet in the beginning, but in the long run it only makes things worse.

You may have some emotional pain because of what a person did, and forgiveness does not mean that you have to deny that pain. When you truly forgive someone no revenge is necessary. On the other hand, forgiveness does not release a person from the practical or legal consequences of their actions. Forgiveness and consequences are separate issues and you are not obligated to shield a person from the consequences of their offense.

You may forgive a cheating spouse but require that they attend counseling or even decide to end the marriage. You can also forgive a friend for their gossip but choose not to continue the friendship or decide to consider them an acquaintance from then on and not disclose any personal information to them in the future. Forgiveness is granted but trust is earned. You can also forgive your business partner for stealing from the company but still testify to the truth in court.


To Err is Human; To Forgive Divine ~ Alexander Pope

We all make mistakes and unfortunately, at times we all do things that hurt other people. It's such a feeling of freedom when someone says to us "I forgive you."  But the feelings are a bit different when you're the one who has to forgive another. Feelings of hurt and anger swell up within you and it takes some humility to push those feelings aside and say to the person who committed an offense against you, "I forgive you."

When you fail to forgive someone the anger stews and simmers deep within and eventually morphs into bitterness and resentment. Soon, you're like a walking time bomb, ready to explode in fits of rage at the slightest infraction by an unsuspecting innocent bystander. You become a prisoner of your own anger, and ironically, the person you are angry with becomes your jailer. The good news however, is that there is a "get out of jail free card"; forgiveness!

Forgiveness is in no way justifying a person's actions, nor is it necessarily forgetting what they did. Forgiveness is simply the act of setting a person free from an obligation to you because of what they have done. It doesn't require anything from the other person and it really doesn't matter what they do. When you decide to forgive someone, you are cancelling any debt, emotional or otherwise, that you feel the person owes you. When you forgive, you release the anger and free yourself to live without the pain of an unforgiving lifestyle, to live your life in peace.

"I’ll take 'To forgive or not to forgive' for $1,000.00 please, Alex."  "The answer: 'It is a gift that you give to yourself.'"  Buzz! "What is FORGIVENESS?" "Yes! You've won the game!"

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Apr 7, 2011 9:12am
Excellent reminder that resentment only hurts us much more than it hurts the person we resent! Thanks for a well thought out article!
Apr 7, 2011 7:01pm
I think it's very important to remember to forgive oneself in order to forgive another. Also, it is difficult to love when forgiving needs to happen. Good article.
Apr 8, 2011 6:58pm
You make a clear distinction between not forgiving, and revenge. You can do one without the other. Nice article.
Jul 30, 2011 12:38am
Great article. Grudge holding and resentment are poison that eats away at YOU, the grudge holder, not the person you're mad at.
Apr 19, 2012 2:10pm
Hi--I like your article because Ibelieve that forgiveness is the only real path to happiness. Good going!
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