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Forgiveness is not a requirement or pre-requisite for healing.

cycle-breakers forgiveness forgiving healing healing trauma jeff brown listen to the body permission to heal self-healers survival systems wholeness methodology Nov 30, 2023
“Just because you don’t choose to forgive doesn’t mean you haven’t let go yet. Maybe you realize forgiveness is not essential to your healing, and not your responsibility. Some of us actually heal and choose not to forgive. Imagine that.” quote from Jeff Brown

Let's talk about forgiveness...in a way you may not hear forgiveness spoken of very often.

Forgiveness is not a requirement or pre-requisite for healing.

I mean it. It is absolutely not necessary to forgive for the sake of forgiveness or healing. It is okay if you can't or won't forgive someone who harmed you, AND you can still heal your wounds. Healing is NOT dependent on forgiveness, in fact sometimes not forgiving is patterned into our body's survival/protector systems...and some things are simply unforgiveable. 

Jeff Brown (see image) knows what’s up when it comes to healing and forgiveness, like his quote states in the image “Just because you don’t choose to forgive doesn’t mean you haven’t let go yet. Maybe you realize forgiveness is not essential to your healing, and not your responsibility. Some of us actually heal and choose not to forgive. Imagine that.”

This resonates as deep truth for me, even though there’s plenty of people on the interwebz saying things like ‘healing is waiting for those who forgive’ and other such things. 

I call B.S. on having to forgive in order to heal. And I’m about to get really clear on what I mean using my personal experience as an example. 

I have accepted that my mother’s own abuse was something that she couldn’t control and it affected how she felt, behaved, and (mis)treated the people closest to her. She hurt so she hurt. But at any point in her adult life, or any point in my childhood or adulthood, she could have chosen to take responsibility for her healing and her abusive behavior. She could have at least been accountable for her behavior with her words. But she did not, and it is possible that she cannot.

I accept this. Acceptance is not forgiveness. I have let it go. I no longer ruminate over what she did or said or how I felt in the wake of her destructive path or how I could/should have done/been better to get love instead of abuse.

I have not forgiven her actions. Years ago I really struggled with forgiveness. I desperately wanted to forgive her so I could heal. The open wounds from my past were actively causing physical illness on top of emotional and mental distress and discomfort. I believed that I had to forgive in order to heal.

Turns out, I was wrong, like so many other people who say and believe that healing is the result of forgiveness. I found peace and acceptance, which is totally different from forgiveness (for me). 

Forgiveness is something I can easily offer those who cause harm and take responsibility for their actions, make corrective apologies, and are accountable for reparations. I really struggled in the past with why it was so hard to forgive my mother, who I love with all my heart despite her abusive behavior, when I needed to heal…

Then the acceptance came, and with it some healing…then I started to get more regulated (emotionally and physically) around my past experiences, my mother-wound, and my healing process. And I was able to access healing, even though forgiveness is not something I’m willing to give.

Let’s talk about that for a minute…I stated that I’m not willing to forgive. I used to think I was unable to forgive, but that changed along my healing journey. Getting really clear on what forgiveness means to me played a role in that, plus the self-connection and awareness that grew as I became more regulated. 

The meaning of forgiveness can be subjective to the individual, so it is helpful to define what it means to you. What it means to me is best explained by the old saying “forgive and forget”, and I am not willing to forget. I can’t forget. I won’t forget. Because forgetting doesn’t feel safe, it feels like the threat of repeating the past. I am absolutely not willing to allow that to happen to me. Ever.

For other people forgiveness might be defined as ‘saying it’s okay’ and it may not be okay, which is okay…

Think about that…What exactly does forgiveness mean to you?

I want to share one last thing about my own experience with forgiveness/non-forgiveness and healing. Once I realized I could heal without forgiving my abuse/abuser, I became aware of a different kind of forgiveness that was much easier for me to give. I realized I needed to forgive myself for all the ways I couldn’t stop the abuse by loving or being good enough to be loved. I needed to forgive myself for not always being one step ahead to prevent my mother’s rage. And I needed to forgive myself for all the ways I caused harm to others by not having the resources to heal until I did.

There’s something important you should know and it’s this:


  • You DO NOT need to forgive in order to heal.
  • You DO NOT need to forgive in order to love/be loved.
  • You DO NOT need to forgive in order to be worthy.
  • You DO NOT need to forgive for any reason.


If anyone has EVER told you that ‘in order to heal, you have to forgive’ or any variation of that, no matter how well-meaning they were when they said it…

I’m here to tell you that it’s not true. In fact, it is a rule they made for themselves or accepted from someone else (person, culture, system) - and you don’t have to believe it or buy into it. 

It is always and forever YOUR CHOICE whether or not you forgive. 

Your healing outcomes are NOT DEPENDENT ON FORGIVENESS. [extra big loud PERIODT here]

In fact, healing has FUCK ALL to do with forgiveness, unless you need to forgive yourself for not knowing/doing better/different when you were faced with really shitty actions/outcomes dumped onto you by other people that you could not control. SELF-FORGIVENESS is the only form of forgiveness that impacts your healing progress. 

[And it is also your choice whether or not you heal…at least to some extent, there is more gray area in this statement and we can talk about that another day so I don’t get too wordy, like I am.]

You can heal whether or not you ever forgive the person who caused you harm. It’s not up to anyone but Y-O-U to decide if what was done to you is or is NOT forgivable. And either way, you can absolutely heal the wound. 

It may leave a scar but that is just the memory of the wound. 

Sometimes non-forgiveness IS SAFETY THAT EXISTS IN OUR MEMORY OF THE WOUND so that we can avoid ever being re-wounded in that same way. And sometimes forgiveness is the memory…THE CHOICE and the OUTCOMES ARE AS UNIQUE TO THE INDIVIDUAL AS THE HEALING PROCESS IS.

But always remember that you don’t owe anyone your forgiveness if you aren’t ready (or if you’re never ready) to forgive and healing/joy/safety/ability to thrive/personal growth/success and whatever else you desire ARE STILL ACCESSIBLE TO YOU in the absence of forgiveness. I know, because I healed and am healing without forgiveness. I just needed the right tools, knowledge, and support to make it happen…and that’s what you need too, which I can help you with. 

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