Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

Forgiveness simply means loving someone enough to pursue healing instead of punishment when they have wronged you. Unknown

Yesterday I ran across the phrase “cheap forgiveness” in a book called How Can I Forgive You by Janis Abrahms Spring. In it, she talks about cheap forgiveness and says: Cheap forgiveness may preserve our relationships, but quash any opportunity to develop a more intimate bond.

She says there are advantages to cheap forgiveness.

It may help us connect to the offender. We can keep up the appearance of harmony. We may want this when we think people who won’t talk to each other should be able to be in the same room and talk to who they do talk to, so it’s easy for the rest of the family to be together.

It may make us feel good about our self, even righteous and superior. Ben Franklin said. “Doing an injury puts you below your enemy; revenge makes you but even with him, forgiving sets you above him.

It may protect us from confronting our own complicity in the conflict, and wipe our slate clean too. Self-awareness can be painful. Cheap forgiveness keeps us blissfully in the dark.

It may nudge the transgressor toward repentance. We may get treated in a conciliatory way as well, and they may make amends. Our pardon may exploit their sense of guilt and indebtedness so that they become more friendly and indebted.

We believe that forgiveness is good for our health. We may believe it will release us from obsession and depression, lower our blood pressure and heart rate.

Janis Abrahms Spring tells us to be careful not to forgive too fast. The reason is there is a reason that whatever happened, happened. If we forgive too fast we may not deal with the underlying issues.

She gives an example of a woman who had an affair. The reason Mary had the affair was that she was lonely and felt cut off from her husband. Forgiveness was the cheapest gift her husband could give her. What Mary needed was conversations – plain and honest about who she was, what she needed from him so they could develop an intimate bond. His offer of cheap forgiveness was to make sure they didn’t have those conversations, expose those vulnerabilities, work on the relationship and perhaps develop the closeness she desired. With cheap forgiveness, he could believe she was just morally weak, and he could forgive her lapse because he’s such a good person.

Peace at all costs is not good. Peace and reconciliation happen when the relationship is stronger in the broken places, and this will not likely come from cheap forgiveness. The author talks of a “Type C” person, those of us chronically unaware of our feelings, and exhibit compulsive, unyielding niceness in any situation – no matter how stressful, insulting, or dangerous – with type-A people who are hostile, and less forgiving. The type A’s are more susceptible to heart disease than others, while the “Type C” is more prone to cancer. They let things eat them up inside instead of dealing directly with conflict.

Acceptance, tolerance, and forgiveness. Those are life-altering lessons. Jessica Lange

Since none of us are perfect, we will make mistakes, we will hurt people we love, we will need to forgive, and make amends. If we are willing to be as honest as we can be, whether we are the transgressor, or the transgressed upon, understand as much as we can about what led up to what happened and our part in it, perhaps we can repair the breach, and become stronger in the broken places.

It might be quicker to ask for, or offer cheap forgiveness. It might be better to work through the messiness of understanding what went on and why, or why we perceive things in a way that the other person does not. Working through the situation may be the gift, the silver lining that leads to a closer relationship. It won’t be quick, or easy, but maybe wanting things to be quick and easy is what led to the problem in the first place.

An organizing expert said in a Ted Talk that our clutter speaks to her. It tells a story, it’s there for a reason. She also says that we all have different ways of dealing with our pain and she, being a neat freak admits clutter is not the way she deals with issues. Do we need to deal with the issues in our life, honestly? Can we face our demons, and our unmet expectations of ourselves self and others? We may need to forgive and accept but first, we may need to excavate and discover what is our situation trying to tell us that we need to face up to and fix?

Do we settle for cheap forgiveness when acceptance and real forgiveness seem too messy, because if we look too close and too hard we may find things out about our self we don’t want to acknowledge?  We are told the truth will set us free. Finding, acknowledging, and dealing with the truth may be the hardest thing we do.

Are we willing to find and deal with the things in our life we don’t acknowledge? Are we willing to face our fears?

Relationships get stronger when both are willing to understand mistakes and forgive each other. Unknown

Even forgiveness, if weak and passive, is not true; fight is better. Forgive when you could bring legions of angels to the victory. Swami Vivekananda

It’s not an easy journey, to get to a place where you forgive people. But it is such a powerful place because it frees you. Tyler Perry

Thank you for reading this post. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you will come back and read some more. Have a blessed day filled with gratitude, joy, and love.

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How Can I Forgive You?: The Courage to Forgive, the Freedom Not To Paperback – Feb 1 2005

by Janis A. Spring (Author) 4.4 out of 5 stars 11 ratings

 See all 12 formats and editions