Are you a forgiver?
Are you that person who—when injured or offended—automatically says and/or thinks, “That’s OK, I forgive you”?
Do you believe that forgiving is a good thing and so you end up feeling bad sometimes because you just…can’t…forgive?
In today’s Wall Street Journal (last section, front page) an excellent article by Elizabeth Bernstein shows that forgiveness may put you on the road to feeling like a doormat.
One study noted that, “people who forgave not-so-nice partners were less happy. People who refused to forgive not-so-nice partners remained happy.”
Conversely, people who forgave nice partners were happy.
Sonja Luubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness and a professor at the University of California, Riverside, explained that there are times when it is appropriate to withhold forgiveness:
- - You know you want to keep in contact (or must stay in contact, such as a co-worker) and continue having a relationship with the person.
- - The person is not likely to repeat the specific transgression.
- - The person rarely does behaviors like this.
If any of the three criteria are negative you may want to be more judicious when it comes to offering forgiveness.
The article does a great job of explaining the concept of empathy; you’ve probably done things that needed forgiving so you should put yourself in the other person’s shoes. And not forgiving may estrange you from people who, over time, would reestablish trust with you and be important in your life.
But, the main point is that automatically forgiving may not be the best choice for your happiness.