Reasons Not To Forgive And Be A Victim


In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to discuss the link between playing the victim and refusing to forgive.

Reasons not to forgive and be a victim

Reasons not to forgive and be a victim

First a quick update:

“Treating Bipolar Disorder
In a new series of video interviews that chronicle leaders and developments in the addiction recovery world presented by Milestones Ranch Malibu Treatment Center, I interview Dr. Paul Keck, Jr., President and CEO of Lindner Center of HOPE, for insights into Bipolar Disorder – medication, therapy and life skills management. Dr. Keck also addresses the tough question, “Why are there more people today than ever before being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder?”
Click to watch what Dr.Keck says about the significance of working with the whole family when treating clients with Bipolar Disorder.

Now, let’s talk about the link between refusing to forgive and being a victim.

Has anyone ever taken advantage of you; cheated, betrayed, humiliated, wronged or hurt you in some way?

Of course!

Every one of us has been wronged by someone at one time in our lives – or possibly many times.

And when someone does wrong you, what is the appropriate response?

Is it to hurt them back, to punish them or to seek revenge?

Is it to deny the event or action; to ignore it and pass over it?

Is it to immediately avoid feeling any pain and instantly forgive that person?

Is it to stay angry, bitter and malicious towards that person?

All of the above responses are extreme responses that fail to result in emotional freedom, inner peace, resolution or closure.

Recently, Karen, a client was relating to me a story of how her employer had apparently betrayed and taken advantage of her. She explained how she had taken up a contract with this employer and shortly into it, without explaining the reasons, he terminated the contract. He fulfilled the legal terms of the contract and he paid her dues and fees.

However, the early termination of the contract was painful and distressing to Karen because it resulted in large consequences beyond impacting her self-confidence and self-esteem – she would have to move residence and possibly relocate.

Her employer had fulfilled the legal terms of their contract but in her mind, he had not been ethical or at the very least, he had lacked compassion by not taking into account the impact that terminating the contract would have on her life.

Seeking a possible explanation for the early termination, Karen asked her employer to explain and he refused. Subsequently, she concluded that possibly he terminated the contract because he could not afford to continue to pay her. But even that potential explanation was not enough to set her free emotionally.

And as she spoke about this experience, the anger, bitterness and venom was most clear and evident; when I asked about forgiving this person, even if she would never do business again with him, she replied:

“He is not significant enough for me to forgive him.”

Karen, like most people, lacked insight into forgiveness – its meaning and significance.

Is forgiveness dependent on the quality of character of the other person?

What are the benefits of forgiving and not forgiving?

Is she justified for feeling angry, betrayed or wronged?

An experienced attorney will tell you that there are three sides to every story – yours, mine and the truth. And thus, there may be more information needed to complete the story.

Nonetheless, it is critical to understand that we are allowed to feel whatever we feel; denying feelings and emotions only creates more pain and often transforms into physical illness (the result of stress and other physical and biological changes triggered by our emotions and perspectives.) It is also critical to note that the human brain processes emotional pain as it does physical pain. In other words, our brain cannot fully tell the difference between a physical injury or pain and an emotional injury or pain; emotional pain feels real and has an impact on our body.

Thus, denying the event or ignoring her pain would only make Karen feel worse, and would result in repressed emotions which would eventually surface or would infect her other relationships.

The paradox is that it is critical to allow yourself to feel the full range of your emotions, (even the perceived negative emotions such as anger, guilt, shame, humiliation, desire for revenge, and so forth), but not to allow them to take root in you because they quickly infect you, your body, spirit, mind and your relationships.

Accordingly, the first step is to feel the emotions and the second step is to understand the many possible reasons the other person acted the way they did which helps you to release your emotions. Understanding and accepting the other person’s limitations and human fallibility does not imply allowing them to continue to treat you poorly nor does it imply denial of the severity of the event or subsequent action required on their part to heal the relationship or resolve the matter.

But it is crucial to understand:

Forgiveness sets the forgiver free before it sets free the person being forgiven.

The person that wronged us may not even be aware of our pain, may not care either way, or might not even be alive anymore to hear or receive our forgiveness.

In my article, “Why we refuse to forgive” I list some of the many, varied and surprising reasons we choose not to forgive.

Another reason not included in that list relates to Karen’s response and motivation: the power one gains from being a victim; the advantages and benefit of playing the victim.

When a person hurts us in any way, it is natural for us to feel powerless, and driven by ego, we might seek to regain that power – the feeling that we can no longer be controlled by the other person. One such way of feeling powerful is to play the victim.

It sounds contradictory, but, by being angry, blaming the other person, complaining, or justifying ourselves and our actions, we feel a sense of power. By playing the victim and blaming the other person, we generate attention for ourselves (interest, pity, empathy and so forth) but we also try to build ourselves up, compensate for our subconscious self-doubt, and we attempt to create significance and justification for our stance and actions (forcing our friends and colleagues to take sides and possibly test their loyalty to us.)

However, when we consciously choose to move out of victimhood and take responsibility for our lives and our next steps, we begin to feel truly powerful and in control.

And when Karen stated that her employer is “not significant enough” for her to forgive him, she was implying that the other person is not worthy or good enough for her to show compassion. Her harsh judgment of him, her lack of compassion for him, are direct reflections of the way she also treats herself – judging herself harshly, refusing to forgive herself or to be compassionate towards herself.

Again, it sounds contradictory, but all forgiveness begins with you – you need to learn to forgive, love and accept yourself first. You need to express compassion to yourself so that you can express it to others. “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

And if you respond by saying that you are always forgiving towards others but not to yourself, take time to consider if you truly are forgiving to them or do you only do it to get their approval and acceptance. Do you really feel forgiveness towards them? Do you want and wish the best for them?

Finally, why is forgiveness so critical?

“Forgiveness is an acceptance of fault, and all that it means to be human. Forgiveness is the cornerstone of emotional healing.” – Narconon International – drug rehabilitation programs.

Are you important enough to forgive yourself and to experience real emotional healing?

Read more about forgiveness and victimhood, click to read:

“Stopping the victim game”

“Victims never succeed”

“Why forgive?”

“Why we refuse to forgive”

“Overcoming resentment”

“Dealing with emotional vampires”

You can post your comment on this newsletter below.

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

Facebook Comments



7 replies
  1. Avatar
    Lee says:

    Hi Patrick

    First of all, what a great blog and thank you for all your wisdom.

    I have a situation with my sister who I’ve had problems with over the years. Recently she said she was having problems with her husband and wanted to come and stay with me and bringing her 2 cats.

    I live in a flat that is very small and I work from home on a phone line as a counsellor. I explained this to her but she reacted really out of proportion when I said no. My fear was that she was about to leave her husband and stay here for an unlimited time as she said 2 weeks or more.. I rent the flat from them but felt that I should say no as I would not be able to work with her in the flat. Also knowing her as I do, I knew she would want a lot of attention whilst here. She denied it even though she is currently having CBT and has been diagnosed as having borderline personality disorder.

    Anyway because of the huge fuss she made I said she could come but then she did not want to and accused me of all sorts of things from the past and said we have to accept we just don’t get on.

    That was back in April. Since then things go quiet for a couple of weeks and then she sends me an email.. the latest one today accusing me of speaking to her husband’s family about this current situation and that she believes I am lying if I deny this. I have told her it is not true and I am not lying and I rang to speak to her but she did not answer the phone so I left a message saying that I wasn’t in touch with his family and have not spoken to them and that I wish the best for her and send her lots of love.

    I am so tired of her dramas that escalate about once a year and the same old patterns. She will probably come around in a couple of months and want to be friends again. I do not feel right now that I want to be her friend.

    Anyway that’s my story. I have forgiven her over and over and this pattern always keeps repeating. I feel maybe it would be best if I just move out and find a new home and break off contact with her altogether.

    All the best

  2. Avatar
    Maria says:

    I was hit by a drunk driver. I spent six months confined to a 6′ x 4′ hospital bed. I nearly died several times. I was able to claw my way to work, for below poverty wages, the only job I was lucky enough to find. I lost my home, my company (putting 25 people out of work), my career, and my freedom. Some of the near-death experiences were due to a serious medical error by a hospital. I would love to forgive and forget, but every time I step down, the excruciating pain reminds me that I no longer have money to pay for yet another needed surgery caused by both the hospital’s mistake and the drunk.

    The drunk neither knows no cares about me. I don’t give a rat’s tootsie about the drunk. I would prefer to never think about the horrifying experiences in the hospital either. I don’t have time for playing the victim and there’s no one around to hear me whining (except you, dear readers, and for that, my apologies).

    Am I going to be stuck under this drunk’s power until I can get the physical and financial pain to stop?

    • Avatar
      Patrick Wanis says:

      Dear Maria,

      thank you for being so open and sincere about your story and what you are experiencing.
      There is no way I can fully understand the pain, suffering and loss you have experienced or continue to experience.

      Obviously, each time that you feel physical or emotional pain, you will think about the hospital and the drunken man. However, you also said that you feel that you are still “stuck under this drunk’s power.” And that also makes complete sense. The question is what emotional pain do you feel each time you feel physical and financial pain? Is it anger, bitterness, revenge or something else? You are allowed to feel whatever you feel and maybe the key to emotional freedom is to first accept all of the emotions you feel toward this person (anger, hatred, etc) and then keep focusing on what you can now control in your life.
      You also never mentioned a support system. Who is there in your life right now that loves and supports and understand you through all of this?
      Again, I can only express verbal sympathy and empathy but I cannot fathom what you have fully experienced. I can only begin to imagine some of your pain and I can only express regret that you have had to endure this.
      All the best,

  3. Avatar
    margaret says:

    why do you call it bi-polar disorder when someone hurt’s someone so bad that you hate them..why do you blame the one that get’s hurt ..that so messed up ..?

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