Forgiving When It’s Not Okay



I’ve spent a long time being angry at my mother-in-law now.


It’s not without reason.


I mean, let’s be perfectly clear– when we lost our fourth baby, she told us we were better off.




I feel confident saying that that was a terrible choice of words. It didn’t help matters that she never really apologized. And, furthermore, seeing how much it hurt my husband and drove him away from her, I felt rather justified in my bitter feelings toward her.


It’s been almost three years now.


Over these years, I’ve tried so hard to open my heart to forgive her. I’ve tried to rationalize her words and actions and make sense of them somehow. I’ve tried to “explain” them to myself in a way that would somehow make it acceptable and okay. And I was utterly unsuccessful.


But this, I think, is the problem. Too often, we think that, in order to forgive, we need to accept and come to terms with the other person’s actions. I honestly think this stems from our conditioned response to say, “It’s okay” immediately following the words, “I’m sorry.”


But what if it’s NOT okay? What if those words would be utterly false?


Well, then, we shouldn’t say them. If my mother-in-law were to, miraculously, offer up an apology one of these days, it would be disingenuous for me to say, “It’s okay.” Frankly, it’s not. I don’t actually think it’s ever okay to give that response to the loss of a precious child.


But, slowly, slowly, I’m starting to realize that I don’t need to wait for my heart to feel “okay” about it. Forgiving is a conscious action– it is a decision to cease being angry and resentful toward another for an error or offense. It is not a realization that you’re “over it.” It doesn’t need to be a warm, affectionate, glowing feeling. Sometimes it’s just saying, “You know what? I’ve spent enough time feeling angry and bitter about this and it hasn’t changed anything. I’m ready to put those feelings aside, so I can move forward.”


It’s too exhausting to stay mad about it, to be honest. I’m hurt. I’ve been hurt for years now. I truly can’t believe that she said that to her son. I can’t wrap my brain around what would make a mother utter that sentiment about her lost grandbaby.


But the good news is that I don’t need to. It’s not my job to figure out her motivation. It’s also not my job to decide it’s okay.


It’s my job to take care of myself and part of that includes releasing these emotions that bring me down and hurt my heart.


And, so…


I forgive her.


But it’s not okay.

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6 comments to Forgiving When It’s Not Okay

  • Great post. Had a similar issue with a family member concerning my daughter (similar in that it was extremely hurtful and crazy) and it took over two years to get an apology, which quite frankly I was stunned to get. But by the Grace of God I had been able to forgive prior to that, even though what they did will never be excusable or ok. This was a really great message and so well-written. Nice job!

  • Susan

    My mother would make statements like that & never think about it again (or that it might have hurt you.) I remember her talking about her own 4 miscarriages (“thank God I had 4 miscarriages or I would have ended up with 8 kids…who would want that?”) I am quoting my Mom. Also, how about this one “We are Catholic so God made us have 4 children & we are forced to raise them.” That one really gives me the warm and fuzzies toward my Mom. I have just come to the conclusion that she & my Dad are really selfish people who shouldn’t have had kids but they did. I don’t see them often.

  • Heather

    I think that’s really the whole thing with forgiveness. It’s a verb, not a feeling. If you’re “over it” you don’t need to forgive because you don’t feel ill will about it, it’s just gone. If you’re still smarting from the negative emotions, that’s when forgiving is an action. I think that’s why forgiveness supposedly makes you feel better. You are purposefully deciding not to keep feeding those negative emotions. Good for you!

  • Sarah

    THANK YOU for sharing this. So wonderfully worded and compassionate, but also wise in setting up healthy boundaries as Jesus teaches.

  • Lori

    Sometime you need to have a mind like Christ and forgive others, not because you want to or feel like it, but because we can’t hold onto those hard feelings. The bible tells us to forgive other as Christ forgave you…its a choice. Sometimes it may be a daily choice to forgive someone but eventually your feelings will change because you are obeying God and forgiving and he will change you.

  • My grandparents were always pretty hurtful to their kids, but in her older age my grandmother has really taken the cake, too. My mom is number 4 of 5 daughters, and then they there was a son. He died at 5 of meningitis. And in the past year or so, my grandma told my aunt that she always wondered why God didn’t take one of her daughters when she obviously had so many of them. My aunt was questioning WHICH ONE my grandma wished had died. I think my mom, as hurt as she has been, is able to say, “She is still my mom. I still love her. She is wrong … but I can forgive.” I am impressed with how she deals with it, and agree wholeheartedly with you here. It’s NOT OK. But being angry just fills us with bad feelings and ugliness and has no effect whatsoever on the other person.

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