Does Friendship Automatically Bring Forgiveness?


I have written before about friendship and how lucky I am to still have friends from a hundred years ago when we were pig-tailed girls in school but friendship can be a delicate construct. I started thinking about this after reading a recent post by a friend about how friendships are maintained and our expectations of them which is how I ended up writing about forgiveness – or not.  As I’m writing this on Good Friday, the topic is a timely one.  With all the hoo-ha surrounding it, non-believers probably think Christmas is the biggest event in the Christian calendar but it isn’t.  Easter is the big kahuna because without Christ’s Resurrection, there would be no reason to follow Jesus as he would have been just another dead rebel.  The whole point is that God sent his Son to forgive our sins and ensure our redemption so the whole concept of forgiveness is a ‘big thing’ and not only in Christianity. Buddhists believe that forgiveness is a critical step towards achieving a peaceful state of being and the Qur’an teaches that forgiveness is a superior moral trait.  “Turn the other cheek.” is the yellow brick road.  “Forgive and forget.”  But what if you can’t.  Forgive.  Or forget.

cs lewis quote

In 2010 I severed a friendship and even five years later I can still feel the disappointment and anger as though it were yesterday.  We don’t do things for our friends expecting to be repaid but I think it’s OK to consider any equal relationship a two-way street.  My friend’s life was always in turmoil.  When she discovered her husband cheating, I consoled her by phone from America, where I was living at the time.  Her next partner had a vengeful, bitter ex-wife so I was a sounding board for her frustrations and copywriter and editor for mountains of correspondence. Despite having a son together, that relationship ended and it was more commiserating and letter-writing as the miserable sod tried shirking his financial responsibilities in any way he could.  I suppose the rot started setting in when, as her son’s godmother, I was asked to be his sponsor at his Confirmation.  To reflect the importance of the occasion and because his mother had mentioned he was becoming interested in photography, I gave him a digital camera.  And this was years ago, before you could get them out of vending machines. I certainly wasn’t expecting a gilt-edged letter of gratitude but I thought I might at least get a phone call…. Nothing, nought, nada, zip, zilch, zero.  Am I belabouring the point?  Not even a bloody cup of tea after the ceremony.  Her choice in men was appalling and the next one was a certified narcissist.  More listening, more commiserating.  Then my father died.  And she sent me a text message.  Some of you will understand exactly why that was the straw that broke the camel’s back while others will wonder why it was such a big deal. It’s hard to put into words how totally let down I felt but there was now a trench in the sand that swallowed forgiveness whole and was never likely to throw it back up.


On the other hand, I have a girlfriend I have known since Kindergarten and I have forgiven her a myriad of transgressions, big and small.  When I became engaged, many moons ago, my American husband’s lawyer recommended that we get married as quickly as possible to start all the paperwork for my move to the U.S. and application for my Green Card so my first wedding was an intimate affair of only 10 people in a divine little stone church.  (We had the bigger, glitzier ceremony two months later so I have two wedding anniversaries – both of which I now manage to forget…..)  S. was supposed to be my bridesmaid and witness but not only was she late, thus missing the entire thing, she had the audacity to be upset because we didn’t wait.  My best gay friend ended up being my bridesman and I was as happy as a pig in mud.  But my husband was furious and where I laughed it off as a memorable part of the day, he did not forgive her for years after finally accepting that I really hadn’t cared and I wasn’t just saying that because we had been friends for so long.  And I think therein lies the difference.  By that time, S. and I had 29 years invested in our friendship.  That’s a lot of secrets and memories and laughter to lose.  It would be like excising great chunks of your past with nothing to fill the holes.

People suffer the most tremendous losses due to violence and yet extend forgiveness to the perpetrators.  They are obviously in some state of grace that I can’t begin to imagine.  The generally accepted position is that without forgiveness, you can’t truly “move on” but in my totally unprofessional yet totally eloquent opinion, I think that’s a load of horse manure.  I believe you can feel sadness, anger, disappointment and a kaleidoscope of other emotions and still lead a “whole” life. Sometimes not “letting it go” is fuel for a fire that changes everything.


It’s complicated.  I’m sure everyone has a story. Wait, is that the time?  Forgive me, I have to run.





  1. 1

    So agree. I wish I could be that awesome person who can forgive everyone… but I’m not. I think you just need to make peace with what’s happened and arrive at some level of acceptance. Then you close that chapter and move on. Easier said than done. Obviously.

    Love your posts. Look forward to reading them. Sorry I don’t always find the time to comment!

    • 2

      Thanks Nadia. I wanted to include a link to your post but I don’t know how. If it’s easy to explain I’m happy to do it. As to not always commenting – well you do have a few other commitments. We do what we can and our ‘friends’ understand.

  2. 3

    I totally get it. In recent years, I’ve found it easier to let it go (as in the bad feelings) and cut them loose. In my opinion, life is too short to have unhealthy relationships and rather than stewing on their wrongs, I prefer to focus on the friends I have and the happiness they bring. It’s not so much that I forgive what people may have done, but I just choose to move on and forget it, and them! You’re totally right about one thing, thoug, life is always so complicated!

  3. 4

    I also think as I’ve gotten older, I have fewer expectations of people and accept that not everyone thinks as I do so I’m more likely to shrug things off and say “it is what it is”. Thanks for the read again Sammie – Happy Easter!

  4. 5

    Oh we so remember that first wedding…S. Still talks about Geoff and THAT speech and she has had a thing about Angels ever since. Even to the point of never travelling without a small jade figure of an Angel in her bag. Truly, we don’t remember the wedding because of someone who didn’t make it, we remember it because it was the beautiful celebration that it was and you chose to share with us. Seems a shame (though understandable) to taint such memories with one goose who didn’t get the point!

    • 6

      Hard to believe it will be 22 years, come June! I still remember those faxes from Jeff on my desk every morning…. I assure you Robin, the memory isn’t tainted. I was so happy that day, nothing could have spoiled it. And I got Raff as my ‘bridesman’ so it worked out perfectly. I was a bit peeved afterwards but figured she was the one who missed out and I think it bothered her WAY more than it ever did me. All water under the bridge now. I hadn’t even thought about it until I was writing the post. Do you remember Paula? She’s the first one I talked about.

  5. 7

    I ended two decade long friendships last year because I felt that I was never given any respect. And in ending them, I was shown even less respect. It was sad and I didn’t want to do it, but frankly I’m happier now without them. I wish it wasn’t the case but I would be lying to myself if I said I wanted to still be friends with them.

    • 8

      I think it’s a hard decision to make but once it’s done, it’s a relief. It seems to me if they didn’t respect you, they couldn’t really have been friends. I hope you have found better people to take their place – and thanks for taking the time to read my post.

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