It’s Not About Forgiving

By Greg Baer M.D.

March 30, 2018

Suzanne called and said, “I’ve been doing Real Love for a while now. I’m happier, more peaceful. Stressful events simply don’t stress me out as they once did. My relationships with family members are all better.”

“But—” I interjected, joking about what her next word was likely to be.

“But somehow I still have this disquiet, something not quite right inside me, and sometimes it erupts as anger.”

“From the past, there is somebody you’re resenting. Do you know who it is?”

She paused and said, “Ahhh, that’s it. I was thinking about this the other day. My ex-husband, Mark, was an unloving and very selfish man. He even cheated on me many times, and I refused to believe it until the evidence was undeniable.”

“Before you got married, you had a lifetime of dreams that one day you would marry a loving man, raise a loving family, and be happy ever after. He crushed those dreams, right?”


“You may not realize it, but you still harbor a judgment that somehow Mark could have tried harder. In fact, you believe that he SHOULD have tried harder, and if he had, your marriage wouldn’t have broken up, you wouldn’t have been unhappy for so many years, and the seriously harmful effects of all that contention on your children would not have occurred. As a result, you can’t forgive him, and you still resent him.”

“Damn, you’re right. I’ve tried everything. No kidding:
Positive thoughts
Reminding myself that it’s all in the past
Recognizing that all this resentment isn’t doing me any good
Knowing that forgiveness is the right thing to do
Remembering that he doesn’t even care about all of it now—or then
Thinking of Jesus and how he forgave people who beat him and killed him
And a lot more. Nothing is working. I still have this feeling.”

“I know that you’ve read about Event ➝ Judgment ➝ Feeling ➝ Reaction, but you’re not seeing how it applies here. This is where your answer lies, not in ‘trying’ to forgive him. What comes right before the feeling?”

“A judgment.”

“Yes, and yours is that Mark could have done better. In other words, to some extent—however small—you judge that he was INTENTIONALLY selfish, unloving, and unfaithful.”

“That’s true. And he was, wasn’t he? How can you cheat on your partner by accident?”

I smiled. “I understand your judgment. Really, I do, but it’s wrong. Was Mark EVER unconditionally loved as a child?”


“So how could he ever have unconditionally loved you? Were YOU ever unconditionally loved as a child?”


“You two were doomed from the beginning. Two people without love trying to create a loving relationship. Impossible.”

“But we THOUGHT we were in love.”

“Oh, you WERE ‘in love,’ but that’s not the same as Real Love.”


“So I’m not trying to be positive here. I’m not defending him. I’m not encouraging you to forgive him. I’m telling you only that your judgment—now and then—of all those past events is wrong. Just wrong. You’re not bad. You don’t need to be beaten. Your judgments were taught to you by people who couldn’t see clearly, and they were just wrong. So you judge Mark wrongly, and immediately after judging that he could have done better, and that part of him did all that on purpose—rather than as a reaction to his own pain and lack of love—you feel disappointed, betrayed, and hurt. Then you feel angry as a reaction.”

“It could really be that simple?”

“Oh, it IS that simple, but that doesn’t mean your judgment will immediately change. It will take practice with your seeing things differently—more truthfully—and then your feelings will naturally follow. You won’t have to work at forgiveness.”

I have observed many people who have “tried” to forgive someone for a lifetime, but it was a failure, mostly because there had been no change in judgment. Allow me to illustrate simply and powerfully the effect of changing judgments.

You leave the room for a single minute and return to find your favorite crystal flower vase shattered on the floor. Immediately you are angry at the loss of something important to you. Your anger is a reaction to pain and fear that resulted from your judgment that someone had DONE something careless—to YOU, no less.

And then you see your 15-month-old son drunkenly stumbling toward the sharp shards on the floor. In a single moment, you realize that somebody didn’t do something to you. In fact, it was you who were careless, leaving a young toddler unattended. In the single minute you were gone, he had climbed up on the table—which toddlers seem to have an inborn and powerful instinct to do over and over—and broken the vase. And now he is likely to be injured by the sharp pieces of glass that you—indirectly—created.

Your original judgment has changed completely. Now what happens? The feeling that follows also changes, and without effort. Now you have no pain or fear for yourself, and anger therefore immediately becomes useless. Now your feeling is one of concern for your son who is about to fall on the broken glass, and your reaction is to leap to help—love—him. Wow, all from a changed judgment.

It is a widespread belief that if we are in pain, we must find the cause, even if we must blame someone else. And we believe that if our pain is related in any way to the mistakes of other people, in some way they must have intended to hurt us, or at the very least to have been sorely neglectful.

On the contrary, I believe that people are doing the best they can, and that exceptions to that generalization are rare indeed. For more on this subject, see the following blogs:

It's Illegal to Kill Them
We Do the Best We Can with What We Have
We're All in the Special Olympics

If it is true that people generally are doing the best they can—considering the pain and distorted perspectives of childhood through the present—then the idea of forgiving other people becomes a form of arrogance. More about this subject can be found in this blog:

Forgiveness Is Not Enough

In short, our resentments are more successfully changed by correcting our judgments than by actively “trying” to forgive people. The truth—accurate judgments—tends to lead to more love, which makes forgiving both unnecessary and more primitive than loving.


Recover from your negative judgments and beliefs


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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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