I have pondered a great deal on my healing journey and in my support of others about what forgiveness is and what it is not, whether and how it needs to happen and in which circumstances. Needless to say it is a complicated topic of great concern to many. Perhaps I have more questions about it than answers.
It seems its purpose centers around releasing anger regarding a particular action or dynamic in a relationship so one can be more comfortable in their skin again. It's goal also seems to be re-establishing safety so one is positioned in the world in a way that is protected and functional. Sometimes people can forgive and stay in connection with people they have forgiven in a way that is similar to how the relationship has always been especially if there have been some new understandings such as attempts at better communication or respect for boundaries. Sometimes the relationship can not be maintained in its former form but the parties involved continue to be connected in some way, such as when people become more like acquaintances and less like friends because an action has been taken that has violated a trust. There is forgiveness in the sense that anger is no longer held but there is a wish for greater distance. When understanding and changes in behavior can't happen distance may be the only way to create safety. Sometimes the relationship really can't continue other than that the humans involved still occupy the same planet. Sometimes forgiveness in this case means that the people involved wish each other well rather than harm as they keep their distance. Forgiveness does help people to be more comfortable and can help people to grow in understanding of our perpetual humanness.
Perhaps it is not always possible to forgive. Perhaps it is not always desirable to forgive. Most often forgiveness is an ongoing process rather than something that happens in a single moment if we are being honest with ourselves. I have been engaged in the process of forgiving my parents for a long time. First on my list is my step father who could be in prison for crimes of assault if the times were different and if his crimes happened outside the family. I can understand he was abused also but his ongoing crimes created so much damage they need to be re-forgiven when new triggering situations come up. My father was easiest to forgive since he had a serious mental illness and was a very moral person. My mother went along with my step father and although she wasn't aware of the sexual assault according to her memory, she permitted him to be abusive mentally and physically. Recently she adjusted the will regarding her estate to exclude me. I believe this was because I wrote honestly about my childhood. Apparently it takes more than thirty years of therapy to forgive some things. I can forgive my mother and my step father because they are no longer present in my life.
I have learned through raising a child that it is not difficult to provide respect and decent treatment to any child. This highlights the reprehensibility of what they did to me.