Archive for May, 2012

My mother seems to suffer from excessive guilt. Now that I am adult, she keeps asking me to forgive her for how she parented me when I was a child. I actually see no big deal here. So, do I tell her that I forgive her, even though I don’t think she did anything wrong?

Your mother seems to need your reassurance that you love her and that she is a good person. Her standards for herself are higher than yours in judging her parenting skills. If it were me, I would say something like this: “When people forgive others, they see the others as worthwhile and of great value. Mom, you are of great worth and of infinite value to me. When people forgive others, they love them. Mom, I love you without condition. Now that I have shown the attributes of forgiveness to you, may I make a suggestion? I think that you should forgive yourself for anything you think you might have done that is still causing you guilt. I want you to have peace regarding how you raised me. I think you did a wonderful job of that.”

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Who Has the Right to Forgive This?

Jerome Simpson is a professional football player for the Minnesota Vikings. He recently asked fans to forgive him for spending 15 days in jail on a drug-related charge.

He pleaded guilty on March 1 to a felony charge. Two pounds of marijuana were shipped to his Kentucky home in September when he was a member of the Cincinnati Bengals

“I’m not a drug dealer or anything,” he said. He has served his time.

So, do fans have the right to forgive him? After all, the fans had nothing to do with the purchase. They are not members of his immediate family who might be directly hurt by the incident. Can fans legitimately forgive him?

I think the answer is, “Yes” because fans put faith in athletic heroes and come to legitimately expect good conduct to go along with excellent athletic ability. Fans invest time and money in the athletes and teams and therefore have a right to resentment. They then have the right to offer or to withhold forgiveness.

In an earlier blog post (April 5, 2012) I made the point that it was not legitimate for a blogger to forgive the Chicago Cubs players for failing to win the 2003 National League Championship Series. So, what is the difference between the current call for forgiving an athlete and the previous caution not to do so?

The key to the answer is this: Was genuine injustice done in each case?

R.E.

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When I forgive someone, am I supposed to have no negative emotions at all any more?

Sometimes people think that they have not forgiven if they have some residual anger. I disagree with this. We are all imperfect in our forgiving and when we are treated very unfairly, it is not uncommon to have some anger left. The key is this: Are you in control of your anger or is the anger in control of you? When we forgive, our anger is reduced to manageable levels. After we have forgiven, there still may be room for more forgiving, so please be open to that. At the same time, please do not falsely accuse yourself of not being a forgiver if anger re-emerges from time to time. When that happens, do more forgiving if the anger builds to uncomfortable levels.

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When Love Is Withdrawn from Us

Is it possible that we might change in a negative way when others withdraw love from us? Consider three issues, which might form a digression in our very selves. In the first scenario, we can begin to withdraw a sense of worth toward the one who hurt us. The conclusion is that he or she is worthless. In the second scenario, over time, we can drift into the dangerous conclusion, “I, too, am worthless.” After all, others have withdrawn love from me and have concluded that I lack worth, therefore I do lack worth. Here is where our own self-esteem is lowered because another or others are being unkind to us. In the third scenario, and even later down the road, we can drift into the unhealthy conclusion that there is no love in the world and so no one really has any worth, thus everyone is worthless. It is here that we might settle into a pervasive pessimism, without even realizing it is happening.

This three-layer development of negativism toward the other, dislike of self, and pessimism in general can be overcome by being vigilant in forgiving. Forgiving another can reverse negative judgements about the one who hurt us, can be a safe-guard in preserving self-esteem, and can prevent a drift into negativism. Perseverance in forgiveness, then, is necessary.

R.E.

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Mother’s Day, a Tradition of Reuniting Families

What is the state of your relationship with your mother?

Has she always been there for you throughout your life as a mother should be — supporting, guiding, and loving you? 
Were there times when she was not such a “super-hero mom” and was more like a human being, capable of making mistakes?
Perhaps, you even felt completely abandoned and neglected as a child?

Maybe you have a great relationship with your mother because you’ve already forgiven her or haven’t really ever felt the need to forgive her. That’s great! I suggest you reflect on the ways she has taught you forgiveness and then thank her for this powerful tool and gift.

Many of us may still have some forgiving to do in order to restore or build better relationships with our mothers.

Why not start this weekend, when we celebrate Mother’s Day in the U.S. and Canada?

In fact, Mother’s Day may be one of the most appropriate days to forgive and promote peace. Part of the historical roots of this holiday date back to the 1870’s with Julia Ward Howe’s call to Mothers for peace during the U.S. Civil War. Later, this initiative for reuniting families and neighbors in a divided, post-civil war country was taken up by Anna Reeves Jarvis.

Let this Mother’s Day be an opportunity to carry on a tradition of reuniting families by starting with your own family, and with your own mother. There’s no greater gift you can give than love, and forgiveness is one of the most powerful and generous forms of love. An easy way to start might be to get to know your mother a bit more. Take some time to sit down and talk with her; ask about her life. What was her life like growing up?  What was her relationship with her own mother and father like?
What trials and obstacles has she had to overcome? Then ask yourself some questions from what you have learned.  What did your mother learn (or not learn) about mothering from her own parents?  How did that upbringing translate into her style of parenting with you?  What past hurts might she still be carrying? You might be surprised at your own change of view towards your mother as you take into account the entirety of who she is and what she has gone through. Her faults and past hurts don’t excuse or take away any of the hurts given to you, but they do give a fuller perspective of who she is and why. And through forgiveness, you can come to see her first and foremost as your mother.
Amber Flesch
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