Archive for July, 2012
I am thinking that forgiveness is basically a fancy way of simply practicing relaxation training when I think about my mom, who has been really unkind to me. So, is that what forgiveness basically is—relaxing when thinking about the one who hurt me so that I am no longer mad?
Although relaxation and forgiveness can reduce angry feelings in a person, the two are substantially different. You can be relaxed and still hate a person. When you forgive, you may be relaxed or you might not be relaxed. Yet, when you forgive, you definitely are not hating those who have been unfair to you. Forgiveness is a moral response of goodness whereas relaxation is morally neutral. So, relaxation and forgiveness cannot be synonymous.
Each day, I examine the news stories on-line, looking for forgiveness themes. Over the past few months I have been surprised by the number of stories in which a defendant, not yet judged or sentenced, in a court of law asks a victim or the victim’s family members to forgive him.
It has me wondering. To what extent is the request for forgiveness coming from the heart or from a calculating head? And, how can one tell the difference? A psychiatrist, Dr. Hunter, in an early journal article (the late 1970’s) on the psychology of forgiveness said that insincere forgiving has a certain smug-like quality to it. Perhaps the request for forgiveness, when insincere, has a similar quality to it.
But, again, how can one discern that in the context of a courtroom with all of its formality? Perhaps one way to tell is to ask those receiving the request. Do they see sincerity or do they see this as a way to try softening judge or jury for a lighter sentence? At the same time, victims or a victim’s family members, when blinded by anger, may not be able to accurately judge a sincere request for forgiveness, especially when feeling particularly unforgiving.
Should judges and juries take sincere requests to be forgiven seriously, so that the sentence is altered because of this?
It is all quite new to me and so I am asking rather than explaining.
I am still very angry with a friend from a recent betrayal. Is it phony to start forgiving now? Should I let my anger subside for a while? It seems to me that I am not being genuine if I start to forgive when so angry.
Writing to our website suggests to me that you are more ready to forgive than your words indicate. As you know, forgiveness is your choice and so you should not feel pressured into doing so.
Please keep in mind that your decision to forgive should not be dictated by your feelings. Your will to forgive can supersede your angry feelings. When we will to forgive, we make a decision to forgive and we begin to think about the one who hurt us in new ways, such as seeing his or her inherent worth.
If you start the forgiveness process and are overwhelmed by your feelings of anger, you might want to calm down for a while. How much time you need can vary by your experience with forgiveness and by how deeply you have been hurt. As a general research finding, the deeper a person forgives, the more that anger diminishes. This is one reason why you do not want to wait indefinitely to forgive until you no longer feel anger. Forgiveness itself can and does reduce this unpleasant emotion.
ABC News – Forgiveness was the message Thursday from a Las Vegas father and boxing coach who was nearly bludgeoned to death in a home invasion hammer attack that left his wife and their daughter dead in their home almost three months ago.
“I forgive this murderer because of my faith in God and in Jesus Christ,” Arturo Martinez said. “Because I have to forgive him doesn’t take my pain away. Because I have to forgive him doesn’t mean that he will not be held accountable to God and the American judicial system. . . including the death penalty, if that is how he is sentenced.”
Martinez’s statement came 88 days after he was knocked unconscious for more than 12 hours following the home invasion in which Martinez’s wife and 10-year-old daughter were sexually assaulted and killed early April 15.
Police later arrested Bryan Devonte Clay Jr., 22, a stranger to the family. He has pleaded not guilty to murder, kidnapping and other charges and awaits trial next June. He could receive the death penalty if convicted.
One of the famous quotations of Benjamin Franklin is this: “The best thing to give to your enemy is forgiveness; to an opponent, tolerance; to a friend, your heart; to your child, a good example; to a father, deference; to your mother, conduct that will make her proud of you; to yourself, respect; to all men, charity.”
I have never heard a challenge to the quotation, but I wonder. Surely, his list of offerings to certain people sounds completely reasonable, but I wonder about the exclusivity of it all. Why not give a good example, for example, to an enemy as you give forgiveness? Why not give forgiveness, for example, to your mother or to yourself when standards are broken.
It seems to me that the “best thing” to give anyone is forgiveness when they have been unjust.
Yes, let us give forgiveness to an enemy….and to all others listed when it is appropriate. Let us give charity to all, as the wise Mr. Franklin says, and forgiveness is one aspect of charity, given when others offend.