In the Work Phase of forgiveness, I understand that I am to see the one who hurt me in what you call a “larger perspective.” I am to see how he/she was wounded as a child and as an adult. I am then to see how these wounds affected me. My question to you is how can I avoid continual pessimistic thinking if I am always seeing people as wounded and as hurting me?

When people forgive, they tend to take what we call the personal, the global, and the cosmic perspectives on the one who was unjust. For the personal perspective, you are correct that we encourage the forgiver to see the wounds in the offending person. If all we did was focus on his or her emotional wounds and on our own emotional wounds, you have a fascinating point that we as forgivers may begin to see the world as one big wounded mess.

Yet, there is more to each of our forgiveness stories as we go farther into the process. As we take the global perspective, we begin to see the personhood of the other. The offending person is special, unique, and irreplaceable in this world, as you are. This is not a negative perspective, but a positive one. Then when we take the cosmic perspective, we see that all humans are connected in some way, and the particular way will depend on your own world view, your own philosophy and theology of who people are. These perspectives on personhood are described in the book, The Forgiving Life.

I hope you can see that when we do the work of forgiveness and see the offending person in a larger perspective, it is not all negative. Forgiveness does require that we stand in the truth that someone was unjust to us and that he or she may be a wounded person. Forgiveness does require, further, that we stand in the truth that this individual is a person and all persons have inherent worth, a positive thought.

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Categories: Ask Dr. Forgiveness