Archive for April, 2013

Why do you advocate all the time for forgiveness when the research on assertiveness shows that it is effective in stopping another’s inappropriate behavior? The passivity of forgiveness just does not compare to this.

Why should we take sides on this? For those who reject forgiveness, there are other approaches. For those who view assertiveness approaches as too harsh, there is forgiveness.

Regarding research, we respectfully disagree. You can find the research based on forgiveness therapy with adults at: Peer Reviewed Experimental Studies. You can find the research based on forgiveness education with children and adolescents at: Journal Articles on Forgiveness Education. As you will see, the research shows that those who forgive experience considerable emotional healing.

Finally, forgiveness is not a passive activity. It is an active struggle to love through pain, hardly an inactive approach.

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The Untried Solution to Preventing War: The Case of North Korea

So, what do you think? Is Kim Jong Un, the current leader of North Korea, acting rationally? He has declared war on South Korea and is saber rattling toward the United States. My take on all of this is that the guy desperately needs forgiveness therapy. Someone kicked him around in his past and he does not have the insight to recognize this. Did you know that he was raised to be a warrior? That, in combination with a furious heart, is a recipe for disaster.

His actions seem to be classic displacement and not rationally connected to missile launches in the slightest. Let’s send him a copy of the books, Forgiveness Is a Choice and The Forgiving Life……..It amazes me how too many world leaders lack insight into themselves. They impose their own personal wounds onto the world. The tragedy is that there is a solution: reduce the fury within caused by others in the past. So simple, so far from the world’s radar. (That’s why we need radar).

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Should Forgiveness Be Unconditionally Offered or Should We Wait for an Apology?

Over at the Maverick Philosopher blog there is a post on March 13 which states two points worthy of further discussion:

  1. “It is morally objectionable to forgive those who will not admit wrongdoing, show no remorse, make no amends, do not pay restitution, etc.”
  2. “Only conditional forgiveness is genuine forgiveness.”

Are these statements true?

Let us look at point 1 and first ask, “What is this thing we call forgiveness? Is it a skill of some kind or a coping strategy or perhaps a moral virtue?” Given Yves Simon’s (The Definition of Moral Virtue, 1986) definition, it seems that forgiveness can be classified as a moral virtue because it possesses all of the qualities of such a thing. The moral virtues possess the following characteristics as does forgiveness: Forgiveness is concerned with the good of human welfare; the one who forgives has motivation to effect the moral good (it does not just happen by chance or by mistake); at least to a limited degree, the one who forgives knows that the expression of forgiveness is good even if he or she does not articulate a precise moral principle underlying the forgiving act; forgiveness as moral virtue is practiced by the person (although forgiveness can be a one-time act, it usually is repeated when other injustices occur); the forgiver need not be perfect in the expression of forgiveness toward the other; different people demonstrate different degrees of the virtue; and the one who is practicing the moral virtue tries to do so as consistently as he or she can.

If, then, forgiveness in its essence is a moral virtue, we must ask what kind of virtue it is. For example, is it more concerned with justice (what is right and wrong) or is it more concerned with mercy (going beyond what is fair, going the extra mile, suffering for others)? It seems that forgiveness is not an act of justice because those who forgive do not give proportionately or equally relative to what a wrongdoer has given. One who insults is forgiven when the offended one is patient and kind in the face of the insult. Forgiveness is an act of mercy. Thus, regarding point 1 above, is it truly offensive if the wronged offers that mercy prior to an apology? We think not because it is always a good thing to offer patience and kindness even prior to another’s remorse or repentance. If we frame forgiveness instead as a moral virtue centered in justice and if the other is not just by apologizing, then, yes, it is morally offensive to forgive in this context. Yet, forgiveness is not an act of justice and so point 1 appears to be false.

As a further challenge to point 1, what other moral virtue requires a prior response from another before one can exercise that virtue? We know of no other. The one who wishes to exercise the virtue would be trapped if this were the case. He or she could not be a moral agent until someone else decided to do something.

We can now see that the statement in point 2, “Only conditional forgiveness is genuine forgiveness” cannot be true. In fact, if we made mercy contingent on others’ prior responses of some kind (not prior needs, but prior responses directly to the one offering mercy), then mercy as we know it would be distorted beyond recognition. It would no longer possess the qualities we have come to recognize in the merciful.

To answer our question: Waiting for an apology is not unwarranted, but it is not necessary if one is to be a genuine forgiver and if we are to understand properly the moral virtue of forgiveness. Forgiveness as an unconditional response of mercy seems to more readily preserve what moral virtues are and what forgiveness is in particular.

For more on unconditional forgiveness, see our January 7 blog, “Must the Other Apologize Prior to My Forgiving?”


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Nietzsche called forgiveness “sublimated revenge.” In other words, forgiveness is an illusion. I wonder if it only exists when we are hurt just a little.

Your statement attributed to Nietzsche assumes that he was correct. Was he? Let us examine the evidence.

Sublimation is a psychological defense of responding with the opposite of how one really feels. For example, a person whistles as he walks by a cemetery. The whistling, which represents a relaxed, happy attitude, is masking its opposite—-fear of cemeteries.

In the case of forgiveness, according to Nietzsche, the person takes on a loving, humble attitude to mask extreme anger. If he is correct, then those who learn to forgive through a deliberate intervention to do so should become even angrier and more revengeful. Why? Because forgiveness supposedly is always “sublimated revenge,” the attitude of great anger. Yet, our research shows that as people learn to forgive, they become less angry, less depressed, and more hopeful toward their future.

The science suggests that Nietzsche had it wrong when it comes to forgiveness.

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