Archive for May, 2013
Isn’t self forgiveness just a trick we play on ourselves to reduce guilt so we can keep doing silly things? Forgiveness is for others, isn’t it?
As there is false forgiveness when we are forgiving other people, there is false forgiveness when we forgive the self. False forgiveness toward others is insincere and meant to manipulate rather than to uplift in goodness. For example, a false form of forgiveness might be to continually remind someone that he or she has been forgiven as a way to dominate. False self-forgiveness also is a form of manipulation in which we let ourselves off the hook so that we can continue with the unfair behavior.
Genuine self-forgiveness is the expression of the moral virtue of mercy toward the self. We express moral virtues all the time toward the self: we are fair to ourselves (justice), we care for our physical needs (love), and we sometimes have to wait under certain circumstances (patience).
We have to be careful when we self-forgive also to bring justice into the situation. If we have mercy on ourselves because of an injustice that we ourselves created, then we must correct the injustice. This might include going to others and apologizing and making the situation right.
Based on the above analysis, genuine self-forgiveness is hard and sincere work, not a trick we play on ourselves.
I have seen some of your writings in which you talk about the Family as Forgiving Community. Would you please tell me more about what this means with some examples, please?
The Family as Forgiving Community was addressed in detail in an April 14, 2012 post in this column.
If you have further questions after reading that post, please let us know.
Forgiveness Eases the Heartbreak
KSL.com, Salt Lake City, UT – In February 2010, the entire Toone family–Nathan, Brenda and their four children–became ill from what they initially thought was food poisoning. When 4-year-old Rebecca took a turn for the worst, she was rushed to the hospital where she later died. Three days later, 15-month-old Rachel passed away, too.
Investigators later blamed the girls’ deaths on fumes from rat poison that a technician placed too close to the Toone’s home. In the midst of their grief, the Toone family did something no one expected. They immediately expressed forgiveness. And according to Nathan, expressing forgiveness so soon after the deaths felt like the right thing to do.
“It didn’t feel at the time like a hard thing to do,” he said. “You don’t know what you’re capable of until you’re asked to be put through it. We knew that the technician who was responsible for the deaths of our girls didn’t do it intentionally. Bad things happen. I think that in general you need to look for the best in people.”
Brenda agreed. “I felt that desire to forgive just hours after Rebecca passed away,” she said. “I think part of it has to do with wanting be the kind of person that my daughters can still be proud of.”
Read the full story: Family of girls killed by pesticide talk about forgiveness, lessons learned.“
Your Forgiveness Landscape
First, what is a “forgiveness landscape?” This is an expression first used in my book, The Forgiving Life, to refer to all of the people who ever have been seriously unjust to you. When people first construct their forgiveness landscape, they often are surprised at: a) how many people are on the list and b) the depth of the anger left over, even from decades ago.
When we are treated deeply unfairly by others, the anger is slow to leave. If we push that anger aside, simply thinking we have “moved on” or “forgotten all about it,” sometimes this is not the case. The anger can be in hiding, deep within the heart, and the only way to get rid of it is surgery of the heart—forgiveness.
Would you like to examine your own forgiveness landscape to see how many people in your life are still in need of your forgiveness? You might want to write down your answers to the following questions.
First set of questions: Think back to your childhood. Is there anyone who was very unfair to you and if so, what is your anger level now on a 1-to-5 scale, with 1 signifying no anger left over and a 5 signifying lots of anger when you reflect on this person and the actions toward you.
More specifically from your childhood, are there any incidents from your father that still make you angry? from your mother? a sibling?
What about from peers or teachers, is your anger still high when you recall the incidents?
Second set of questions: Let us now focus on your adolescence. Follow the pattern from the first set of questions. Then let us add any coaches, employers or fellow employees, and romantic partners to the list. Are there people who still make you angry in the 4 or 5 range of our scale?
Third set of questions: Who in your adult life has made you significantly angry, in the 4 to 5 range of anger? We can add partner, any children, relatives, friends, and neighbors to the list.
Now please rank order all of the people from those who least offended you to those who most offended you. Now look at that list to see your forgiveness landscape. There is your work, right there in the list. I recommend starting with people lower on the list. Forgive them first because they in all likelihood are the easiest to forgive because the anger is less. As you work up the list, you will gain in your expertise to forgive, which is good preparation for forgiving those on the top of the list—those who are the most challenging for you.
You can find more on this way of forgiving in the book, The Forgiving Life, which walks you systematically through this exercise. Enjoy the challenge. Enjoy the journey of forgiveness, which can set you free in so many ways.
Shooter, Victim Work Together to Teach Prisoners About Forgiveness
RTV6-ABC, Indianapolis, IN – Twenty years ago, Misty Wallace was using a payphone when Keith Blackburn walked up and shot her in the face, point-blank. Wallace was a high school senior with a full-ride college scholarship. Blackburn was a drop-out looking to steal a car, and he didn’t want any witnesses.
Blackburn spent nine years in prison while Wallace miraculously recovered and went on with her life, carrying anger and yearning for one answer: Why? Two years after making contact with Blackburn to try to get an answer to that question, Wallace determined that forgiveness was a choice she had to make for her own health.
According to Blackburn, “Twenty years ago I did what she didn’t deserve. Two years ago she gave me what I know I didn’t deserve — I didn’t deserve to be forgiven on this level.”
Wallace and Blackburn now tell their story together as part of the Bridges to Life program, speaking to prisoners about forgiveness and about the lifetime impact of their crimes. They call themselves friends.
“She’s choosing not only to forgive me, but to walk alongside of me and tell this story to others that are struggling with pain and bitterness and anger,” Blackburn said. The two hope to eventually tell their story at every correctional facility in Indiana.
Watch the news report and read the full story: “Shooter, victim work together to teach prisoners about forgiveness, life-long impact of crime”