Archive for June, 2013
I am stuck. I just can’t seem to progress in forgiving my father from years ago. I have examined my anger and it is considerable. When I feel this anger it is hard to go forward because of it. What do you suggest?
First, you should realize that your acknowledging the anger is a big step. Sometimes people have difficulty seeing this because they are afraid of the anger. We are not supposed to be angry or we are not supposed to be angry with certain people. Be encouraged that you have broken through the psychological defense of denial.
Many people say that the next step after acknowledging the anger is the hardest. That step is the decision to forgive. It is like starting a new exercise program, for example. The thought of going to the gym, taking out the membership, and getting started can be confusing and challenging. You are not alone in feeling some apprehension with this new step of deciding to forgive. Exercise the virtue of courage as you move forward and you will no longer be stuck as you decide to engage in the process of forgiving your father.
I’ve come with a question about bearing pain – I get the goodness in not passing it back to the injurer or onto others – but don’t quite understand what I actually do with it when I’m bearing pain? Is it about my perception of the pain changing from being ‘negative pain’ to ‘positive pain’ and is that a healthy path to go down?
When we use the term “bearing the pain” we do not think that it has to include a re-interpretation of the pain in its initial stages. The key is this: a) realize that you are in pain; b) realize how much pain you are in; c) be willing to stand with that pain no matter what. In other words, you are accepting what is happening to you so that you do not deliberately or unwittingly give that pain to others.
Later in the forgiveness process you will begin to see new meaning for your life as you bear the pain. ??You see that you are growing stronger. You see that you can overcome tremendous pain. ??You see that you can be a conduit of good for others. ??These new meanings take time to emerge. ??A first step is to accept the pain as it is and through the process of forgiveness this pain starts to diminish and then leave.
How does one go about forgiving those who perpetrate evil? I can see forgiving those who are insensitive or who have made a mistake, but what about those who plot mayhem and carry it out? It seems like forgiveness asks too much of us at that point.
You raise an issue that has long been debated regarding forgiveness. Some say that it is improper to forgive those who perpetrate evil. Yet, what do we make of those who have, such as Eva Mozes Kor who forgave the “doctor” who experimented on her twin sister and her at Auschwitz? What do we make of Nelson Mandela who forgave his jailer of 20 years? What about all of the heroes in our News section of this website who forgive those who perpetrate evil?
Our point is this: Some do forgive those who perpetrate evil and we should respect their right to do so. Some are not ready to forgive and we should not condemn them. After all, they likely are in great pain.
For those who wish to forgive others for horrific injustices, we recommend starting now, before the horrific event. Build up your forgiveness muscles with smaller injustices so that you are ready when the big ones come. It is like being asked to run a marathon. It is far more manageable if you have trained for it than if you have to get up off the couch and now run one for the first time.
One of the paradoxes of forgiveness is that as we give mercy to those who showed no mercy to us, we are doing moral good. Another paradox is this: As we bear the pain of the injustice, that pain does not crush us but instead strengthens us and helps us to heal emotionally.
When we bear the pain of what happened to us, we are not absorbing depression or anger or anxiety. Instead we realize that we have been treated unfairly—-it did happen. We do not run from that and we do not try to hurriedly cast off the emotional pain that is now ours. We quietly live with that pain so that we do not toss it back to the one who hurt us (because we are having mercy on that person). We live with that pain so that we do not displace the anger onto others who were not even part of the injustice (our children or co-workers, for example).
When we bear the pain we begin to see that we are strong, stronger actually than the offense and original pain. We can stand with the pain and in so doing become conduits of good for others.
Today, let us acknowledge our pain and practice a paradox: Let us quietly bear that pain and then watch it lift.
Chicago Sun-Times – For Cook County Assistant Public Defender Jeanne Bishop, whose sister and brother-in-law–Nancy and Richard Langert –were slain by high school student David Biro in April 1990, forgiveness was “right away.”
But telling him personally was something else.
“I told myself I forgave him and then wiped him off my hands like dirt,” Bishop said. “I thought forgiving David for what he’d done was enough, but I never thought about communicating with him. I just wanted to separate myself from him. . . leave him in the dust.”
Several months ago, at the urging of a friend, Bishop decided to begin a reconciliation process with Biro and personally present her forgiveness.
“I wrote him a letter and he responded immediately,” she said, a 15-page handwritten letter claiming responsibility for the murders–something he had denied during his trial. He apologized to me and my family.”
Last February, they met “face to face,” she said.
“I touched the hand of the man who held the gun that killed my sister and he told me he wished he could undo it all. He was remorseful. It was profoundly moving to see this person I had mythologized. It was good to shake his hand and look him in the eye.
“Someone once told me not forgiving was like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. I needed to do this for God and Nancy and me.” As for the future, Bishop says, “I’m just beginning this journey of reconciliation with David.”
Read the full story: “Forgiveness for a Killer.”