Archive for May, 2014
I just do not have the confidence to forgive one of my parents from issues of long ago. I keep telling myself that I will not be able to get it done. What can you suggest to me that might boost my confidence?
First, I suggest that you look back on your life to concrete examples of your forgiving others. Have you had at least one successful attempt in your past? If so, you have shown yourself that you can forgive.
Even if you have never forgiven someone, you can start now with someone who is easier to forgive than your father. Try to recall someone who has hurt you in the past, but who has not hurt you severely. Start the forgiveness process with him or her and keep at it until you have forgiven. Once you succeed with this person, then try another, again who has not hurt you gravely.
Once you have successfully practiced forgiveness on these two people, keep in mind the path that you walked and now apply it to your father. The practice may give you the confidence you need.
When you find meaning in your life and in the suffering that you endured you are not doing any of the following:
You are not denying anger, grief, or disappointment because of what happened to you. It did happen and your negative response is what we all go through. To find meaning is not to put the pillow over your head and hope the pain goes away.
When you find meaning you are not playing games with yourself by say, “Oh well, I can just make the best of what happened to me.” Yes, you can make the best of what happened, but if this is your meaning in what you have suffered, you are not going after that woundedness inside of you. The “oh, well” approach is so passive. We need a more active approach to the pain.
When you find meaning you do not sugar-coat the injustice and distort reality by saying, “All things happen for good reasons and so I will try to see the good in what was done to me.” Let us be honest: Maybe there was not any good in the injustice itself. What you learn from it will have goodness, but the event itself? Maybe you will find no good in that injustice against you and that is all right.
I understand that forgiving is not pardoning, but is there an aspect of pardoning in forgiveness? When the language of forgiveness is used, it’s often taken by many that the forgiver no longer seeks restitution or recompense. In this case, it’s not an inner release but a decision not to seek revenge or recompense of the damage done. Then, although it’s not a matter of legal pardoning, can it be a matter of canceling the offender’s responsibility to repay? Is there any way to distinguish forgiveness as a moral virtue practiced toward persons versus forgiveness as a cancellation of the offender’s responsibilities to repay (e.g. physical materials or physical harms)? Is there a difference between when you say you forgive the offender or his/her offenses? Thank you.
These are very interesting distinctions worthy of further thought and discussion. For now, let me say this: When a person forgives another he or she does not necessarily cancel the need for recompense. Recompense is an issue of justice and so it seems to me to be perfectly reasonable to forgive and then ask for recompense. For example, suppose someone drove your car without permission and dented the fender. Your forgiving the person would not cancel the recompense of his/her now paying the body shop bill. Yes, there can be an aspect of pardoning if the forgiver chooses not to seek the recompense (such as not asking the person to pay the bill), but this is not part of the essence of what forgiveness is.
With regard to the final issue of forgiving offenders or offenses, forgiveness is always person-centered. Thus, we forgive persons and not offenses. We forgive persons because of offenses, but we do not forgive the offenses themselves.
702 ABC Sydney, Australia – Sarah Frazer was like any 22 year old woman. Dreams, aspirations and excitement. On a sunny February day, while on her way to Wagga Wagga to start college, her car broke down on the Hume Highway in the Southern Highlands. She called roadside assistance and a tow truck arrived some time later. Driver Geoff Clark began loading the car.
Some 10 minutes later, both would be dead. Hit by a truck.
Months later, Sarah’s father Peter Frazer travels the countryside speaking about the importance of road safety and treating everyone on the road like they’re family. “You never hear about what happens after an accident. What I’m doing is about standing beside the people and acknowledging their loss.”
Frazer also noted the healing process of forgiveness.
“When Kaine’s case was adjourned, my daughter Rebecca comforted his girlfriend,” Frazer said of Kaine Barnett who was driving the truck. “I saw Kaine banging his head, weeping. I hugged him, and said we forgave him.”
Frazer and his family intend to visit Barnett while he serves his 3 year sentence for manslaughter.
This week (May 4-10) is Road Safety Week and the SARAH (Safer Australian Roads and Highways) Group is asking motorists to tie a yellow ribbon to their car in memory of the 1,200 killed and 30,000 injured on Australian roads last year.
Read the full report: “Father says forgiveness was key to healing after accident.”
I recently was talking with someone who said that her therapist is helping her to accept what happened to her in childhood. When we have been traumatized, we should not expect ourselves to accept the situation. No one, for example, would expect an abuse victim to accept what happened.
Forgiveness is not about accepting situations. Why? Because forgiveness as a moral virtue is centered on persons and not primarily on situations. All moral virtues, whether it is love, justice, kindness, patience, or any other, is a form of goodness for other people’s good. We are not kind to tornadoes, for example.
When we forgive, we reach out to persons, those who did wrong. We work at accepting the humanity in that person, despite what he/she did. We do not accept what he/she did.
When therapists ask traumatized persons to accept unjust situations, they may be asking the impossible, which could lead to frustration and even guilt in the client. After all, if I am supposed to accept that I was brutalized, and then cannot accomplish that, I might feel inadequate. Clients need to know that it is not their job to accept situations, but instead to work on accepting the inherent worth of all persons, even those who are unjust. Even this thought takes time and effort, but is achievable with persistence and a good will.