Archive for October, 2014

A friend told me that self-forgiveness is a way to rationalize bad behavior so that you can keep doing it. Is she correct?

Some people consider self-forgiveness to be inappropriate because one cannot judge one’s own actions in an objective way (we are biased and too self-interested to get it right, in other words).  Yet, even if we cannot see our own actions with complete clarity, we do have a conscience that assists us.  Thus, we can assess our actions and words as right or wrong.

When we self-forgive in an accurate way, we see that we have done wrong to self and others and do what we can to change.  In other words, to self-forgive is not only to love oneself after not feeling so loving (toward the self) but also to make amends for the damage the self-forgiver caused to other people.  Thus, self-forgiveness, when understood and practiced properly, is not a trick one plays on oneself to keep going with the behavior (which conscience tells us is unacceptable).

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Seeing Beyond the Tears

Sometimes when we are caught up in grief and anger, it seems like this is all there will ever be now in our life.
Permanent tears.  Permanent anger.

Yet, please take a look at two different times in your life in which you were steeped in heartache or rage. The tears came…..and they left.

Today it may seem like these will never end…..but they will.

Take a lesson from your own past. The pains were temporary.

They are temporary even now.

Forgiveness helps them to be temporary.


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Mother Forgives Son’s Killer

CNN, Jacksonville, FL – On November 23, 2012, at a gas station in Jacksonville, Jordan Russell Davis, a 17-year-old African American high school student, was shot and killed by Michael David Dunn, a 45-year-old white man. The incident began when Dunn asked Davis and his companions to turn down the loud music that was being played in the vehicle in which Davis was a passenger.

After the jury was unable to return a unanimous verdict on a charge of first-degree murder, the judge declared a mistrial on that count. Dunn was convicted, however, on three counts of attempted second-degree murder. Dunn’s retrial for first-degree murder began last month and wrapped up on October 1. He was found guilty and faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole.

After the verdict, Davis’ mother, Lucia McBath, left many people in awe with her grace and capacity to forgive:

I am praying for him [Dunn] and my church is praying for him. I forgave him a long time ago. I had to. It’s not just about Jordan. And I would not stand and wait for him to apologize. I don’t need his apology. I had forgiven him pretty much in the first 30 days. I just knew that was what I was supposed to do.

I was walking past St. Patrick’s Cathedral with my friend Lisa and I said, “Lisa, I have to go in there.” And I went in and I was just sobbing for two hours. And the Lord helped me forgive [Dunn] right there. In those two hours. I came out and felt like, “Okay, I am done.”

McBath is now the spokesperson for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, an organization that works with legislators, companies, and educational institutions to establish gun reforms.

Read the full story: “Michael Dunn found guilty of 1st-degree murder in loud-music trial” and “Forgiven to Forgive.”

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Barriers to Forgiveness, Part 8: Pleasure-Seeking

Last week, I was on an airplane to New York City.  At one point, I started to flip through the airline magazine and this is what I found: page after page was filled with self-indulgences of every kind imaginable.  There were waterfalls and fancy restaurants and fine chocolates and the newest fashions.  Not once was there a message of self-sacrifice or service to others.  I guess such self-sacrifice is not profitable.

The message of self-indulgence stayed with me.  If we are bombarded with constant messages of pleasure, will we become a society that exalts this to a norm, in which pleasure-seeking becomes an accepted way of life?  If so, we may stop examining the assumption that a pleasure-seeking life is one that is not worth living, if our goal is genuine happiness.  When we stop such an examination and give in to pleasure all the time, we may find life to be rather meaningless.  After all, what does one do when all the chocolates are gone or the trip to the hidden chalet is over and the new fashion is, well, not so fashionable any more?

Forgiveness as self-sacrificial service to others is a message diametrically opposed to the messages in that airline magazine.  OK, so I am fuming at her injustice…..pass the bon-bons.  OK, so I am enraged with his firing me……let’s go on a trip.  Pleasure-as-diversion can hide the pain in need of cleansing.  Pleasure-as-self-help may weaken the will to fight for mercy and forgiveness.  One’s energy to be in service to others may weaken.

Hard work and pleasure-seeking surely can be in balance in a full life.  The magazine did not give such a balanced message.  That made me worry……for forgiveness…..for strong wills to give of ourselves even when it is not pleasurable to do so.  May we never over-indulge in pleasure to the point of losing our way with forgiveness, which, in the long run, may produce much more happiness than one more chocolate with an orange center.


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What is the difference between forgiving a person and trusting that person?

Forgiveness is a moral virtue as is (for example) justice, patience, and kindness. A moral virtue starts within a person as goodness and then flows out to others for their good. In the case of forgiveness, an unjustly treated person has mercy on someone who acted badly toward the forgiver. One can offer that mercy without trusting a person if he or she continues to behave badly. Trust must be earned. Forgiveness can be given unconditionally as compassion, mercy, and even love no matter how the other behaves. At the same time, one who forgives does not toss the quest for justice aside. One can forgive and seek justice.

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