A Reflection on “Do No Harm”

In the process of forgiveness that we have outlined in two different books (Forgiveness Is a Choice and The Forgiving Life) there is one part of the process in which we ask the forgiver to “Do no harm” to the one who has been unjust. This idea of “Do no harm” is actually transitional to the even more difficult challenge to love the one who has hurt you. Yet, “Do no harm,” even though an earlier and supposedly easier part of the process, is anything but easy.

To “Do no harm” means three things: 1) Do not do obvious harm to the one who hurt you (being rude, for example); 2) Do not do subtle harm (a sneer, ignoring at a gathering, being neutral to this fellow human being); and 3) Do not do harm to others. In other words, when you are angry with Person X, it is easier than you think to displace that anger onto Persons Y and Z. If others have to ask, “What is wrong with her (him) today?” perhaps that is a cue that you are displacing anger from one incident into your current interactions.

It is at these times that it is good to take stock of your anger and to ask, “Whom do I need to forgive today? Am I ‘doing no harm’ as I practice forgiveness? Am I being vigilant not to harm innocent others because of what I am suffering?”

My challenge to you today: Do no harm to anyone throughout this entire day…..and repeat tomorrow…..and the day after that.


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  1. Samantha says:

    To do no harm is a big step in the right direction. From there, each person may quiet, listen, and make reconciliation possible.

  2. Brian says:

    It seems so easy but is so hard when there is deep resentment. Yet, do no harm is necessary for any society to be civil and even loving.

  3. josh says:

    “Do no harm” can start with me right now, today. This is an important idea because it can give the one who wants to forgive an active, concrete way to begin now.


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