Archive for December, 2015
We All Have Inherent Worth, but Not All Want to See This
Let us imagine a scenario that is not as uncommon as some might think. Let us suppose that you have cultivated in your mind that all people have inherent (built-in) worth. You see all people as special, unique, and irreplaceable. For some of you, your view is that all are made in the image and likeness of God.
Now let us further suppose that a person, let us say your boss, sees none of this. He sees you as inferior to him and lets you know that. You want to leave the job, but do not have the opportunity to do so yet.
A common error these days is to think that your thoughts carry a lot power in that, if you keep thinking that all have inherent worth and if you keep treating the boss with respect, then he eventually will come around to your way of thinking. He, too, will say and believe that all people have inherent worth, including you.
Yes, this could happen. Your patient forgiving might—might—turn the boss around so that he finally sees his errors of thought and behavior. Yet, this may not happen. He may stay entrenched in his thoughts and behaviors toward you so that, no matter what you do, he sees you and treats you as his inferior.
Do you then abandon your own view of inherent worth of all? Is it a dangerous thought (that all have inherent worth, including the boss) that keeps you oppressed by that boss? Absolutely not. It is not your thoughts that keep you oppressed. It is his thoughts, his actions that are the problem.
So, then, even if you cling to the notion that all have inherent worth, is not this thought itself worthless because, well, it is getting you nowhere? The boss is not changing.
Within you, it is not your continued thoughts of inherent worth that need changing, but instead you need to unite this thought with the quest for fairness, for justice, for what is right. You sometimes have to fight for your rights. If you do so with the knowledge that the boss—yes, even the boss—has inherent worth, then perhaps your quest for justice will be done with perseverance, respect, and a positive resolution.
And even if there is not a positive resolution with the boss, you can make plans to leave and do so as soon as possible. And as you leave with the thought that all have inherent worth, you can leave knowing that you, too, possess such worth. With a forgiving spirit, you will be preserving your health, as well as your self-respect.
Long live the idea that all people have inherent worth.
I am reading your book, “Forgiveness is a Choice,” and I am wondering… Does forgiveness apply in the case of a husband who is constantly mean and untrustworthy? The examples in the book seem to all be regarding a single past hurt, or an offense that occurred in the past. What about offenses that are ongoing but unrepented of and unresolved? I am Catholic, so I very much agree with forgiveness and starting over, etc. But I don’t know how to respond to unchanging behaviors that are sinful against me. Continual forgiveness?? Is it possible to not be resentful and bitter?
First, we have to realize that to forgive does not mean that you abandon the quest for justice. Forgive and from this place of diminished anger, let your husband know of your wounded heart and exactly why it is so wounded. He may reject your feelings at first, but this does not mean he will continually reject the truth.
You need to practice continual forgiveness, every day if you have the strong will for this. And pray about when it is the best time to once again ask for justice and even compassion from your husband. Was he deeply hurt as a child? If so, he may be displacing his anger onto you. Perhaps you both need to read Forgiveness Is a Choice…..together.
How long does it take before I can expect some emotional relief in the forgiveness process?
This will depend on how recently you were hurt, how deeply you were hurt, who hurt you, and your experience with the forgiveness process. Our research shows that if you can work on forgiving for about 12 weeks for serious offenses against you, then relief from excessive anger and anxiety can begin to occur. As a perspective on time, Dr. Suzanne Freedman and I did a study of incest survivors and it took about 14 months for the women to experience emotional relief. Although this may seem like a long time, please keep in mind that some of the women were struggling with anxiety and depression for years before they started to forgive.
Whenever I try to reconcile with my partner, I am reminded of the mean things that he did. It kind of sets back the reconciliation process. What do you recommend?
This is not uncommon. When the old feelings emerge as you try to reconcile, I recommend that you once again start the forgiveness process with this person and with a focus on the particular hurtful event. The more you go back to forgiving, the deeper the forgiveness tends to develop in you.
Does reconciliation require trust?
Reconciliation does require trust. If the other person has remorse (an inner sorrow for what he or she did), shows repentance (uses language to express that inner sorrow), and tries for recompense as best as he or she can under the circumstances, then trust can begin to build in you.