Correcting Two Misconceptions
A recent article (which will go unnamed here) stated that our Process Model of how people forgive begins with the forgiver seeking “revenge.” This is not correct. In our model, we think it is important that the forgiver have a period of anger, mourning, even some confusion of feelings for a while. Why? Becoming angry or exasperated by others’ injustices seems to be part of the human condition. People do get angry when mistreated. This is not a bad thing nor should it be discouraged, presuming, of course, that the anger is expressed in a temperate way, without vitriol or violence.
Revenge, on the other hand, is the intemperate action of wanting to get back at another, perhaps even to hurt the other, if the revenge-seeker was hurt. Revenge is a path to destruction, of the self and of relationships. We do not advocate the extremism of revenge.
The second misconception of our thinking is that the authors of the (unnamed) article stated that ours is a Cognitive-Behavioral model. It is not. The Cognitive-Behavioral model is based on the assumption that our thoughts are central and can change one’s entire psychology of thinking, feeling, and behavior. We do see that thoughts about an unjust other person are important. For example, seeing the inherent worth of all, including the one who acted unfairly, is part of the forgiveness process. Yet, it is just that—a part of the process. Other parts of the process include the fostering, slowly over time, of compassion toward the one who offended, not because of what happened, but in spite of that. Further, the forgiver bears the pain of what happened, which is not a thought as much as it is a decision to do no harm to the one who may have done harm. Love is the core of forgiveness and love is not strictly a cognitive phenomenon.
So, be careful in what you read when Person A is talking about Person B’s work. It may not represent Person B’s views.