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. queendjh says:

    This is so true. I had to use a scale of 1 to 10 and if my anger went over 5 I had to take inventory to determine if I was angry about what happened today or about somehow in my past. If my anger was over 8 my anger was from home past and needed to be sorted out and addressed so I would do no harm. Thank Dr Enright for “do no harm “

  2. Samantha says:

    Queen DJH speaks with wisdom on this topic. If we let our anger build, then we might victimize not only the one who hurt us but also others who now become innocent victims of our high anger.


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