Archive for November, 2016

I often set my expectation on low for most people so that I am not hurt by them. Is this happening because I are realistic or am I showing discouragement and depression by doing this?

Without our having met to discuss this in-depth, it is difficult to give a good answer.  Let me try by asking you some questions:

1)  Why are your expectations low?  Do you see people as generally hurtful and out only for themselves?

2) If your answer is “yes” to the first question, have you been deeply hurt by others and now have mistrust?

3)  Are you feeling discouraged or depressed, possibly because of what might have happened to you in the past?

Your answers to these questions might give you some insights for answering your question.  Sometimes, when people are deeply hurt by others, they develop what I call a negative world view (no one can be trusted; everyone is out for themselves).  Forgiving those who have been hurtful can alter that world view toward a more positive one, that all people have inherent worth.

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What are the blocks in a person’s heart that prevent the acceptance of pain?

Sometimes people are afraid to bear pain because they think the pain will crush them.  I find that when people deliberately make the decision to bear pain, the paradox is that they become stronger.  Sometimes people are afraid to face their pain because they are afraid of the anger that wells up inside of them.  Yet, starting to forgive can be a way of reducing the anger so that one need not fear either facing the pain or acknowledging the depth of one’s anger.  Forgiveness is a way out of that anger so that it does not take control.

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Is it ok for me to get angry with God when I am disappointed with my life? Is it ok to forgive God? I am a Christian.

Although the late Lewis Smedes, in his book, Forgive and Forget, said that it is all right to forgive God because God is mightier than our anger, I disagree with my highly respected colleague on this point.  As a Christian, you see God as all holy and pure, beyond injustice.  If you start to forgive God, then you are saying that there is imperfection there, or worse, even injustice.  An all-holy God cannot be unjust and so to forgive is to diminish the attributes of God.

Anger can be natural, but at what are you angry?  Are you angry at circumstances in this imperfect world?  Are you angry at how people in the world have treated you?  I urge you to try to work on acceptance of what is  happening to you and to forgive persons who are unjust.  You could go to God and ask for help in bearing your pain as you walk through this time of challenge.  Please keep in mind that as you walk this path of pain now, you could be strengthened in the near future.

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Do you think that pride can get in the way of forgiving? If so, what might be some examples of pride stopping forgiveness?

Pride is that false sense of being better, in a general and superior way, than others.  Pride in the case of forgiving may take at least two forms.  In the first, a person exercising pride might conclude that the other must, without exception, apologize before the process of forgiving begins.  In other words, the pride dictates that the other must pay a price first.

Of course, we are not talking here about certain religions that ask the adherents of that faith first to receive an apology prior to forgiving.  A religious ritual and pride are not the same.

A second example of pride getting in the way of forgiving is that sense that “I am invulnerable; no one can deeply hurt me.”  Such an attitude might prevent a person from humbly acknowledging that he or she truly has been hurt by another.  When hurt is not acknowledged, then the person might conclude that there is nothing to forgive.

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Can I forgive without having empathy toward the one who hurt me? In other words, is sympathy enough?

Let us first define our terms.  Empathy involves stepping inside the other’s shoes and understanding the world from his or her viewpoint.  To sympathize with another is to see his or her distress and to react to that (without necessarily feeling that person’s feelings, as occurs with empathy).  Yes, I do think that people can forgive by looking toward the other and seeing his or her woundedness without then going the extra step of entering into that person’s world through empathy.  Sometimes, the thought of empathizing with a hurtful other is too frightening for the forgiver to try to accomplish.  At such times, insight about how others have treated the person and his or her difficulty in dealing with this treatment can be sufficient to move forgiveness along.

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