Archive for May, 2018

I have begun conversations with someone with whom I have been estranged for about a year. She claims that she wants to forgive and reconcile, but I so often see non-verbal cues such as frowns and even rolled-eyes coming at me. What part of the forgiveness process should I engage when this happens?

I would recommend starting at the beginning and seeing your frustration or anger and then move through the entire process again. This may occur more quickly and with deeper results when you begin again. Only after you have worked through the forgiveness process to some degree might you consider gently talking with her about the discrepancy between her words of forgiving and her non-verbal cues that she is not forgiving.

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Have any of your research participants simply dropped out of the forgiveness process because it was taking too long?

Actually, no, we have not experienced that in our over-twenty-five-years of doing forgiveness interventions. Once people are motivated to try forgiveness and we give them help that encourages them, they keep going until they have forgiven, at least forgave to a degree. Progress in forgiving can help people want even more restored emotional health.

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On the Importance of Perseverance when Forgiving

Many people get quite excited about forgiveness at first and just dive into practicing it, only to lose interest after a few months.  They literally just let it fade from their minds and hearts as they go on to the next popular diversion in life.  In other words, they do not have a strong will to keep forgiveness before them as a practice and as a way of seeing the world.

This could happen to you.  A commitment to forgive does not just mean a short-term commitment toward one person who has hurt you in one particular way.  Commitment has a much longer reach than this.  Would you become physically fit if you worked out several times a week for three months and then hung it all up?  Of course not.  It is the same with forgiveness.  You have to fight against the tendency to just let it fade in you.  You will have to fight against all of the distractions of life that call you away from it.


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I am thinking of bringing a friend on my forgiveness journey. Please keep in mind that the friend and I actually are forgiving the same person, our employer. Is it a good idea that my forgiveness partner be forgiving the same person as I am forgiving, or should I seek someone else as the forgiveness partner?

I think it would be better in this circumstance to have a forgiveness partner who has not experienced the same injustice as you from the same person. I say this because your mutually-shared resentment might hold one or both of you back from advancing in forgiving or perhaps in giving each other accurate feedback in how well you are progressing in forgiveness. A person who is not angry with the same offender may be more objective in giving you feedback.

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The Ripple Effect

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed individuals can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

The anthropologist, Margaret Mead said that. She was talking about the ripple effect—one small stone cast into the lake can expand the ripple more widely than the small beginning.

It is this way with anger as well. It can be passed on from generation to generation without seeming to stop. One June night I witnessed the ripple effect of anger in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  It was late June, the beginning of “parade season,” when British and Irish communities stage parades to remember their heritage, including battles between them that took place over 300 years ago. In those battles one side won, the other lost. And anger raged.

On that June night, youth from each group gathered on either side of the street. They had hatred in their eyes as they glared at each other, daring the other to make the first move. In a small way, they were replaying the Battle of the Boyne, fought between King William of Orange and King James II in 1690. Think about that for a moment. A battle was fought in the 17th century and its effects are being seen and felt in the 21st century in the Ardoyne neighborhood of Belfast.

Police cars came, the crowds grew, and in a short while there was rock throwing, hatred, and rioting……among youth who probably have never met each other. They hate each other without a direct cause. The cause is a ripple effect from hundreds of years ago, when one side won and the other lost. That night in June in the 21st century, everyone lost.

It seems too easy for the ripple effect to be seen when anger takes root. It made me think: Can we start a ripple effect of forgiveness in such a community, even if it is a “small group of thoughtful, committed individuals?” This would seem possible, but it further seems to me that it requires special care, a kind of care that anger does not need to stay alive. The small group of thoughtful, committed individuals could start a ripple effect of forgiveness, but they would have to know this: The ripple effect of goodness is much more easily disrupted by anger than the ripple effect of anger is disrupted by goodness.

It is too easy to stay angry. It is not nearly as easy to stay forgiving and good. We need that small group of thoughtful and committed individuals to stay strong and to pass that sense of passionate commitment to the next generation. How is this accomplished?


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