Archive for September, 2018

Is Forgiveness Transcending the Past…..or Is It More than That?

Recently, I have been hearing people say that forgiveness is transcendence.  By this they seem to mean that as people forgive, then the past injustices do not affect them any more.  They have risenabove the pain, the anguish, the sadness, and the anger.  They have moved on.

If this is all that forgiveness is, then forgiveness is not a moral virtue.  A moral virtue, such as justice or patience, is for people.  It reaches out to people.  It aids and supports people by putting the particular virtue into action and that action points toward people. When I exercise justice, for example, I honor the agreement that is part of a contract into which we both have entered.  I am patient by restraining from harsh words when in a long line or when those who are my teammates at work are slowing things down.

Moral virtues are concerned with goodness expressed toward other people.

If forgiveness is part of love—a moral virtue—then it cannot be only about transcending the past because one can transcend that past by being neutral toward those who have been unfair, who were responsible for the hurt.  The forgiver need not enter into a direct relationship with the injuring person if he or she continues to cause harm.

Yet, the forgiver wishes the other well, as Lewis Smedes in his 1984 book, Forgive and Forget has said.  The forgiver is willing to do good toward the other, if the other changes abusive behavior.  Being neutral might be part of the pathway toward forgiving, but it is not its end point.

 The end point of forgiving is to express love, as best one can, toward those who have not loved the forgiver.  Even if a person cannot develop that love for whatever reason, loving the other nonetheless is the endpoint of true forgiveness.
                                                                                                        – Robert Enright

Transcending the past might be a consequence of forgiving, but it is not forgiving itself…..if forgiveness is a moral virtue.


Learn more about the definition of forgiveness at Forgiveness Defined  then read Dr. Enright’s best-selling book Forgiveness is a Choice: A Step-by-Step Process for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope. This self-help book is for people who have been deeply hurt by another and who are caught in a vortex of anger, depression, and resentment. It walks readers through the forgiveness process Dr. Enright developed to reduce anxiety and depression while increasing self-esteem and hopefulness.

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I am more hurt than angry at the person who was unfair to me.  Because I do not have anger, does this mean I do not have to forgive?

One reason why we forgive is because we are starting to be psychologically compromised because of deep anger or resentment.  Another reason why we forgive is for the sake of the other person, to give that person a second chance.  A third reason why we forgive is because forgiveness is a moral virtue which extends respect and even love to the other.  Thus, you should feel free to forgive for points 2 and 3 mentioned here.  Also, hurt that is not addressed can lead to resentment and so you may be preventing the first point from occurring as you forgive.

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I am trying to forgive a family member, but this person stubbornly refuses to admit the wrong.  I am now offended a second time as the person shows no sorrow at all.  What do I do now?

You now have two forgiveness processes in which to engage with regard to this person: the original offense and now the offense of the person’s denying that there was any wrongdoing.  The issue now is this:  Would you prefer to continue forgiving the person for the original offense or would you rather switch to this new offense of the person denying wrongdoing?  That choice is yours.  If this refusal to acknowledge wrongdoing by the other is hampering your ability to forgive, then you might want to take some time now to forgive for this refusal to accept your first overture of forgiving. You then can go back to that original offense after doing this new forgiveness work.

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