Archive for June, 2019

In your book, Forgiveness Is a Choice, you say that we should approach the process of forgiving with a sense of “willingness” rather than “willfulness.” I thought that forgiving is an active process and “willfulness” seems to capture that sense of being active more than “willingness” does. Would you please clarify for me?

When I use the term “willfulness” I mean this: We have to be careful not to force the process of forgiving. We, for example, cannot demand that we now feel compassion toward someone who treated us in a cruel way. We have to be open (willingness) to this gradual change of heart toward those who have hurt us. I do not mean to imply either that forgiving is passive or outside of our free will. Instead, I am suggesting that as we actively engage our free will, the process of forgiving still takes time. We are not in absolute control of the timing or the difficulty involved in forgiving another person.

For additional information, see Forgiveness is a Choice.

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You say that we can forgive someone who no longer is living. You also say that when we forgive, we should try to give a gift to the one who offended. How do we go about giving a gift to someone who has died?

You can give such a gift by: a) preserving the person’s good name in the family; b) refraining from using condemning words about that person when with others; c) donate some money to charity in that person’s name; and d) if you are a person of faith, you can pray for the person.

For additional information, see Choose Love, Not Hate.

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Is there anything that is unforgivable?

I think you are asking if there are certain persons who are unforgivable. We do not forgive situations, but instead we forgive people. Some people are so hurt by grave injustices by others that they cannot, at least for now, even consider forgiving the people who acted unjustly. This is not necessarily the offended people’s last word on the matter because, months or years later, some of them might change their minds. In my experience, I have never seen particular situations that are so grave that no one has forgiven. I have seen some people from the Holocaust of World War II forgive the Nazis. I have seen people forgive the murderers of their children. So, it does not seem to be the case that there are incidents so horrible that no one forgives.

For additional information, see What is Forgiveness?

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I am considering going to a therapist so that I can work on forgiving someone. How can I be sure that it is time to switch psychotherapeutic approaches and focus now on forgiveness?

I think you have to look within and ask this: Have the psychotherapeutic approaches in which you have engaged worked for you? One way to discern this is to ask yourself: On a 1-to-10 scale, how angry am I at a particular person who has been very unjust to me? Let a “1” stand for no anger at all and a “10” stand for so much anger that you can hardly take it. If your answer is in the 8, 9, or 10 range, and if your previous and current psychotherapies have not reduced that resentment, then it may be time to try Forgiveness Therapy.

For additional information, see The Four Phases of Forgiveness.

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I want to start working on the theme of forgiving toward one of my parents. I have a therapist with whom I have been working for many years. She says that she has not studied Forgiveness Therapy, but is open to exploring forgiveness with me. What do you suggest under this circumstance?

I recommend that you, personally, first examine one of my self-help books (Forgiveness Is a Choice, The Forgiving Life, or 8 Keys to Forgiveness). See which you prefer. Then bring a copy of the chosen book to your therapist as you also retain a copy. Both of you can work systematically through the book that you choose. Given the therapist’s years of experience in the mental health profession, she should have no problem assisting you on your forgiveness journey.

For additional information, see Learning to Forgive Others.

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