Archive for July, 2019

With all this talk about forgiveness, I am not thinking that forgiveness is a choice but an expectation from others. How can I avoid that pressure?

The first step is to realize that others may be creating this expectation for you, as you are obviously aware. A second step is to realize that most people do not necessarily mean to put pressure on you to forgive. As a third step, if people do put pressure on you to forgive, please realize that they have your best interest at heart but may not be going about it in a way that is helpful for you. When pressured, please realize that to forgive can take time and you cannot always respond positively and quickly to those who have hurt you.

For additional information, see Forgiveness is a Choice.

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I am worried that if my anger diminishes upon forgiving, then I will lose my edge to fight for justice. After all, anger can be a motivator to fight fairly for justice.

It seems to me that anger is not the primary motive for seeking justice. Instead, the primary motivator is the conviction that the other(s) acted unfairly. This knowledge can lead to the decision that change must occur. This conviction (the other was unfair) and decision (I need to act) can be the primary motivators for seeking a fair solution. While anger may be part of that, we have to be careful in placing anger too high in this motivation list. Why? It is because anger, if intense and long-lasting, can lead to irrational (unhelpful) thinking (examples: “The other is completely evil.” “I must seek revenge for what happened to me.”). When anger that is extreme is lessened, then we have greater cognitive clarity and even more energy to fight fairly for justice and to persevere in the pursuit of that justice.

For additional information, see The Four Phases of Forgiveness.

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I can be rather rude sometimes and I do not like that at all. How can I find the true origins of my anger?

In my book, The Forgiving Life, I have an exercise called The Forgiveness Landscape. In this exercise, I ask you to take a paper and pencil and begin writing down the hurtful injustices against you: from your earliest childhood memory, to later childhood experiences of injustice, then into adolescence, early adulthood, and up to the present time. I then ask you to rate the hurtfulness of these experiences. Next, you order these unjust experiences from the least hurtful experience (yet, still significant because you have identified it) to the most hurtful experience at the top of the page. That most hurtful experience at the top, if it still is causing you considerable pain, may be the primary source of your current anger. The key is to start at the bottom, where you still may have some hurt, and forgive that particular person. Move up the list, forgiving the people as you go. When you reach the top, you already will have practice in forgiving and so you may be ready to forgive this particular person, even though it is hard to do. This may lessen your anger so that you are not displacing it onto others.

For additional information, see  The Four Phases of Forgiveness.

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I lost contact with a friend whom I want to forgive. Must I communicate directly with her for my forgiveness to be true forgiveness?

No, you do not have to go directly to your friend to say that you have forgiven. Forgiveness starts in the heart, as a change from resentment to empathy and compassion. You even can do a behavioral gesture of goodness in an indirect way toward your friend. As an example, you can donate some money to a charity in her name. This gesture of goodwill is a behavioral part of forgiveness.

For additional information, see What is Forgiveness?

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I am an adult who has forgiven one of my parents, but I cannot forget. I thought that when we forgive, we forget. Is this the case?

I have found that when we forgive deep injustices against us, we do not literally forget what happened. As an analogy, suppose you broke your arm 10 years ago. You likely still can remember that. Yet, when you look back, you do not experience the broken arm in the same way you did when the accident happened. I think it is similar with forgiveness. We recall the incident of deep injustice, but the amount of pain experienced back then is different from the amount of pain experienced now, which usually is lessened with the practice of forgiveness. In other words, we do not literally forget, but instead we remember in new ways.

For additional information, see What is Forgiveness?

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