Archive for January, 2020

I have a question as a Christian. Paul tells us to not let the sun go down on our anger. Does this mean that I cannot rest for the night until I forgive?

Paul, in that passage from Ephesians, uses the Koine Greek word parorgismos. The prefix “par” intensifies the word and so anger (orge in Koine Greek) in this case means an intensive, likely revengeful kind of anger. Paul also tells us to be angry but to sin not. In other words, people do exasperate us and so we can become angry. We just have to watch how intense, and possibly destructive to others and the self, that anger can get. Do not let the sun go down on hatred. Work on that first and if you have some anger left over, rest well knowing that anger in smaller doses over shorter periods of time shows that you are a person of respect who deserves to be treated well, just as all others should be so treated.

For additional information, see How do I know if my anger is healthy or unhealthy?

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Can one begin the forgiveness process without first having a thought about committing to forgiveness?

Yes, one can have an intuitive sense that forgiving is good. One can try to “step inside the other’s shoes” to see the other’s woundedness. These processes actually are part of the forgiveness process, but not everyone is aware of this. As the forgiver softens the heart toward the other, then the commitment to forgive might emerge or develop strongly enough so that the person consciously commits to the forgiveness process.

For additional information, see  The Four Phases of Forgiveness.

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I want to ask my brother to forgive someone. What do you recommend as my first step in approaching him?

I first would acknowledge his inner hurt from what happened. As he is aware of this inner hurt, you then could ask him if he would like to reduce that hurt and possibly re-establish a relationship that now might be strained. If he has the hurt and is motivated to reduce hurt and re-establish the relationship (at least as far as he can, knowing that the others have to do their part), then it is very important that you discuss exactly what forgiveness is and what it is not. To forgive is to be good to those who have not been good to us. To forgive is not to excuse unjust behavior, or to develop moral amnesia (so it does not reoccur), to necessarily or automatically reconcile, or to abandon a quest for justice. He needs a clear view of what he will be doing if he decides to forgive.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.

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I am having a hard time persevering in forgiving someone. What do you suggest?

When you say that you are having a hard time persevering, do you mean that you have stopped trying to forgive? If so, I suggest that you reflect for a while on what I call your strong will. A strong will is the motivation and behavior intended to keep you on a path, any path, that you deem as worthwhile. Philosophers often talk about the good will (wanting the best for others), a free will (choosing to do good rather than being forced to do so), but rarely talk of the strong will. This strong will, or the desire and effort to continue toward the goal, needs reflection and it’s development within you. As the strong will develops, you likely will stay on the path of forgiving. Also, please note that it is fine to take breaks from the forgiveness process. We do this with work vacations or taking time out from the fitness workouts in the gym. We can do the same with forgiving, but with the intent to return.

For additional information, see: On the Importance of Perseverance when Forgiving.

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Forgiveness is unfair to the forgiver. After all, those who forgive are asked to do the impossible: to feel compassion, to absorb pain that should not be theirs in the first place, to be kind to the unkind. Can’t we just set forgiveness aside?

Because forgiving is a choice, not demanded in any society of which I am aware, you can set forgiveness aside. Yet, when deeply hurt by others, what is your alternative for ridding yourself of a gnawing resentment that could bring you down? In the giving of the compassion, in the bearing of the pain, in the attempt to be kind, the paradox is that you, yourself, may experience a cessation of the poison of that resentment. Does this seem like an outcome you would like to set aside? Forgiveness advances you toward this healthy outcome and may even reestablish a relationship if the other can be trusted and does not harm you.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.

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