Archive for February, 2020

I don’t feel anger.  So, I don’t need to forgive my father for ignoring me while I was growing up, right?

You do not have to feel anger to forge ahead with forgiving.  For example, are you feeling disappointed or sad?  Do you think you can have a genuine trusting relationship with your father now?  If not, then forgiving would be appropriate.  In other words, it is not only feelings of anger that motivate forgiving.  If you think you have been treated unfairly and this is getting in the way of your current relationship with your father, then forgiving would be appropriate if you choose to do so.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.

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I am not in favor of focusing only on behavior and then saying, “What the person did was bad.”  No.  There are bad people and we can truly say, “This is a bad person.”  Do you agree?

I would agree with the following:  Humans, unlike any other primates, have a free will. This unique characteristic allows us to make choices that can affect our very humanity.  Given this premise that we all have free will, and given the further premise that our choices can affect our humanity, it then follows that we can grow in our humanity, growing toward the greater good.  If this is the case, then, through our free will choices, we can either grow in our humanity (toward the good of justice, courage, wisdom, temperance, forgiveness, and agape love in service to others) or diminish in our humanity (toward treating others as objects, cowardice, deliberately bad choices, greatly excessive behaviors, hatred, and selfishness).  I would avoid the term “bad person.”  Why?  It is because a diminished humanity, forged by a free will of bad choices, always can be reversed by that very same free will that diminished the person’s true humanity (the goodness mentioned above).  If we say someone is a “bad person” this is too permanent a label, given the free will possibility of reversing the choices that led to the stereotype of others calling the person “bad.”

For additional information, see Why Forgive?  

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How can forgiving make you just turn your back on the past as if it no longer exists, yet it still constantly haunts you?

Forgiveness does not ask you to “turn your back on the past.”  When we forgive, we remember, but we remember in new ways rather than re-living all of the grim details that caused us pain.  For example, when you forgive, you see the one who hurt you as emotionally wounded (if this is true).  You see the other’s vulnerability.  This helps to reduce the pain as you recall what happened.  Also, as you forgive, you likely will not be re-living that event as often as you did before forgiving.

For additional information, see Learning to Forgive Others.

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How can I monitor the level of pain I am feeling as I forgive?

When we visit the doctor’s office, oftentimes there is a chart on a 1-to-10 scale that assesses one’s level of physical pain.  A 1 shows a smiling face and a 10 shows a tormented, crying face.  Nurses and doctors know that we can judge our level of physical pain by this 10-point scale.  I recommend the same scale for your emotional pain index.  Let a 1 stand for no-emotional-pain-at-all and a 10 for excruciating emotional pain.  Try to keep a log of how you are doing.  As the emotional pain, over time, reduces, this can be motivation for your continuing with the forgiveness process.  Even if your pain intensifies at times, that is part of the healing process.  Try to see the overall trend.

For additional information, see  The Four Phases of Forgiveness. 

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Do I have to grow in character before I am able to forgive? If so, what character traits do you see as important?

This is one of those chicken-or-the-egg dilemmas. It seems to me that as we forgive, we grow in the moral virtues, particularly of courage (as we decide to move forward), humility (as we try to see the humanity in the one who acted unfairly), and then eventually in love, particularly agape love, or that which is in service to others for their sake. Agape love costs the one who loves; it can be a struggle to offer goodness to another through a broken heart. These three: courage, humility, and agape love, I think, are major fruits of forgiving.

For additional information, see What is Forgiveness? 

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