I am not able to gather any concrete information about the person who robbed me.  How then do I forgive when I cannot examine this person’s life, including any trauma that might have contributed to this hurtful action?

We talk about taking three perspectives on the one whom you are forgiving: the personal perspective, the global perspective, and the cosmic perspectiveThe personal perspective is as you describe: trying to better understand the person’s own struggles, confusions, and wounds. Yet, you still can take the global perspective in which you reflect on the shared humanity between you and the person who robbed you.  You both have worth, not because of your actions, but because each of you is unique and irreplaceable in this world.  Depending on your spiritual/religious beliefs, you might consider the cosmic perspective: Are you both made in the image and likeness of God?  Thinking in these ways may help you soften your heart toward the person.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.

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  1. Thank you Dr. Enright and thank you to the individual who asked the question. After our podcast I have been doing forgiveness work with patients with tremendous results, so thank you for introducing and sharing such a valuable process. But the question and answer above related to a roadblock I was concerned about with a current patient. I am counseling a senior in high school to help him/her forgive his/her father who was physically abusive but is now only occasionally verbally abusive after repeated interventions from the state. The child has no knowledge or recollection of the father’s background. Another question: is your forgiveness work exclusively individual or do you ever bring in others from the home — the system?

    • directorifi says:

      Thank you, Alexandra, for your interesting questions. If the son has no recollection of his father’s childhood, it may be worthwhile to involve the mother in the therapy, if she is willing to discuss her husband’s past. See if she knows of times when he, as a child, was bullied either at home or with peers. So, yes, we do bring in others to the therapy.

      If even your client’s mother knows little of her husband’s background, then you can work with the client on global and, depending on his particular faith or no-faith, the cosmic perspective. Try to have your client, in the global perspective, reflect on the shared humanity between his father and him. Both have unique DNA and so both are special. Both bleed when cut; both can feel pain; both will die some day. See if he can see the shared humanity with his father. It may soften his heart to forgive the father.

      Dr. Robert Enright


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