Archive for May, 2020
I am finding no excuses for what my husband has done to me. When I try to forgive, it is very difficult for me to cultivate any sense of empathy toward him. What would you suggest to help me forgive?
You need not find any excuses for your husband’s behavior if you are to forgive him. Forgiveness is not based on finding excuses, but instead is based on seeing his worth, not because of what he did, but in spite of this. Further, try to see his inner world. Is he wounded in any way? Confused? Do you see a human being rather than someone who is less than human? These kinds of perspectives can increase empathy and foster forgiveness.
Learn more at Forgiveness for Couples.
I hear colleagues tell me that it is child abuse to impose the education of forgiveness on unsuspecting students. How would you answer such a charge?
Good philosophy is the pursuit of wisdom. Good education is the same. Part of being wise is to know how to control one’s anger, to reduce resentment, and to forge healthy relationships in the home and in the community. Forgiveness, seen in scientific studies, is one effective way of reducing resentment and fostering better behavior and relationships. If we then deprive a child of this part of wisdom, are we somehow aiding that child’s development or stifling it? Teaching about forgiveness is far from child abuse. Deliberately withholding knowledge of forgiveness is educational deprivation, which should happen to no child.
For additional information, see Your Kids Are Smarter Than You Think.
Is there any advantage in forgiving and reconciling compared with forgiving and not reconciling? If I forgive but do not reconcile, will this weaken my ability to forgive in the future?
There is no general rule regarding forgiving and not reconciling. In other words, your not reconciling with someone who is not remorseful or who is unrepentant (when acting very unjustly against you) should not weaken your ability to forgive in the future. In contrast, if you refuse to reconcile with someone who in fact has remorse, has repented and, where possible, has given recompense, then you need to examine your own inner world. Perhaps you have excessive mistrust or resentment and these can get in the way of future forgiving.
Learn more at Forgiving is not. . .
Forgiveness and trust differ. Forgiveness as an act of mercy toward an offender can be offered unconditionally. Trust needs to be earned if the offense is deeply serious. Forgiveness is a moral virtue. Trust accompanies reconciliation, which is not a moral virtue but instead is a negotiation strategy between two or more people. Finally, you can forgive without trusting the other, at least in those areas of his or her weakness. For example, you can forgive a compulsive gambler and watch your wallet.
For additional information, see Do I Have to Reconcile with the Other When I Forgive?
One of my students asked me recently, ‘Why should I forgive? Doesn’t this just let the one who is hurting me see that I am weak?’ I did not know how to answer that. Can you help?
The student is confusing forgiveness with giving in to others’ demands. This is not forgiveness. To forgive is to know that what the other person did is wrong and yet mercy is offered nonetheless. When one forgives, one also asks for justice and so this idea of weakness or giving in is not correct. There are two basic ways of distorting forgiveness: to let the other have power over you or to seek power over the other because of his or her transgressions. True forgiveness avoids these extremes.
For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.