Archive for May, 2020

The self-help literature seems to emphasize emotional healing once one forgives. My question is this: How can I use my own journey of forgiving to benefit others?

We have to make a distinction between what forgiveness is and one important consequence of forgiving, namely being healed of powerfully negative emotions. When we forgive, we offer goodness toward the one who hurt us. The paradox is that we as the forgivers, then, can experience emotional relief. Yet, that is not the end of the story. As you forgive, you begin to know the pathway of forgiveness and now can help others, such as family members, think about and practice forgiving. Your experience might prove to be valuable to those who are new to the process of forgiving.

For additional information, see The Four Phases of Forgiveness. 

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Is it possible to forgive someone who is deceased? If so, what would the forgiveness look like?

Yes, you can forgive someone who is deceased. Forgiveness includes thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. One can think of the other person as possessing inherent (unconditional) worth. One can cultivate feelings of compassion for the person, not because of what he or she did, but in spite of this. Even behaviors can be a part of the forgiveness. For example, one might donate to the deceased person’s favorite charity. One might say a kind word about the deceased to family members. Depending on one’s religious beliefs, the forgiver can offer a prayer for the one who died.

You might want to read this essay from Psychology Today: Can You Forgive a Person Who Has Died? 

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Can I forgive someone who has not directly hurt me? For example, I am a teacher and one of my students was deliberately hurt by another student. Can I forgive the one who acted badly to a student whom I admire for his honesty and perseverance?

You describe a situation which some philosophers call secondary forgiveness. In other words, you have been hurt indirectly rather than directly by a person’s injustice toward someone who is important to you. Whenever an injustice occurs which hurts you, then you are free to forgive. This can occur even when you do not know the victim(s) but experience hurt nonetheless. An example of this tertiary forgiveness is this: the leader of your country enters into what you consider to be an unjust war with another country. You can forgive the leader if that is your choice to do so.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.

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How can I put my anger aside so that I now want to forgive and am able to actually forgive?

I do not think it is a matter of putting your anger aside. Instead, it is a matter of going ahead with forgiveness, if you so choose, even when angry. I say this because our science shows that as people forgive, their anger tends to lessen. So, you might want to start the pathway of forgiving even when you are angry. The process may help you reduce anger. In other words, you do not have to wait until the anger lessens before you start to forgive.

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

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Can I forgive without trusting a person?

Yes, you can forgive without trusting a person. Oftentimes, we forgive people, but then do not trust them in certain areas where they have weaknesses. A compulsive gambler can be forgiven and yet you watch your wallet, as an example. It also can be the case in which you forgive a person whose character is weakened to such a degree that you cannot trust him or her in many areas. In such a case, you might forgive, but then not reconcile if he or she refuses to change and is a danger to you.

For additional information, see Do I Have to Reconcile with the Other When I Forgive?

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