Archive for May, 2020

Are there acts so terrible that you should not, as you say, give a gift to the other?

Some people will not forgive certain people for certain acts. Yet, other people will forgive others for the exact same kind of act. Thus, it seems to me that it is not the act itself that is out of bounds to forgiveness. Instead, the one who was injured is not ready to offer forgiveness. We have to be gentle with people under these circumstances. We are not all ready to forgive others at the same point of the injury. We have to be careful not to condemn those who need more time or who are ambivalent about forgiveness in a particular circumstance.

For additional information, see Why Forgive?

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You talk about forgiveness as a process, one that can take time. I find that as I go along the path of forgiveness, that I slip into revenge-seeking. I do not mean anything violent, just some nastiness or even verbal disrespect. Do you think this will delay my forgiveness process?

We are all imperfect forgivers and so we cannot think of forgiveness as a straight line from the start to the finish. We go back and forth with forgiveness. At times, we see the one who offended us as possessing inherent worth. Then we might have a dream about the person and we wake up angry and do not want to even think about the person. The key here is to understand that the process is not a straight line. Have patience with yourself. Try to have patience with the one whom you are forgiving. In time, this back-and-forth will even out and improvements in forgiving are likely as you continue to persevere in the forgiveness process.

For additional information, see The Four Phases of Forgiveness.

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Why is it anger in particular that can be so damaging to a person, compared with other emotions?

It is not anger per se that can be so damaging to a person, but the kind of anger that is deep and abiding for many months and years. This kind of anger can put one on alert so that the body does not rest. Muscle tightness, headaches, raised blood pressure, and fatigue can all lead to a changed life-style and a change in mood and emotions. When one feels constantly challenged, one can begin to feel unsafe and so anxiety can emerge. The physical challenges can lead to a loss of hope which can lead to depression. The good news is that forgiveness therapy can reduce the toxic anger so that it is no longer injurious to the person.

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

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Humility as the Set-Aside Complement to Forgiving

On our Facebook page for the International Forgiveness Institute, I have posted in the past this idea: “Humility and forgiveness seem to be a team. It takes time to develop both.”

The point is to show that if we are to forgive well, we have to set aside our pride, our sense of self-righteousness, and realize that the one(s) who hurt us share a common humanity with us.  We all have inherent or built-in worth.  When we are humble, following Aristotle’s analysis of all moral virtues, we do not move toward the extremes of seeing ourselves as moral worms or as better than others because we are engaging in the practice of such an exalted virtue as humility.

Recently, I made a new friend, Kari Konkola, who holds a doctoral degree in history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  He specializes in the history of religion.  As I discussed my interest in forgiveness, he responded that it would be hard to forgive if excessive pride is getting in the way.  With a dominance of pride, self-righteous anger can push away the motivation to forgive.

Dr. Konkola further instructed me that humility, as a complement to forgiveness, was a central moral virtue in the Medieval period.  The point during these Middle Ages was to realize that each of us is no better than others precisely because we all fall short of moral perfection.  He went on to say that there has been a trend since the Medieval period in which humility as a valued moral virtue is in decline.  He sees humility as the ignored moral virtue in the modern West.

So, with this challenge in mind, that humility is in decline, I decided to do a little psychological experiment. I wrote an essay centered on humility on the Psychology Today website, where I have been blogging since September, 2017.  I posted the essay entitled, “Humility: What Can It Do for You” on April 27, 2020.  That was over three weeks ago and the number of views for this essay as of this writing on May 20 is 477.  In contrast, I posted an essay on the nine purposes of forgiveness less than a week ago and already the number of views is 2,027.  It is typical to see between 5,000 and 10,000 views for some of these essays focused on forgiveness, and yet the one on humility is languishing, as Dr. Konkola may have predicted.

Humility seems to be the set-aside moral virtue.  If so, then how can people forgive deeply if humility does not accompany the forgiving?  How will people even gravitate toward forgiving if pride blocks all consideration of forgiving?

What has happened in the West that has led to either a disinterest in humility or even an aversion to it?  Who had it right, those in the Medieval period or the modern West?  I’m not sure of the precise answers here, but I am convinced that we somehow have managed to de-value an important moral virtue, one that might need to team with forgiveness if forgiving others is to be achieved well.

Robert

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“I work hard on forgiveness, but sometimes I get to a week in which I do not want to even think about it or what happened to me. During these times, what can I do to not feel guilty or uncomfortable about setting forgiveness aside?”

Let us take an analogy here. Suppose you have a physical fitness regimen. Do you work out every week for an entire year or do you take some time off to refresh, to heal, to re-group? Physical trainers tell us to take some time off. It is good for us. Think of becoming forgivingly fit in the same way. Hard work is good, but we need some time off to refresh and re-group so that we come back to that work with renewed enthusiasm.

For additional information, see Learning to Forgive Others.

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