Archive for September, 2020
I read your book, Forgiveness Is a Choice, and it became a revelation to me just how angry I have been toward my mother when I was growing up. Is this common, to be angry, to be aware of the anger, but not have a clue about the depth of that anger?
Yes, it is common because of the psychological defense mechanisms of denial, suppression, and repression. These defenses are not problematic if they keep unpleasant issues from us when we are not ready for the full brunt of those issues. The defenses can get in the way of emotional healing when they prevent us from seeing the truth: I have been treated unfairly and I am angry about this. So, in the short run, the psychological defenses can protect us from being overwhelmed. In the long-run, slowly becoming aware of the depth of anger is a first step to healing from the effects of serious injustices.
For additional information, see How do I know if my anger is healthy or unhealthy?
My husband is hesitant to forgive because he says he does not want to act as if the problem (with his brother) never happened. Do you have some advice for me?
It may help if your husband realizes that forgiveness and justice exist together. One can and should seek justice, and in my view, the quest for justice works well once a person already has forgiven. At the same time, once people forgive, they do not want to keep bringing up what happened. There is a tendency toward moving on. Thus, your husband, if he forgives, will not want to keep bringing up the injustice and, in all likelihood, he will want to leave it in the past.
For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.
I have been deeply hurt by unjust family situations. This actually has changed who I am as a person. I now am less compassionate toward others. Should I just accept who I am now or do I try to change? As I try to forgive, I think I will begin to change as a person and I do not like that idea. What worries me is this: If I start to change this one thing, then off I go changing other things until I no longer am the same person. This scares me.
Whether or not you try to become more compassionate, one thing still is likely to happen: You will change. Life is about developing and therefore we do not stay static. You have been hurt and your trust has been damaged. As you practice forgiving, you are correct, you likely will change. You likely will become more compassionate and more trusting in general (but not necessarily toward those whom you should not trust). If you notice, those characteristics of compassion and trust are positive developments. Forgiveness could help change you in very good ways. Try to enjoy the positive transformation.
To learn more, see Why Forgiveness Is Not Only a Psychological Construct.
When a person is not used to forgiving, this is not unlike a sedentary person starting a physical fitness program. It can be uncomfortable thinking kindly about the other. It takes work. Bearing the pain that the other caused you also is painful, but as you bear the pain, it lessens and lifts. The questions of whether or not to return to a relationship can be painful as can the other’s rejection of your forgiving. All of these might be called “costs,” but they do pay the dividends of emotional healing and possibly relational healing.
For additional information, see Bearing the Pain.
Lately, when I have an argument with my boyfriend, I find myself bringing up old issues that I thought were behind me, for which I thought I had forgiven him. Do you think I truly have forgiven him for the past issues or not, given that I tend to bring them up?
It seems to me that you have begun the process of forgiving, because you state that forgiveness is part of you now. At the same time, I would recommend more forgiving work toward your boyfriend for those past events so that you can leave them in the past. Please keep in mind that still feeling some pain from past injustices is normal. It is the excessive anger from those incidents that you want to diminish and more forgiving should accomplish that in you.
Learn more at Forgiveness for Couples.