I adhere to family systems theory, which has as a major premise that one person’s actions can affect all other individuals in the family system. My question for you is this: Suppose that we have a family in which people are constantly blaming one another, taking their own frustrations out onto others in the family. If one person in a family begins to consistently and deeply practice forgiving, might this spread to the entire family, or would the others still be entrenched in blaming behavior?

I think it depends on how strongly and consistently the one who forgives is exhibiting this compared with the strength and consistency of the others’ blaming and displacing behaviors.  It could be the case, for example, that if those in authority in the family start the forgiving pattern, then this could spread quickly to all others in the family.  On the other hand, if the youngest child in the family, a 16-year-old, begins forgiveness patterns, this still could spread to the others, but it could take more time and persistence in the forgiving.  Yet, each act of mercy and forgiveness could be setting the stage for major transformations in family patterns of interacting.

For additional information, see Family Forgiveness Guidelines. 

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