Archive for October, 2020

When a person forgives and really understands the importance of forgiving, do they then have an obligation to pass on the importance of forgiveness to others?

Because forgiveness is a choice, I do not think that we should put pressure on those who forgive to now go and become teachers of others. I do think that it is reasonable to let those who forgive know that helping others to now forgive is good, if this resonates with the person. In my own experience, I see people, who develop a pattern of being persistent forgivers, often do have an internal self-chosen obligation to teach and help others.

For additional information, see Why Forgive?

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Are You a Person of Worth?

Who are you?

In Chapter 6 of the book, The Forgiving Life, Inez said,

“I am a person who has been emotionally wounded; who has stood up to injustice; who is a person worthy of respect and mercy; and who is special, unique, and irreplaceable and therefore cannot be and must not be shunned, disrespected, or thrown away.”

At the very core of your being, do you believe this about yourself? Are you a person of worth? Why or why not? Do you have to earn your worth or is it inherent in you—unearned, absolute, and unconditional? Are you a person who loves, even if imperfectly?

Even if you have a long way to go in developing agape love, you are on your way when you forgive others. As you love them (as best you can under the circumstances), please continue to see yourself more and more accurately—as someone who is capable of giving and receiving love and therefore someone who can do much good in this world.

You are a person of great worth.

There are more chapters for you to write with the help of others as you continue “My Unfolding Love Story.”  Forgiveness is not finished with you yet.  How will you lead your life from this point forward?  It is your choice.  When that story is finally written, what will the final chapters say about you? 

The beauty of this story is that you are one of the contributing authors.  You do not write it alone, of course, but with the help of those who encourage you, instruct and guide you, and even those who hurt you.  You are never alone when it comes to your love story.   It does not matter one little bit how the story was turning out before you embraced the virtue of forgiveness.  What matters now is how you finish that story, how you start to live your life from this point forward.

Enright, Robert D. The Forgiving Life (APA LifeTools, 2012). American Psychological Association. Kindle Edition.

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To me it is irrational to forgive. You are saying that you are not mad when in fact you are. So, forgiveness is a shell game, a kind of illusion or magic trick in which one wishes away the anger and internal discontent and then, presto, all of this is gone. Sorry, but I can’t accept this magic trick that you call forgiving.

I think the illusion actually is your belief that forgiveness is a trick.  Is it a trick when randomized experimental and control group clinical trials show that as people take the time to forgive, their anger, anxiety, and even depression can go statistically below clinical levels and remain low months or even a year after treatment?  Science done well is not a shell game.  I urge you to look at the science.  One place to start is the book for mental health professionals, Forgiveness Therapy, by Enright and Fitzgibbons (2015, American Psychological Association).

For additional information, see Forgiveness Research.

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My anger ends when I walk away from a person who is being unkind to me. So, Walk-Away Therapy is better than Forgiveness Therapy. Would you agree?

If the injustice is slight and short-lived, then walking away temporarily or even with an intent to reconnect with the person might be helpful.  Yet, if the injustice is severe, then walking away tends to lead to the following:  You walk away and have a temporary sense of relief. Yet, over time, the burden of carrying the effects of that injustice (frustration, resentment, and at times even hatred) is not left at the time and site of the injustice.  Instead this excess emotional baggage can remain with you literally for decades.  It is Forgiveness Therapy that can alleviate those burdens.  Walking away under this circumstance means that you are walking with a sack of woes on your back.

For additional information, see Why Forgive?

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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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