Archive for November, 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.

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I forgave and the one who offended me laughed. Now I am offended. Any advice?

Yes, the advice is this: When you forgive a person, ask yourself if it is best to let the person know by saying, “I have forgiven you” or whether it is best to show forgiveness in other ways such as a smile or attending to the person’s spoken ideas.  The other person, in your case, was not ready to hear the words.  I recommend patience and forgiving even for the laughter.  Then, try to show forgiveness without using the words “I forgive you.”

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Forgive and forget: Do these really fit together?

I have come to realize that when we forgive, we do not develop a kind of moral amnesia.  Instead, we remember in new ways, without the deep pain we experienced at first.  We tend to remember the hurtful experiences of our life (such as a broken bone when the adult-person was a child, for example).  When we remember injustices in new ways, this helps us avoid being treated badly again in the same way by the same person.

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In my country, people adhere to the idea of filial piety or honoring the parents no matter what. I am worried that if I forgive one of my parents, then I am no longer showing filial piety. What do you think?

When we forgive, we are saying that certain behaviors are unjust.  We separate the person, as possessing inherent worth in spite of that behavior, and the actions, which are considered wrong.  So, you can honor your parent as parent, as person, and still make the correct judgement that sometimes even our parents can act inappropriately.  In other words, you can forgive and maintain filial piety at the same time.

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May I ask one more question about the definition of what forgiveness is? I am wondering if offering respect for the other is as strong as offering what you call agape love to that person.

Respect toward someone who has hurt you is very honorable, even courageous.  Yet, offering love is a higher virtue.  Why?  It is because agape love includes service to the other for the other’ sake (to help the person to change the unacceptable behavior).  One can show respect for another from a distance, without this challenging quality of assisting the other in moral growth.

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