Archive for December, 2020

Would people-pleasers forgive more easily than others?

If a person is forgiving only to please others, such as to please one’s parents who are encouraging an adult son to forgive his partner, then the forgiving may not be genuine.  Genuine forgiveness comes from within the forgiver, who sees the goodness in forgiveness, is motivated to forgive, and then goes ahead with the forgiveness process.

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Is it selfish to forgive? After all, I do it to feel better. I do it for me.

There is a difference between what forgiveness is and why we do it.  To forgive, by definition, is to be good to those who are not good to you.  This is not a focus on the self, but on the other.  If your motivation is to feel better, this is reasonable, especially if you are experiencing inner discomfort because of ongoing resentment.  Thus, what forgiveness is and your current motivation can differ.  One (the forgiving) is centered on the other.  Your motivation is centered on your own healing. Neither of these is selfish.  As a final point, not all motivations to forgive are centered on self-healing. For example, a person might be motivated to forgive for the sake of the one who offended.

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I forgave my partner for an offense. I forgave. He did it again. Do I go through the forgiveness process again or go in another route?

I find that people find it harder to forgive a person when the offense keeps occurring.  Yet, continuing once again on the forgiveness path may make you more open to a genuine dialogue with your partner about changing his behavior and reconciling. It is hard to enter into respectful and patient dialogue when the offended person is fuming with anger.

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In reflecting lately on forgiveness, I am left with a certain hopelessness and powerlessness regarding society. I feel this way because, in thinking about it, I have come to the conclusion that those who have been brutalized by others, such as incest survivors, really have no other choice than to forgive if they are to save themselves from a life of deep resentment and all that negatively goes with that. What do you think about my thinking?

I agree that forgiveness can be a bold, courageous, and even controversial response to brutality.  Yet, for those who choose to forgive, they can become much more psychologically resilient and the science supports that conclusion.  I am wondering why this makes you hopeless.  You, yourself, see one solution to the anger and even hopelessness of the victims.  I agree that not all who are brutalized will forgive, but for those who do, they can reverse the psychological damage done even when it is impossible to reverse the offense itself.  This, to me, is a cause of hope, not hopelessness.

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As a strict philosophical materialist, I am convinced that there are no such things as moral offenses caused by an offender. I say this because there is no free will and so we cannot pin blame on “offenders” for their behavior. They have not chosen to act this way.

Well, I have to disagree.  Social science researchers claiming that brain activity preceded an observed behavior by participants never——never——study this in the context of morals.  In every case, the researchers measure such activity as button-pushing: Does the brain activity occur before a person pushes a button or does the person first decide to push the button and then it is registered in the brain?  Button-pushing has nothing whatsoever to do with moral decisions.  Would you claim that the person who executed little girls in the Amish community of Pennsylvania in 2006 “just couldn’t help it”?  Could he not help it when he lined them up?  Did his brain make him pull the trigger and some cause outside of him lead to what the executioner’s weapon was to be?  Had he lived, would you advocate no court trial? 

When it comes to morals and the claim that people have no free will, you have to be careful that your view of humanity does not degenerate.  I say that because your view leads to the ultimate conclusion that no person who acts monstrously ever can be rehabilitated other than through some kind of yet undiscovered brain surgery.  Surely some who act monstrously might have a brain lesion, but that would be the rare case, what Aristotle would call an Accident.  Why do I say this?  It is because many times (far too many) a young and very physically-healthy person has committed acts of unspeakable brutality.  Thus, the Aristotelian Accidents do not account for the entire story explaining monstrous behavior.  Free will, then, leading to self-chosen acts, seems to fit better such moral examples as occurred in the Amish community.

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