Archive for February, 2021

Can one truly forgive if the other person does not repent of the wrongdoing?

Because forgiveness is a moral virtue, it can be practiced whenever the injured person decides to do so. It is similar to all of the other moral virtues. For example, consider the virtue of patience. Must you not be patient until someone does something of which you approve? Of course, the answer is “no” because you can be patient with others whenever you wish. It is the same with forgiving. You can choose to forgive whenever you so choose. Otherwise, you are trapped in unforgiveness, with possible considerable resentment, until another person utters certain words.

It seems to me that for forgiveness to succeed, it is necessary for low self-esteem and toxic anger to disappear. What do you think?

For forgiveness to significantly raise a person’s self-esteem and to lower toxic anger, the person needs to commit, with a strong will, to the practice of forgiveness. This takes, as Aristotle says, practice, practice, and more practice.  Our Process Model of Forgiveness is an empirically-verified way of helping people to reduce in negative emotions. Yet, when we forgive, we do not necessarily leave all negative psychological issues behind. For example, we still may have some residual anger, but that anger now no longer controls us. Instead, we are in control of the anger.

How can forgiveness fit into contemporary society, such as schooling? 

Parents can use teachable moments when watching films or reading stories.  We have forgiveness education in schools in over 30 countries.  Books on forgiveness, magazine articles, newspaper articles on forgiveness can engender a curiosity about what forgiveness is and is not. A key issue is to begin conversations deliberately focused on the moral virtue of forgiveness. I have observed that such deliberate conversations are rare. It is my hope that they become more common in families, schools, workplaces, and other areas of communities.

How can our students accept the spirit of forgiveness when violence is rampant in their family? 

Students need to be taught that as one forgives, then seeking fairness also is necessary in certain contexts such as violence.  Do not let one virtue (forgiveness) emerge without the other (justice) when there is danger.  Just because certain people are unjust does not mean that now I as a forgiver am blocked from being a moral person who practices the other virtues such as courage and justice.  It is hard to forgive a violent parent, but the alternative (hate) is a much harder condition with which to live for the growing child or for an adult-child who suffers the effects of that violence many years later.

Is it possible that the expression of forgiving can cause the person who originally acted unjustly to feel annoyed? If this happens, does this make the act of forgiving wrong?

If the one who acted unjustly is annoyed at the genuine expression of forgiveness by the offended person, this is not the fault of the forgiver.  Why?  It is because the forgiver is giving something good, love, to the other.  Rejection of that love does not make love bad.  As an analogy, if a parent gives a birthday present out of love to a child and the child does not like the present and yells, is this the fault of the parent or of the act of gift giving?