Archive for March, 2021

I was raised in an abusive family situation and now my trust is damaged. When my husband apologizes, I have a very hard time believing that he actually has remorse. How can I train myself to see and believe the remorse that is displayed while the apology is said?

Remorse is an inner sorrow for unjust actions while repentance is the outward expression, such as an apology, of that inner sorrow. In the 1970’s the psychiatrist R.C. Hunter stated, and I think he is correct, that most of us, even those who are not trained as mental health professionals, can identify false forms of forgiveness. There is what he called a certain smug-like quality to insincere forgiving or seeking forgiveness. Therefore, are you getting a sense of anything “smug” in his response of apology to you? Look into his eyes. Are those eyes trying to hide something or is there an openness to you, to your hurt? As another quality in your husband that might help you, has he shown an interest in what I call recompense or making it right again for you? The 3 Rs of remorse (genuine inner sorrow seen in his eyes), repentance (an apology that flows from the genuine inner sorrow) and recompense (truly trying to right the wrong) may be a more full indicator for you of your husband’s genuine attempt at the fourth R: reconciliation with you.

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Because my family is in “very close quarters” lately because of the pandemic, I find that I can get more irritable than usual. Does this mean that I am a bad person and do I have to forgive myself for this?

If you have been truly unjust, then yes, you could ask others to forgive you and also forgive yourself. Yet, you may be falling for a false issue here which is being too harsh on yourself. A social worker once told me that those who care for others can develop the false sense that they never have done quite enough. So, as tensions emerge in your home, please be careful not to excessively blame yourself (“If only I had done more.”). We are all imperfect and so we have to be gentle with ourselves and others. Cut yourself some slack now, knowing that you are trying and accept your imperfections of fatigue anxiety at this time. I recommend that you refrain from forgiving yourself if you simply and truly are doing your best, yet the family is not interacting perfectly.

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I have a recurring audio-recording in my mind about who I am: I am not much as a person; I am less than others; I deserve what I get. Can you help me, please.

These are false thoughts about yourself because, regardless of your past thoughts that are negative and generalized, you are special, unique, and irreplaceable. Do you want proof? Here is one piece of evidence: You have unique DNA. There never was anyone like you on the planet and when you no longer are here, there never will be another person quite like you. You are unique. You are irreplaceable. This makes you special, very special. It then follows that you have worth, an unconditional quality that cannot be taken from you despite any unfortunate circumstances you face. Your circumstances do not make you who you are. Your essence of being special, unique, and irreplaceable makes you who you are.

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It seems that the pandemic is challenging people’s sense of hope. How would you define hope?

Hope involves a desire that is held with a certain conviction that the desire will be accomplished. To hope is to trust in certain future outcomes. The outcomes can include: a) an inner transformation [reduction in anxiety, greater inner peace, as examples]; b) a change in relationships [finding one’s true love, as an example]; c) an alteration of environmental circumstances [better living conditions, a new job, more money]; and, d) transcendent expectations [eternal life of happiness].

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How can I show my brother that forgiveness is a choice so we can forgive each other and move on?

If your brother is hesitant to forgive, as you say, it is his choice. In my experience, when people are hesitant to forgive, they often misunderstand what forgiveness actually is. A common error is this: The person thinks that in the forgiving, the injustice is wiped away to such an extent that it really was never an injustice in the first place. Yet, a true understanding of forgiveness is that what happened was wrong, is wrong, and always will be wrong. What changes when we forgive is our response to the person who acted unfairly. We begin to see and appreciate the inherent worth within that person. See if your brother might be more open to the idea of forgiving when you explain this to him. I wish you the best with this.

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