Archive for May, 2021

Lately, I have been having condemning thoughts toward the person who betrayed me. Much to my surprise, I am finding that I am drifting into another pattern, that of even condemning myself. Is this normal and maybe even truthful about who both of us are?

My answer comes from my book, The Forgiving Life (2012), chapter 1:

“As we continually live with love withdrawn from us and a resulting resentment (with the short-term consequences of thinking with a negative pattern, thinking specific condemning thoughts, and acting poorly), we can settle into a kind of long-term distortion of who the love-withdrawing person is, who we ourselves are, and who people are in general. The basic issue here is that once love is withdrawn from us, we can begin to withdraw a sense of worth toward the one who hurt us. The conclusion is that he or she is worth-less. Over time, we can drift into the dangerous conclusion, ‘I, too, am worthless.’ After all, others have withdrawn love from me and have concluded that I lack worth, therefore I do lack worth. Even later, we can drift into the unhealthy conclusion that there is no love in the world and so no one really has any worth, thus everyone is worth-less.” In other words, this thought pattern is something to recognize and then to resist by working on the thought that both of you have worth.

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I have heard the term “take the long perspective” regarding the injustices inflicted on me by others. What does that mean?

Go back into childhood for a moment and think about one time in which you had what seemed to be a serious disagreement with a friend. At the time, did it seem like this would go on indefinitely? Of course, it did not. Time has a way of changing our circumstances. I am not advocating a kind of passive approach to life here. “Oh, I will just wait it out and so I do not have to exert effort.” No, that is not the point. Instead, see beyond the next hill to a place that is more settled and the pain is not so great. You already saw in your childhood that conflicts end. The consequences of those conflicts (feeling sad or angry) also end.

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You talk about inherent worth in the context of forgiveness. I really do not feel that I am worthy or have a great deal of value. I am not particularly religious. Can you convince me that I have worth?

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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When we forgive, we confront negative emotions.  It seems to me that if a person now associates these negative feelings with forgiveness, then this would damage the forgiveness process for the person. What is your opinion on this?

Yes, when we forgive, we at first link the negative emotions to the forgiveness process. Yet, this linking is for diagnostic purposes only. As an analogy, suppose you broke your ankle while jogging. When you go to the doctor, you are linking the broken ankle with the medical procedure. Yet, this is necessary for the purpose of diagnosis, treatment, and healing. It is the same with forgiving. We need to know the emotion and the depth of the emotion so that we can ascertain whether or not to go ahead with a forgiveness intervention and whether or not the forgiveness intervention is working (which it is if the emotions quiet). If the forgiveness intervention is successful, then there actually is not a strong linking of the negative emotion with forgiving but a decoupling of that negative emotion with the forgiveness process.

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It seems to me that when I forgive, I should forget or put the whole thing behind me. Yet, I am not entirely letting go of what happened. I am no longer angry, but I do find myself going back and remembering what happened. What do you suggest?

When we forgive, we do not necessarily forget all of the details of what happened. In other words, we remember in new ways, but without the burning anger. This seems to be what is happening with you. Now you look back without the anger. This is a triumph. If, when you look back, you are emotionally upset in some way (perhaps sadness rather than anger), then go through the forgiveness process again with the same person. This should help with the more recent emotion and reduce the sense of going back in your mind to any unfinished business with the forgiveness process.

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