Archive for July, 2021
I am trying to forgive a family relative. My immediate family members keep saying negative things about the person. When I explain to my immediate family members that I am trying to forgive the person, then they intensify their negative judgements against this person. How can I forgive under this circumstance?
Your forgiving is being made more challenging because of the constant negative statements from people whom you love. Yet, please keep in mind that their choice not to forgive is not your choice. Their views need not stay as your view. Yes, you will have to struggle against those negative statements, but here is my suggestion: Every time you hear a negative statement about your relative, say to yourself—-to yourself silently—something positive about the person. Say privately to yourself, “I choose to forgive the person.” These exercises, repeated over time, should help you to forgive even if your family members continue with the negative statements.
This depends on your goal. Is your goal to reconcile? If so, and if the other refuses to accept your gift out of denial of any wrongdoing, then you need to have a heart-to-heart conversation of the wrong done and the person’s denial of this. Such a conversation may lead, or at least eventually lead, to a genuine reconciliation based on mutual trust. If, on the other hand, your goal for now is to reduce the resentment inside of you, then your giving a gift that is not directly given (such as the kind word about the person to others or donating to charity in the person’s name) is sufficient for a good forgiveness response. Under this circumstance, you need not “try something other than forgiveness.”
This gift-giving is part of the amazing paradox of forgiving: As you give to the other, it is you who experiences healing. Our science supports this view. As people go through our Process Model of Forgiveness, they tend to reduce in anger, anxiety, and depression and to increase in self-esteem and hope. You can read a description of some of these studies in Enright and Fitzgibbons (2015), Forgiveness Therapy. Washington, DC: APA Books.
When I think about giving a gift to the one who hurt me, I see a complication. He thinks he has done nothing wrong. Whatever I give in the name of forgiveness will only serve to make him angry. So, what do I do now?
You need not proclaim that you are giving him a gift. You could, for example, donate a little money to an important charity and do so in his name. You might say a kind word about him to one of your friends or family members. Even these can be healing for you as you forgive in this way.
What if positive feelings toward the one who offended me do not emerge? What then? Do I give it more time?
Please remember that forgiveness is a process and we do not necessarily reach the highest levels of this process. If you do not develop positive feelings toward the person, but the strongly negative emotions shrink to manageable levels, then you definitely are on the pathway of forgiving. Yes, you can continue the process of forgiving with this person, but please know that you are doing well in your forgiving by reducing resentment.