Archive for February, 2022
I sometimes find it hard to accept forgiveness from others when I have done wrong. It makes me feel uncomfortable, even embarrassed. Can you give me some insights into my resistance to others’ forgiving me?
This may be an issue of pride for you. I say this because you say that you feel embarrassed. In other words, the other’s forgiving you brings to the surface again your unjust actions. This is not uncommon and so please be gentle with yourself. It takes the moral virtue of humility to acknowledge wrongdoing and to accept the other person’s mercy. The fact that you even asked this question shows that you are open to the practice of this humility.
I like your word “encourage” because it suggests that you will not pressure others to forgive. The gist is to help others to be drawn to the beauty of forgiveness. In other words, the person will have to see that to forgive is not to show weakness or to cave in to others’ unreasonable demands. To forgive is to see the humanity in the other and in the self, without coercion to think this way. If the other begins to see forgiveness in its true light, then over time the person may be drawn to forgiving, as a free-will choice.
I wanted to share an experience with you and get your insights. I have been practicing forgiveness lately, particularly toward one of my parents when I was a child. This past weekend, I was at a family function and a cousin said that I did not belong there. Usually, this would make me enraged, but this time, it did not deeply affect me. Yes, I was angry, but I was able to stay. Why do you think this unusual behavior by me occurred this weekend?
I think you are learning to forgive in a more generalized way than only applying forgiveness toward one of your parents for what happened when you were a child. In other words, your practice of forgiving is generalizing to others, and this is a sign of maturing in the practice of forgiving. Aristotle said that a mark of maturing in the moral virtues is to develop a love of those virtues. Do you think this is happening to you, in that you are developing a love of forgiveness? If so, then it is understandable that you may have been applying the moral virtue of forgiving toward your cousin who insulted you. If that is the case, then you likely, in the future, will begin to forgive more and more people when they are unjust to you.
Would you say it is forgiveness if I wish the person well but now want nothing to do with this person? I actually want to avoid this person at all costs.
There is distinction between forgiving (doing your best to be good to the one who was not good to you) and reconciling (which takes trust). If your trust has been damaged by the other person’s behavior, then you can forgive and not reconcile. The fact that you are wishing the other person well is a sign that you have forgiven or are in the process of forgiving. This wishing the other well is a sign of your being good to the other even if this is from a distance.
We did a study in which we asked some of the participants to go only to our Decision Phase of forgiveness. We asked other participants to advance through our entire Process Model of Forgiveness, which includes the Work and Discovery Phases. Those who stopped at the Decision Phase did not achieve the same psychological benefits as those who went through the entire forgiveness program. This was expected because to decide to forgive is not the same as exercising the moral virtue of forgiveness in its entirety. Here is the reference to that research:
Al-Mabuk, R., Enright, R. D., & Cardis, P. (1995). Forgiveness education with parentally love-deprived college students. Journal of Moral Education, 24, 427-444.