Archive for March, 2022
I am very frustrated with someone who has hurt me many times. I do want to forgive, but now I am wondering if you would recommend that I first deal with my frustration and anger before I start walking the path of forgiveness.
Let us distinguish between healthy and unhealthy anger. By healthy anger I mean the short-term feeling and expression of discontent over an injustice. We all get angry or sad or disrupted in some way when people are very unjust to us. Such healthy anger shows that we see ourselves as people who should be treated with respect. It is good first to allow yourself this period of experiencing healthy anger before you start the forgiveness process. In contrast, unhealthy anger is a deep feeling of resentment that does not easily go away. It disrupts one’s concentration and energy. You do not want to wait until the unhealthy anger fades because, quite frankly, if you were treated with great unfairness, then it is not likely to fade without going through the forgiveness process. In sum, first allow a period of healthy anger. Start forgiving to reduce or even eliminate unhealthy anger.
Can a person’s pride block forgiveness? In other words, it may lead a person to “dig in” and insist on an apology.
Yes, I do think that at times pride can lead to a resistance to try forgiving those who have acted unfairly. We have to be careful, however, because some cultures and faiths require an apology prior to forgiving. If pride is blocking the forgiveness process, it might help if the person requiring the apology contemplates this question: “Are you hurting yourself by insisting on the apology? Might you be preventing yourself from reducing resentment and being set free from emotional disruption as you wait for a prior response from the other?”
First you need to change your view of who you are as a person if you have been stuck in unforgiveness and are discouraged. The power perspective will tell you that you are less than you should be if your loved ones reject you. Do not listen to the voice of power. It is all too easy to condemn yourself when others first condemn you. Try to counter that power perspective starting now. Who are you as a person? You are someone who has inherent worth even when you struggle in life. You are someone who is special, unique, and irreplaceable even if you have unhealthy anger in your heart. You are not a failure at forgiveness.
Remember that forgiveness is a process that takes time and patience and determination. Try not to be harsh on yourself if you are struggling with this process. How you are doing in this process today is not an indication of where you will be in this process 1 month from now. Who are you?
Excerpt from R. Enright (2015). 8 Keys to Forgiveness. New York: Norton
My motivation to forgive is to be free of anger. Is this a legitimate motive for forgiveness? I ask because, if forgiveness is a moral virtue, shouldn’t my motivation be for the good of the other person who hurt me?
You are correct that as a virtue, forgiveness needs to be for the other. Yet, it takes time to develop a motivation of goodwill toward someone who was cruel. There is nothing dishonorable about having, as one’s initial motivation, a desire for self-preservation. To use a physical analogy, if your knee is hurting, is it selfish to seek medical help? If our heart is broken, is it selfish to try to mend that broken heart? An initial focus on self that changes to a concern for the other is a typical pathway for growing in the virtue of forgiveness.
My father passed away about a year ago and I still have some unfinished business with my anger toward him. Can a person forgive someone who has passed away and if so, how do I go about this?
Yes, people can forgive those who have passed away. I have written an essay on this for Psychology Today. Here is a link to that essay: