Archive for May, 2022

Forgiveness seems to be a problem for people who have been traumatized.  I say this because upon forgiving, the person may mistakenly assume that the relationship needs to be restored.  Do you agree?

I do not agree primarily because to forgive is very different from reconciling with an abusive person.  Reconciliation is not a moral virtue.  Instead, it is a negotiation strategy of two or more people coming together again in mutual trust.  You can forgive (being good, even from a distance, to those who are not good to you) and still not reconcile.  As you say, when a person “mistakenly assumes” that the relationship needs to be restored, this is an error that needs to be corrected for the protection of the abused person.

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I have followed your advice and have committed to “do no harm” to the one who hurt me.  Yet, I still harbor anger toward this person.  Is it possible to make this commitment to do no harm and still be angry?

Yes, a commitment to do no harm is an act of the will.  Anger is an emotion.  We can control the will (what we decide to think and what we will do behaviorally) more than we can control our emotions.  Thus, as we conform our will to do no harm, we still might be angry.

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You emphasize anger in your forgiveness model.  Yet, I am not feeling anger. I am feeling pain.  Might you have missed this in your model?

I agree with you that pain occurs after being treated unjustly.  I think the sequence is as follows: 1) Someone is unfair to you; 2) Next comes shock or even denial; 3) Then comes pain, as you describe; 4) If the pain does not lessen or if you have no effective way of reducing and eliminating the pain, then you may become angry.

That anger can be at the person for acting unfairly, or at the situation, or even at the pain itself that resulted from the unfair treatment.  It is the anger, if it abides and deepens, that can lead to health problems (fatigue, anxiety, and so forth).  So, I emphasize anger within Forgiveness Therapy because it, in the form of excessive anger or resentment, can be dangerous to health, relationships, and communities.

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I need to forgive four different people.  Where do I start??

I recommend that you ask yourself what is your current level of anger—on a 1 to 10 scale—for each person.  Order the people from the least anger you have to the greatest anger you have.  Start with the one person with whom you have the least anger.  This will allow you to get a sense of the forgiveness process and to practice that process before you get to the person who hurt you the most.

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You emphasize love, compassion, and benevolence as part of forgiveness, but not part of the decision to forgive.  Why do you not see these as part of the decision phase of forgiving?

The decision to forgive usually is a cognitive act rather than an expression of the heart, of one’s emotions.  One usually makes a decision to forgive without necessarily feeling love and compassion because we are not yet ready to offer these when we make the cognitive decision to forgive.

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