Archive for July, 2022
How can I forgive a God I no longer believe in? I have a lot of anger toward this non-existent deity.
It seems to me that you do, in fact, believe in God and this is hidden from you right now. Why do I say this? You cannot have anger toward a person who does not exist. How can a person who does not exist be unfair to you and therefore hurt you? It is similar with God. How can you have “a lot of anger” for a deity when you claim the deity does not exist? Your emotions suggest to me that you do see God as real. If this is true, then you need to ask questions such as this: Is God perfect, all holy? If so, then God cannot be unjust to you. Perhaps it is people who have hurt you and you are passing this now to God (“God should have prevented this,” as one example). If this is your mode of thinking, then I recommend a deeper dive into theology so that you can address the issue of why God allows suffering in this world; why God allows others to be unfair to you. In other words, it may be the rigors of this world and hurtful people at whom you are angry.
When going back to the unjust event, do I have to feel the feelings from that point in time? I might be re-traumatized if I feel those feelings again.
The forgiveness process does not ask you to go back and re-experience your feelings from the past. Instead, the point of thinking back in time is to ask this question: Was I treated unjustly and how unjustly was I treated? We need to ascertain this because forgiveness starts with true injustice. Sometimes, for example, a person might think that Mom was terribly unfair 20 years ago, only to look back and conclude that there was a misunderstanding based on the person’s views as a child. When the person does conclude that, indeed, there was injustice, the process shifts to the effects of that injustice on the person now. How has this injustice affected your current feelings, your level of fatigue, your ability to trust others in general? So, in response to your question, you are not asked to feel the feelings from the past.
I re-read one of our posts here at the International Forgiveness Institute. It was dated February 29, 2012. What surprised me is this: It was as if I were reading a contemporary news item from 2022.
As you read the 10-year-old essay below, consider asking yourself this: Has anything changed for forgiveness within societies in that timespan? What must we do so that in 2032 the news is not a repetition of the past 20 years?
Here is that essay from 2012:
Peter Maurin of the Catholic Worker Movement is alleged to have said that a good society is one in which it is easy to be good. I write this blog post today as I reflect on some recent news stories (posted in our Forgiveness News section of this website). We have the shooting of innocent teenagers in Ohio and we have the murder of a 4-year-old. Anger can sometimes be deadly for the other person who just happens to be in the angry one’s way.
I wonder what those outcomes would have been had those with the weapons been bathed in forgiveness education from age 5 though 18. I wonder what those outcomes would have been had the weapon-carriers, as they grew up, practiced forgiveness in the home. I wonder.
The wounds in the world are deep and everlasting, it seems. What we do here at the International Forgiveness Institute, Inc. (helping people if they so choose to learn to forgive and then practice forgiveness) will never be out of date. Yet, my big worry (yes, it is a big worry) is this: Will there be sufficient laborers in the forgiveness vineyard to bring the virtue of forgiveness to children so that they can become fortified against the grave injustices that come to too many too often as adults?
I worry about those 6-year-olds, sitting now in classrooms, learning their mandated ABCs, without also learning the ABCs of how to deal with injustice. You see, society is not emphasizing forgiveness. We are not being taught forgiveness on a regular basis. We are in a society where it is not easy to be a good forgiver. And so too many of those who are bullied in school do not even think to forgive those who perpetrate the bullying. In Ohio this week, one bullied student’s response was a gun and then murder.
So much pain in the world and yet too many societies do not have the vision and the resources to bring forgiveness education far and wide. Question for those who are listening: The next time a city wishes to build a $250 million complex for athletics or entertainment or whatever, who has the persuasive skills and accompanying wisdom and courage to ask that one half of one percent of that be siphoned off to forgiveness education? If we could go back and ask the deceased students in Ohio or the innocent 4-year-old what is the higher priority….what do you think they would say to us?
Society, what do you think?
To what extent do you think a person should revisit the injustice, feel the emotions from that time, and relive the event in order to gain insight into how to confront all of this now? I am concerned that such revisiting could induce re-traumatization.
The process of forgiveness does not require that the other revisit the event of the injustice. Instead, the big question from that past time is this: Was I truly treated unjustly? If the answer is “yes,” then the goal is to examine, not the actual past event, but instead the current effects of that event on the person now. So, re-traumatization is not likely to occur because the person definitely is not asked to revisit in detail that past event. We have to realize that some degree of trauma exists now, if the injustice is deep. So, it is not that the potential forgiver is revisiting negative feelings. Instead, it is the case that the person is examining current negative feelings that now can be changed to more adaptive emotions and reactions.
What are some key reasons why people will not let go of their anger when treated unfairly by others?
While there are many reasons for holding onto anger, here are a few of these for your consideration:
Sometimes, people feel a sense of power by holding on to the anger. They feel as if no one will be able to treat them badly if they have a deeply assertive attitude. Of course, one can be assertive without being angry, but at times people link these two (being powerful and being angry) together.
At times, people are unaware of the damage being done to one’s inner world by holding on to the anger. It is as if there will be no negative consequences for keeping such deep and abiding anger inside. Therefore, the person clings to the anger thinking that no harm can be done by doing this.
At other times, people are denying the depth of their anger, thinking that a little anger will not hurt them when, in fact, they have much more of this emotion than they realize. At such times, it is important to uncover the depth of the anger for the sake of the offended person’s well-being and for the well-being of those with whom there is frequent interactions.