Archive for July, 2022

How can I know whether my anger is controlling me or whether I am in control of my anger?

You can ask yourself these questions:

  1. Am I dwelling on what happened to me? Do I ruminate often on the other person and the situation that was unfair to me?
  1. Does this rumination interfere with my sleep?
  1. Am I too tired too often?
  1. Do I think what happened to me is interfering with my getting on with life, with my achieving meaning and purpose in life?

If you answer yes to most of these questions, then the anger may be in control.  Forgiving can lead to an answer of “no” to most or all of these questions.  It is then that you will see that you are in control of your anger.

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You discuss in the Uncovering Phase of forgiveness that a person should examine defense mechanisms.  For example, might I be in denial that the other truly was unjust?  Since defense mechanisms usually are hidden from the one who is denying, how are we to uncover these defense mechanisms?

I think there are two keys to uncovering the defense mechanisms.

First, if the one who is considering forgiveness does not think that there is a solution to the inner pain, then this fear can prevent an opening up to reality, to the true conclusion that “I have been wronged and I am in pain.”  When this potential forgiver sees that forgiveness is a safety net to getting rid of that inner pain, then opening up to what really happened is more likely.

Second, as the potential forgiver sees the extent of the inner pain (which can be deeper than is first discerned), then this realization of deep inner pain can be a motivation to move forward with healing.  This courageous decision to move forward helps people to see even more clearly now that the pain must be confronted, which can weaken the defense of denial.

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How can I be sure that the other person truly acted unjustly?  In other words, is it possible that I am misinterpreting the situation and there really was no injustice against me?

I would recommend that you scrutinize the issue in three ways:

  1. What was the actual behavior of the other? Was the action against your own interest, such as an act that put you in some kind of danger (unsafe behavior or words that demean you)?
  1. What were the circumstances? Was the other, for example, in a difficult situation in which there was little time to reflect and therefore to act wisely?  Was the other in a situation that itself could lead to injury such as speeding in a car?
  1. Although it is difficult to ascertain the motives of other people, what do you think was motivating the other person? Was there a goal to hurt you?

As you reflect on the other’s behavior, circumstance, and motive, this may help you decide whether the other person truly was unjust or not to you.  At times, not all three issues have to be present.  For example, suppose the person was texting while driving, with no intent to hurt you (no motive to hurt).  Yet, the behavior and the circumstance are such that this activity is risky.  Therefore, a conclusion of injustice is justified.

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Perseverance versus Novelty in Establishing Forgiveness Programs

What is one of the biggest impediments to forgiveness interventions in schools, homes, and organizations?

Having implemented research-based and service programs of forgiveness since about 1990, I can say that one of the most significant challenges is the quest for novelty, for that new, cutting edge activity that fills people with a short-term rush of enthusiasm.  When novelty becomes an end in and of itself, it is then that it becomes an impediment to the slow and steady build up of the moral virtue of forgiveness in hearts, homes, and communities.  This is the case because the newly popular can extinguish that which has been there for years.

The philosopher Blaise Pascal emphasized that one of the major distractions to growing as persons is what he called diversion.  In his book, Pensees, Pascal spends a lot of time discussing this issue of diversion, or being so busy with whatever is preoccupying the person at present that there is no time to contemplate what is important in life.

Consider this quotation from  #171 in the Pensees: “The only thing which consoles us for our miseries is diversion, and yet this is the greatest of our miseries.  For it is this which principally hinders us from reflecting upon ourselves and which makes us insensibly ruin ourselves. Without this we should be in a state of weariness, and this weariness would spur us to seek a more solid means of escaping from it.  But diversion amuses us, and leads us unconsciously to death.”

So, even if a family or an organization or even a community discovers the beauty of forgiveness and implements it, then the challenge is this: How do we keep forgiveness present to us instead of latching on to the newest fad, the newest game, the newest social cause that will fade when the next newest-whatever emerges in about a year or two?

This idea of persevering in forgiveness is vital according to Aristotle, who reminds us that it takes much time and effort to grow in any of the moral virtues.  We start with questions about what it even means to forgive.  As we work out our misconceptions (it is not excusing or automatically reconciling with someone who is harmful), we then begin to practice forgiveness, applying it to those challenging situations in which we are treated unjustly.  This can occur in schools as well.  Yet, once the new mathematics textbook appears, or the new anti-bullying approach, or the new field trip guidelines, forgiveness as a part of schooling can quietly fade away, as a rowboat does, from the dock, as the moorings are slowing and imperceptibly loosened from the wooden piling.  Forgiveness can slowly drift out to sea without anyone even noticing.

The first step in persevering with forgiveness once it is planted in a group is to realize that it could very easily fade away.  This kind of consciousness must not be lost.  As a second strategy, we all need to take a lesson from Pascal and know that diversion is not necessarily our friend, especially when it comes to growing courageously in the moral virtues and then persevering in practicing them.

Long live forgiveness, even in the face of the temptation of adding more and more diversion into our lives.


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Ukrainian Research Project Verifies Benefits of Forgiveness in Military Conflict Zones

A just-published scientific study has documented significant mental health benefits derived by Ukrainian citizens who practice forgiveness compared to those who are less willing to forgive. Those findings, according to the authors, will be especially useful for providing appropriate psychological assistance for those adversely affected by the ongoing war with Russia.

Although the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24 of this year, the war in eastern Ukraine has been ongoing since 2014 when a political coup overthrew the pro-Russian government. Since then, more than 14,000 people have been killed in the eastern Ukraine region of Donbas in warfare between ethnic Russians and the Ukrainian military.


That fighting has caused an obvious deterioration of socio-economic living conditions for all Ukrainians. As the armed conflict has intensified, so has the occurrence and severity of mental health issues including depression, psychosomatic diseases, anger and stress-related illnesses, trauma, alienation from friends and relatives, aggressive and antisocial behavior, and criminal activities.

What role the concept of forgiveness can play in a military conflict zone is poorly understood and has never been systematically investigated—until now. A new research report, Forgiveness as a Predictor of Mental Health in Citizens Living in the Military Conflict Zone (2019-2020), was published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Education Culture and Society.

The research was conducted during the years 2019-2020, prior to the Russian invasion. It was authored by Svetlana Kravchuk, a psychologist, and Viacheslav Khalanskyi, a psychotherapist, both of whom practice in Kyiv, the country’s capital city.

Study participants included 302 Ukrainian citizens, half living in the volatile eastern part of the country (where most of the pre-Russian invasion fighting took place), and half living in the more tranquil central part of Ukraine. Using eight different clinically validated scientific tools, the researchers were able to verify the strategic role forgiveness can play in the emotional health of conflict victims.

Here are some of their findings (direct quotes from the report):

  • The obtained correlations show that the more a person is prone to forgiveness, the less anxiety and depression a person has.
  • A person with a high tendency to forgiveness is characterized by higher levels of decisional forgiveness, hope, emotional forgiveness, tolerance and acceptance of others, mental health, happiness and life satisfaction, as well as tolerance for others’ mistakes.
  • The more pronounced degree of tendency to forgiveness is correlated with less pronounced degree of anxiety and depression.
  • Hope, happiness, life satisfaction, and tendency to forgiveness can allow citizens living in eastern Ukraine to recover quickly from psychological trauma, contribute to the successful overcoming of negative effects of military conflict and functioning successfully.

According to the authors, the practical value of this research lies in expanding and deepening the understanding of the “phenomenon of forgiveness” and, in the process, developing forgiveness therapy techniques that will work in the mental health sphere throughout Ukraine.

Learn more:

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