Archive for August, 2022

How can I avoid displacing my anger onto others?  What is one example of a “wake-up call” for me to break a pattern of denial that I am displacing anger onto others?

Here is one exercise that might help you to break denial regarding your displacing anger onto other people: Make a list of people at whom you have been angry over the past few weeks.  Then ask yourself this question: Did this person deserve my anger because of inappropriate behavior or did I over-react?  If you see that in many of the cases, the other person, who received your anger, did nothing that warranted such a strong reaction, then you will be able to see that you are, in fact, displacing your anger.  With this insight, you can begin to lessen the displacement because you now are seeing that people do not deserve harsh correction.  Your forgiving those at whom you truly are angry also will assist you in avoiding the psychological defense of displacement.

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Is shame always an effect of being treated unjustly?

Shame is that sense that others are judging you and you want to hide under the bed to avoid the scrutiny.  This is not always the case when people treat you unfairly.  Sometimes, when we are treated unfairly, people can harshly judge us by asking such a question as this: “Well, what did you do to deserve this?  You must have done something, otherwise such behavior toward you would not have occurred.”  When others are not passing judgement on you and when you have not acted unjustly toward those who were unfair to you, then shame likely will not occur.

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How does a person come to understand the origins of his own anger?

I recommend that you reflect on the different injustices that have happened to you, starting in childhood, then moving to your adolescence, and then into adulthood.  Try to make a list of the persons and the injustices and then rate: a) how deep is each injustice on a 1-to-10 scale and how deeply hurt you are now by this injustice, again on a 1-to-10 scale.  Then look at this “forgiveness landscape” (which is the term I use for such an exercise in my book, The Forgiving Life).  Those injustices that are deep and remain very hurtful probably are at the heart of any abiding anger you have inside of you now.

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A girl I was seeing told me that my male friend slept with her.  My male friend denies this, but I know it is true based on what the girl told me.  Given that my male friend is denying what happened, should I remove my male friend from my life?

If in fact your male friend did as the girl said, then his idea of friendship is in need of correction.  If in fact he did this and denies it, then he does not seem to be interested in a genuine reconciliation with you.  If you are unable to trust him and if he remains unrepentant, then your not accepting him as a true friend at this point seems reasonable.

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A Reflection on the International Educational Conference on Agape Love and Forgiveness, Madison, Wisconsin, July 19-20, 2022

Main Point 1: Despite cross-cultural differences, forgiveness has a common meaning across historical time and across cultures.

Main Point 2: To my knowledge, there never has been a conference on agape and forgiveness before this one.

Main Point 3: It is time for modern culture to reawaken the ancient moral virtues of agape and forgiveness for the good of individuals, families, and communities.

After over a year of detailed preparation by Jacqueline Song and the dedicated team, the agape love and forgiveness conference is now history.  That history is preserved in the videos which have captured each talk presented at the conference (the videos are available here: Agape Love and Forgiveness Conference Videos).

I have at least three take-away points as I reflect on this conference:

  1. The cultural diversity was strong, with presentations by people from Israel, Northern Ireland, the Philippines, Taiwan, and the United States. Despite the wide cultural differences, one thing was clear: The meaning of both agape and forgiveness do not change as we get on an airplane and visit cultures that are far away from one another. Instead, the core meaning of agape remains in that as a person loves in this way, it is for the other person(s) and the expression of this love can be challenging for the one who willingly offers it.  The core meaning of forgiveness remains as a person, unjustly treated by others, a) makes the free will decision to be good to those who acted unfairly, b) sees the inherent worth in those others, c) feels some compassion for them, d) willingly bears the pain on those others’ behalf, and e) offers goodness of some kind toward them.  Yes, those who forgive may not reach all five of these characteristics, but they remain the goal, that to which we want to strive if excellence in forgiveness is our end point.  Yes, there are important cultural nuances as one Islamic educator introduced forgiveness to the students with quotations from the Qu’ran and as an educator from a Christian school opened the New Testament to the students.  The rich diversity had a glue that bound all together—-the objective reality of what these two moral virtues mean across historical time and across cultures.  Objective meaning met cultural nuance at the conference.
  1. Unless I missed something in my travels with forgiveness over the past 37 years, I do not think there ever was an international conference that focused specifically on the moral virtues of agape and forgiveness. If this is true, why is it the case? What has happened within humanity so that these two key moral virtues, so prominent for example in Medieval times, would be characteristically ignored in educational contexts with children and academic contexts in university settings?  I think the transition from accepting objective truth about moral virtues (for example, justice is what it is no matter where we are in the world even when there are cultural nuances) has given way to an assumption that relativism is the new truth and so we all can choose the virtues we like and define them as we wish.  Do you see the contradiction in such a statement?  In the abandonment of objective reality that there is a truth, the new thinking is that relativism (in which there is no truth) is the new objective truth.  It is time to reintroduce communities to the moral virtues, which we all share as part of our humanity.  We need to know what these virtues are by definition and how we can give them away to others for their good, for our good, and for the good of communities.
  1. When I look across the globe at communities that have experienced conflict, that now carry the weight of the effects of decades and even centuries of conflict, I have come to the conclusion that a reawakening of the moral virtues of agape and forgiveness is vital if we are to heal from the effects of war and continued conflict with all of its mistrust and stereotyping of the human condition. Agape and forgiveness challenge us to see the personhood in everyone with whom we interact, even those who are cruel to us.  This does not mean that we cave in to injustices because the moral virtue of justice requires fairness from all.  The healing of hearts, families, communities, and nations will be better accomplished if people now can shake off the dust from agape and forgiveness, that have been so ignored in modernism, and find a new way with the old virtues.  It seems to me that agape and forgiveness, as a team, is a powerful combination for the healing of trauma for individuals and relationships.  I fear a continuation of the same old conflicts in hearts and in interactions if we do not go back and rediscover the life-giving virtues of agape love and forgiveness and bring them forward now in schools, families, houses of worship, and workplaces.


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