Archive for February, 2023

My partner says that he forgives me, but he seems kind of smug about it.  His attitude seems to be “I am better than you.”  Is this really an act of forgiving?

In 1978 the psychiatrist R.C.A. Hunter made the important point in a journal article that most of us can tell if an act of forgiving is legitimate or not based on the sincerity of the words and actions.  If the other seems to be using forgiving as a way to dominate, to feel superior toward you, then this likely is not genuine forgiveness.  You could try having a conversation with him about this and gently state that his actions do not seem to suggest a true sense of forgiving in which you meet person-to-person in a genuine spirit of respect and love.

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I have a problem.  I am out of an unhealthy relationship.  My ex-boyfriend now is in a new relationship with another woman.  He seems to want me to forgive him so he can be free of his own guilt because he broke his own moral standard.  In other words, he is not asking for forgiveness for my sake, for my well-being, but only for his.  So, do I even tell him that I have forgiven when I have gone down that path?

Forgiving is your choice when you are ready.  There are many reasons why you might forgive: a) to aid his recovery of his well-being; b) to aid your own recovery; and c) as an end in and of itself, among other reasons.  So, you can forgive, for example, because it is good in and of itself.  If you decide to forgive also as a way to aid his recovery, even when he is uninterested in your recovery, this would be a very deep sense of forgiving, doing so through pain for his sake.  This kind of goal can take time and so please be gentle with yourself as you discern the answer to your goal regarding why you are forgiving.  If you are not ready to forgive in particular for his sake, you can start by forgiving so that you are free of resentment and can move forward well in life.  The other reason might develop in you later.

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How can we get parents interested in teaching their children about forgiveness?

Parents first need to understand that deep-seated resentment can build up in children’s hearts when they are treated unfairly.  They need a way of curing that resentment and forgiveness is one vital way to do that.  We need to get the word out to parents that forgiveness is a protection of the child’s heart that can be appropriated for the rest of that child’s life, even into adulthood when the storms of life can get more severe.

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How do I correct a child who equates forgiving with revenge?  The thought in this child, age 6, is that if he can get back at the other person, then they can move on together.

A key issue is to begin talking with the child about how all people are special, unique, and irreplaceable.  All people have built-in worth.  As Horton the elephant says in the Dr. Seuss classic, Horton Hears a Who, “A person’s a person no matter how small.”  Try to get the child to see this and to see that the proper response to other people is kindness.  Getting back at someone who behaved badly is not kindness and so this cannot possibly be forgiveness.  It is important also to bring in the issue of justice.  If a child is being bullied by another, for example, the one who might forgive needs to seek justice by telling an adult about the unfair situation.

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Has forgiveness education in schools been studied scientifically and found to be useful?

Yes, there is evidence.  I actually answered this in another question posed to me here on October 29, 2022.  Here is that answer:

Yes, there now are scientifically-based forgiveness programs, many of which focus on stories and story characters who experience conflict and learn to resolve those conflicts.  The research shows that children and adolescents, when given a sufficient amount of time (12 or more weeks) to think about forgiveness, actually forgive to a deeper level than before they had these programs.  Here is a reference to a journal article showing this to be the case: Rapp, H., Wang Xu, J., & Enright, R.D. (2022). A meta-analysis of forgiveness education interventions’ effects on forgiveness and anger in children and adolescents. Child Development.

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