Archive for October, 2023
Are there any other moral virtues which call for you to develop love for people who have treated you unfairly?
It seems to me that forgiveness is the one moral virtue for this. Forgiveness is such a noble virtue because it is offered through our pain to those who inflicted that pain. It demands more of you than most examples of justice (it is typically easy to be fair to people who are fair to you) and the kind of love that is reciprocal (it is easy to love a child who loves you). Giving agape love (in service to others even when it is difficult to do so) to someone who does not give it to you is difficult.
I am confused about this idea of taking the offending person’s perspective when forgiving. Isn’t this somewhat unhealthy because, when taking that perspective, I might conclude that there was nothing wrong because that person has so many internal wounds that he just could’t help doing what he did.
When we take the offending person’s perspective, we keep carefully in mind that we are not condoning what this person did. In other words, we keep the perspective that what the person did was wrong, is wrong, and always will be wrong. From that position, we try to see a true human being who has worth despite the shortcomings of the unjust behavior.
I am feeling kind of forced into forgiveness. Here is why: My partner asked me to forgive her and I said I am working on it. She came back at me with this: “You, who are supposed to be such a good person, cannot even offer forgiveness to me when I ask? What’s the matter with you?” How would you respond to that?
I first would forgive her for this accusation and the pressure that she is putting on you. Then, with a forgiving heart, I would gently explain that forgiveness is a process and you are sincerely working on that process. You can update her on the process if and when you are ready. We need to realize that each of us has a different timeline for forgiving and so we need to resist pressure from others to have it all wrapped up quickly.
You say that forgiving is unconditional, but would’t it help if the one forgiving hears a sincere apology from the one who offended?
Yes, a sincere apology tends to help most people to offer forgiveness, but such an apology is not a requirement that is absolutely necessary for the offended person to forgive. If it were a requirement for the forgiver, this is giving too much power to the offending person over the other person’s healing from the injustice.
The Wisconsin State Journal newspaper has a regular column entitled, Know Your Madisonian. On Saturday, October 21,2023 Dr. Robert Enright was the featured guest in that column, which was a “top story, editor’s pick” that day. The reporter, David Wahlberg, stated that Dr. Enright’s basic approach to forgiveness in world conflict zones is that “forgiveness begins at home.” In other words, when groups have been in conflict for a long time, it is best not to start peace dialogues with forgiveness, but instead to first grow in this moral virtue by practicing forgiveness in the everyday annoyances of one’s own home and community. Because forgiveness is difficult and takes time, he recommends practice and then more practice first with loved ones in the give and take of family and local community life. This helps people to grow in the moral virtue of forgiveness. Once they become more “forgivingly fit,” then people may be more receptive to the idea of group-to-group forgiving. If both sides can bring a mature perspective of forgiveness to the peace table, then the dialogue is less likely to include wounded hearts that are filled with resentment or even hatred.