Archive for March, 2024

Regarding the issue of being pressured into forgiving by norms that can be rather insistent, you said that it is best if people are “drawn to the beauty of forgiveness.”  What are some tips for doing this?

You can gently let people know that to forgive on its highest level is to love others, including those who behave badly. By “love” I mean agape or the kind of love that is in service to others, even when it is painful to do so. Forgiving can open people’s minds and hearts to this kind of love.  Forgiving can open people’s minds and hearts to others’ suffering in this world so that forgivers now have the opportunity to reach out a helping hand as an important part of their lives.

Might the popularity of forgiveness now be negative for some people? In other words, maybe there are expectations now that people must forgive, which can put pressure on people and be a real turn-off to offering forgiveness to others.

We have to continue to realize that forgiveness is each person’s choice, through free will, to forgive or to wait for a while or to not forgive. We need to respect people regarding where they are on the forgiveness journey. We need to let each person be drawn to the beauty of forgiveness rather than dragged into it.

Will forgiveness require some suffering for me to be finished with the suffering of loss and betrayal from the one to whom I gave my commitment?

Yes, the process of forgiveness does require suffering when the injustice is deep. For example, you will need to struggle to see the humanity in the one who was unfair to you. This can be painful as you see, in your mind, the one who hurt you. As you forgive, you will be asked to “bear the pain”—to stand up to the pain—so that you do not toss that pain back to the offending person or to innocent and unsuspecting other people.  Yet, as you bear this pain, the paradox is that it begins to lift. The bottom line is this: The pain suffered on the forgiveness journey is temporary. The pain suffered from the injustice can last a lifetime.

If I forgive, should I expect all of my inner pain to melt away or will there be some residual pain if the injustice against me is profound?

Many people, when treated extremely unfairly, can have some pain, such as residual anger, that stays with them. Yet, the inner unrest, the inner anger, no longer is intense.  As one person said to me,”My anger used to control me, but now I am in control of my anger.” Continuing to forgive, even for years, is not unreasonable when treated cruelly.  Yet, the forgiveness process becomes easier and takes less time as you continue to practice this moral virtue.

About a year ago, I sent an email to someone whom I hurt many years ago. In the email, I asked for forgiveness. I received no response. Should I try again or respect the person’s decision not to respond to me?

We do not know the person’s motivation here. The person might not have received the email or intended to respond and got busy. Given that it has been a year since you sent the email, I recommend that you try again, gently, with no pressure on the person to respond or to accept your request to be forgiven. If the person does not reply, you can go in peace because you have done the best that you are able to do right now and you have had the best of intentions for this person.