Archive for June, 2024

It seems to me that the forgiveness process could be harmful.  Here is what I mean: When I focus on the one who hurt me, I get angry with him.  I would rather just forget about the unjust event and forget about the person.  What do you think?

In my experience, when people are deeply hurt by others, no matter how far they run from the offending person, that person remains in the victim’s heart.  This can continue for many years.  The idea of forgetting about the person can occur in the mind, with denial and subconscious suppression of that person, but that person remains in the heart, in the area of feelings, including resentment.  In other words, no matter how hard one tries to erase the person, there he is inside the victim.  It is in forgiving that you unlock that door to the heart and let the person out, at least all the bad and even hateful feelings toward him.  In forgiving, you rewrite the script of who this person is.  Instead of seeing him exclusively as bad, you take a wider view and eventually see the inherent worth in him as a person.  This wider view can set you free from the stubborn resentment that just won’t quit.

Thank you for your recent response to me about my sister’s denial of her childhood experiences of abuse against her.  In your answer, you mentioned this: “Forgiving those who caused the abuse can significantly reduce the anger so that it is more manageable.”  Can you provide me with some research on this?

Yes, you can read some of our forgiveness intervention research on this website by going to the sub-menu on the right side of the page entitled Research. When you click on Research, you will be brought to some of our peer-reviewed published research discussing the reduction in resentment following forgiveness interventions with adults, adolescents, and children.

My sister was abused as a child, but she seems to have denied all memories of this.  I can clearly recall some of this abuse and so it is real.  Even so, she keeps all of this hidden from herself in her subconscious mind.  How can a person release the truth of past trauma?

Your sister might think that there is no true help or cure when unconscious memories are brought to consciousness.  If she sees that there is a safety net for her, which is forgiveness, then she may be able to loosen up on this defense of repression or suppression.  Sometimes people are fearful of their own anger because they think it will overwhelm them with no cure.  Forgiving those who caused the abuse can significantly reduce the anger so that it is more manageable.

How can I confront with forgiveness the systemic injustices carried out by institutions rather than by a singular individual?

Institutions are made up of persons and it is the persons in the institutions who make decisions, even unjust decisions.  So, when you forgive institutions, you are forgiving the people who have made these decisions within the institution.  This can get rather abstract because you likely do not know the people who have made these decisions.  Just because it is more abstract than forgiving a friend, forgiveness is possible.  As an analogy, if a person is robbed by a masked individual, the one who is robbed can forgive the one who robs even though this person is unknown to the victim.  It is similar to institutions.  You can forgive the persons without knowing them.

I am aware that during the Work Phase of forgiveness, I am to view the person who wronged me from what you refer to as a “larger perspective.” I want to know about the wounds they sustained as a child and as an adult. I then get to observe how these injuries have impacted me. I would like to know how I may stop thinking negatively if I always perceive other people as being harmed and as harming me.

In the act of forgiveness, individuals often consider the personal, global, and cosmic viewpoints regarding the individual who has wronged them. When considering the personal viewpoint, it is true that we advise the forgiver to recognize the pain experienced by the person who caused harm.   If all we did was focus on his or her emotional wounds and on our own emotional wounds, you have an important point that we as forgivers may begin to see the world only in terms of people’s woundedness.

However, there’s more to our individual stories of forgiving as we progress further in the process. When we start to see things from a global standpoint, we begin to recognize the humanity of the other person. The person who has caused harm is unique, special, and irreplaceable in the world, just as you are. This is not a negative viewpoint, but a positive one. When we consider the cosmic perspective, we realize that all individuals are somehow interconnected, with the nature of this connection being influenced by our own personal beliefs, philosophy, and view of humanity. These various understandings of persons are detailed in the book “The Forgiving Life.”

When we engage in the process of forgiveness and consider the person who has wronged us from a broader viewpoint, it isn’t all negative. Yes, forgiveness entails acknowledging that people treat us unfairly and recognizing that they may be dealing with their own emotional wounds. At the same time, forgiveness entails recognizing that every individual, including the one who caused harm, possesses intrinsic value, which is a positive perspective.