Author Archive: doctorbobenright
I am 46 years old and I celebrated my 20th wedding anniversary last August. Last year was a difficult year for me. My husband travels for work. When he travels, his job includes ‘wining and dining’ his clients. He recently hired a young, female college graduate. He planned a week long trip with the ‘new girl’ to introduce her to their clients. He never shared or told me that he would traveling with her. I happened to ask him who he was traveling with, one day prior to his departure. I was completely shocked that he would go away with this young, single girl and never tell me. He admitted to keeping this information from me so that I wouldn’t worry. At first, he had a hard time admitting that there was anything wrong with planning such a trip without telling me about it. I do not feel that he had or has a sexual relationship with the ‘new girl’; however, I am incredibly hurt and disappointed by his choice of not telling me. I cry frequently about it. I don’t trust him. He is known to avoid difficult situations. I am tired of his ‘avoiding’ personality and I have developed an intolerance toward it. He has a history of not communicating important events and details of his life. If I ask the ‘right’ question, he will answer the question; but, he will not be forthright with information. He has apologized for his recent bad choice with the ‘new girl’; but I can’t let it go. I am very critical of everything he says and does. I want to forgive him, but I truly do not know how….
Perhaps a first step is to see your husband’s weaknesses. We all have weaknesses and so this is not saying that your husband is weak.
Here is a first step: You say that he has an “avoiding” personality. Why might that be? Has he been hurt in his past, even as far back as childhood? Sometimes people avoid conflict because they have been deeply emotionally wounded by others in conflict situations. If this has happened to your husband, then he, too, carries a wound from the wounded ones who hurt him.
If this is true, and when you see your husband’s inner wounds from others, how is your heart doing toward him? This is the beginning of forgiveness.
If the person did not intend to do wrong, is there really anything to forgive? For example, I have been waiting for a court decision on child-custody for a very long time. The people in the court are not meaning to be unfair, but justice delayed is justice denied. Can I forgive those who are delaying the decision if they do not intend to do wrong?
The short answer is, “Yes.” You should consider yourself free to forgive.
There are at least three issues to consider when assessing wrong: the act itself, the intention, and the circumstances. The circumstances here seem to be that the court is overwhelmed with cases (but I am only surmising this). The intention of the court, as you say, is to see that justice is done. Yet, the act itself—the delay—is unjust given the seriousness of the decision for which you are waiting. The act itself is wrong and so you should go ahead and forgive.
I have found that when an injustice (such as the long delay that you are experiencing) occurs, it is hard to forgive because the injustice is not easing up. Go ahead and forgive nonetheless. The act of forgiving may ease some of your inner turmoil. I would urge you to be gentle with yourself because the anger from an ongoing injustice still may be with you.
Generalizing from the Particular to the Universal
You know how it goes. You go into a department store and have an unpleasant encounter with the person at checkout…..and you never go back there again. The particular incident has given you a bad feeling for the entire organization.
You break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend and, at least for a while, you think that no one really can be trusted. This one relationship makes you mistrustful of such relationships in general.
Generalization. It can help us when the generalization is true and can distort reality for us when false. For example, when we touch poison ivy in one woods, it is wise to avoid it in the next….and the next. The effects of poison ivy generalize regardless of which plant we touch. On the other hand, one boyfriend’s bad behavior does not predict another person’s behavior. In this case, generalization closes down our mind and heart when there is no need for this.
When you are hurt by someone, you have to be careful not to generalize this to many, most, or all others. Not everyone is out to hurt you. Such generalization can form the unhealthy foundation for a world view that is pessimistic and inaccurate. Has this happened to you?
If so, it is time to fight back against this. Try saying the following to yourself as a way to break the habit of a false view of others:
I have been wounded by another person. For today, I will not let his/her wounds make me a bitter person who thinks negatively about people in general. I will overcome any tendency toward this by seeing others as having special worth, not because of what they have done, but in spite of this. We are all on this planet together; we are all wounded. Not all are out to wound me.
A Specific Exercise for Couples
Those of you who have the absolute perfect spouse, please raise you hand……anyone?
Now, those of you who are the absolute perfect spouse, please raise your hand…..I see no hands up.
OK, so we have established that we are not perfect and neither is our partner. Yet, we can always improve. Note carefully that I am not suggesting that you read this to improve your partner. I write it to improve you, the reader.
Here is a little exercise that I recommend for any couple. Together, talk out the hurts that you received in your family of origin, where you grew up. Let the other know of your emotional wounds. This exercise is not meant to cast blame on anyone in your family of origin. Instead, the exercise is meant for each of you to deepen your insight into who your partner is. Knowing his wounds is one more dimension of knowing him as a person. As you each identify the wounds from your past, try to see what you, personally are bringing into the relationship from that past. Try to see what your partner is bringing in.
Now, together, work on forgiving those from your family of origin who have wounded you. Support one another in the striving to grow in the virtue of forgiveness. The goal is to wipe the resentment-slate clean so that you are not bringing those particular wounds to the breakfast table (and lunch table and dinner table) every day.
Then, when you are finished forgiving those family members from the past, work on forgiving your partner for those wounds brought into your relationship, and at the same time, seek forgiveness from him or her for the woundedness you bring to your relationship. Then, see if the relationship improves. All of this is covered in greater depth in my new book, The Forgiving Life.
Why Forgiveness Education Matters
We have forgiveness education curriculum guides for teachers, parents, and school counselors in our Store. The guides show you, step-by-step, how to implement forgiveness education for about one hour a week or less to children as young as age 4 or as old as age 17. The medium for instructing students on forgiveness is through stories. We have summaries of these stories for your examination and use as you wish.
Our research shows that as students learn about forgiveness, they become less angry and can increase in academic achievement. After all, if someone is fuming internally, it is hard to pay attention to the regular school subjects.
Take a look below at what teachers in Milwaukee’s central-city are saying after teaching forgiveness for 12 to 15 weeks, about one hour a week:
Highlights of the evaluations (four-year averages) are as follows:
• 91% of the teachers found the forgiveness curriculum materials easy to use.
• 75% of the teachers observed that, as a whole, the students decreased in anger as a result of learning about forgiveness.
• 78% of the teachers observed that the students increased in cooperation as a result of learning about forgiveness.
• 71% of the teachers observed that, as a whole, the students improved in their academic achievement as a result of learning about forgiveness.
• 91% of the teachers thought that they became a better overall instructor as a result of teaching the forgiveness curriculum.
• 93% of the teachers thought that they became a better person as a result of teaching the forgiveness curriculum.
• 84% of the teachers thought that their classrooms as a whole began to function better as a result of the forgiveness curriculum.
• 76% of the teachers thought that the school as a whole began to show improvement because of the forgiveness education program.