Ask Dr. Forgiveness
I have a co-worker who never stands up for himself nor does he even politely confront those who are giving him a hard time. Instead, he gets angry (away from those with whom he is in conflict). Sometimes that anger comes out toward me. He can occasionally bang his fist into the top of his desk. Do you think his actions are sufficient to relieve his anger or does this even help at all?
Your co-worker seems to be using the psychological defense of displacement, which means to take out the anger on something or someone else rather than on the original person who acted unfairly. In the short-run your co-worker might experience some relief from this catharsis, but in the long-run, as I am sure you know, his hitting the top of the desk will not solve the injustice. If your co-worker can do some forgiving and exercise this along with courage and a quest for justice, then he might be able to go to those at whom he is angry and talk it out in the hope of a fair resolution.
I seem to be lost on the forgiveness path. I try and try, but I do not think I have made much progress in forgiving my partner and this has been going on for about a year. Should I just get off the forgiveness path regarding my forgiving him?
Before you give up, I have some questions for you:
1) Have you committed to doing no harm to your partner, even in the context of your having the opportunity to somehow hurt him? If you answered, “Yes, I have committed to doing no harm,” then you are not lost on the forgiveness journey. This is a big step in the process;
2) Have you tried to see his weaknesses, his confusions, his wounds that may have wounded you? If not, perhaps you need to do some of this cognitive work, to see him in a wider perspective than only his injuries toward you;
3) Do you think that your will is strong enough to do the work outlined in #1 and 2 above? If so, that work could lead to your forgiving if you give this time.
So, what do you think? Have you found your way back onto the path of forgiveness?
Reconciliation is different from forgiveness. When we reconcile, this is a process of two or more people coming together again in mutual trust. Reconciliation is conditional on the other person’s willingness to change, if he or she was the one who acted unfairly. Forgiveness, in contrast, can be offered unconditionally to the other as a form of respect, understanding, compassion, and even love, even if there is no reconciliation. So, you can forgive without reconciling.
With all of this as background, here are four questions which might help you decide if you are ready to reconcile (and I am presuming that the other is the one who has hurt you):
1) Has the other shown an inner sorrow about what he or she did? We call this remorse;
2) Has the person verbally expressed this sorrow to you. We call this repentance;
3) Has the person made amends for what happened (and we have to ask if he or she has done so within reason because sometimes we cannot make full amends. For example, if someone stole $1,000 from you but truly cannot repay it all, then you cannot expect that he or she can make amends in any perfect way). We call this recompense;
4) If the person has shown what I call the “three R’s” of remorse, repentance, and recompense, then do you have even a little trust in your heart toward the person? If so, then perhaps you can begin a slow reconciliation, taking small steps in rebuilding the relationship. Your answer to these four questions may help you with your question: How do I know that I now am ready to reconcile?
What cautions do you have for me before I reconcile with a former partner who was not particularly trustworthy?
Here are three cautions for you:
- If you reconcile too quickly without the other showing any remorse, repentance, or recompense, then this could be a false reconciliation in which you may be hurt again in the same way.
- Please do not think of forgiving and reconciling as the same. You can forgive from the heart, but then not reconcile if the other continues to be a danger to you. If you equate the two, then as you forgive, you may feel a false obligation to reconcile.
- If you are still angry and not forgiving, then, without realizing it, you might use reconciliation as a weapon, in which you come together in a superficial way and then you keep reminding the other of how bad he/she has been and how good you have been. This is why you need forgiveness to occur before a deep reconciliation occurs.
Some people forgive better than other people. Is this because of certain neurotransmitters in the brain?
I have an essay at Psychology Today entitled, “Does Your Brain Cause You to Forgive?” My answer is no. Instead, I think it is continual practice of the moral virtue of forgiveness that makes certain people excellent in the forgiveness process. Here is a link to that Psychology Today essay: