Ask Dr. Forgiveness
Thank you for your question. Because Forgiveness Therapy interventions are becoming standard practice for more and more psychologists and others in the helping professions, the demand for our Forgiveness Therapy Continuing Education Course continues to grow. As far as we know, our course is currently the only one available that provides in-depth training for forgiveness therapy so those who have completed the course are a unique group of trailblazing professionals. Our course is based on the clinical manual also called Forgiveness Therapy and authored by me (a licensed psychologist) and my co-author, Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, an MD and a psychiatrist.
Those who successfully complete the course receive a completion certificate from the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI) that can be displayed in clinics and offices alongside other professional credentials. Those individuals may also, of course, advertise their forgiveness expertise in their clinical promotions and printed materials. That means the best way to find a therapist who has trained with the IFI is to ask the practitioner if he or she has undertaken forgiveness therapy training and, if so, who provided that training. Don’t be afraid to ask for documentation of that training (i.e., an IFI Certificate of Completion).
The best advice we can give on finding a therapist is to follow the step-by-step guidance we provide on our website in the section called “Find a Helping Professional.” There you will be able to access valuable fact sheets like “How to Choose a Psychologist” and “How Do I Find a Therapist Near Me?” If you think online therapy might be a viable option to consider, you will find guidance in our article “Reasons to Choose an Online Therapist.” More importantly, that page of our website includes links to three different reputable agencies, including the American Psychological Association, that provide no-cost services to help you locate a helping professional by geographic area or practice area. You’ll find all that at our “Find a Helping Professional” section.
Because trust is part of reconciliation, it is possible to come together again and then work on that trust. The other may have to earn back that trust a little at a time if the betrayal was deep. You can begin to trust when you see what I call the 3 Rs in the other: remorse (genuine inner sorrow seen in the other’s eyes), repentance (an apology that flows from the genuine inner sorrow) and recompense (truly trying to right the wrong). Please be patient as these three in the other may take some time and your trust may build slowly.
Yes. To forgive is not necessarily to reconcile although this is one of the goals of forgiving. Yet, reconciliation is not within only your power to grant. Reconciliation is a negotiation strategy between two or more people who come together again in mutual trust. If the other continues behaviors that are hurtful and if the person does not seem interested in changing those behaviors, then you can forgive but not reconcile, at least until the other shows signs of changing and is more trustworthy.
Because forgiving is a moral virtue, you talk of gift-giving as part of the process. How big of a gift are we talking about. Should I pay for the person’s medical bills, for example? Would paying for someone’s housing be over the top?
The gift-giving is always in the context of the forgiver’s capacity and the quality of the relationship at the moment. I noticed that you gave two examples regarding money. In actuality, the gift need not be monetary or even something physically concrete wrapped in a package. For example, a smile might be a great gift if such smiles have been non-existent for some time. A returned phone call might be just what the other needs. I think the gift-giving needs to be in the context of the moral virtue of temperance, or something that is balanced and reasonable and not “over the top” for a given forgiver.
The ancient Greeks had four words for the term love: storge (the natural love, for example, between a mother and child), philia (friendship love), eros (romantic love), and agape (which eventually came to be known as a heroic form of love given for the sake of the other and involving effort and even pain on the part of the one offering such love). The Essence of forgiveness (what it is at its core) is agape love offered to a hurtful, offending other person. As Aristotle reminded us, we do not necessarily reach perfection as we practice any virtue and so even though agape is the deepest form of forgiving (its Essence), we as imperfect people can offer patience and respect toward the other and this still most certainly counts as a forgiving response. A person might eventually grow into agape for the other, but some do not.