Ask Dr. Forgiveness

How important is it for me to follow exactly your 20 steps in your Process Model of Forgiveness?

This process model was not constructed to be a rigid model in which you have to follow the sequence in the exact order.  Some of the units will be irrelevant for you and so you can skip them.  Sometimes, as you are near the end of the forgiveness process, your anger re-emerges.  At that point it may be best to cycle back to the earlier units to once again examine and confront your anger.

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How do I “acknowledge the other person’s humanity” when this person acts more like an animal than a person.  Sorry for such a negative statement, but this is how this person behaves.

Please keep in mind the distinction between what Aristotle described as each person’s “potentiality” compared with the person’s “actuality” in behaving in accord with the moral virtues.  The one you described as acting “like an animal” is not actualizing the potential for high level human behavior.  Yet, this person still has the “potentiality” to achieve this, with proper virtues education and encouragement by wise people.  As you see this potential, you are acknowledging the humanity in the other person.

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The one I need to forgive is deceased.  What good is it to forgive someone who has died?

While the other cannot benefit in any direct, physical way from your forgiveness, there are two areas of benefit for your consideration: 1) You may be able to create a positive (and truthful) view of that person, preserving a more dignified reputation for this person than might have been the case if you speak negatively about the person to others; and 2) you, yourself, as the forgiver, may find that your resentment melts and so you feel better upon forgiving.

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Does forgiving another also include the belief that this person can change for the better?

No, to forgive another person does not mean that you, as the forgiver, believe that this other person can or will change.  To forgive is to offer compassion and the acknowledgement of the person’s humanity, regardless of the outcome of this belief.  This is one important reason why we have to distinguish forgiving and reconciling.  You can offer this compassion and recognition of the other’s humanity without reconciling if the other remains a danger to you.

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The Missing Piece to the Peace Puzzle

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