Ask Dr. Forgiveness

If I am gravely hurt by another person, is the forgiveness journey ever truly ended?  In other words, might my sadness and anger re-emerge during my life?

Because we are all imperfect, it follows that we are imperfect forgivers.  When we are deeply hurt by others, yes, the sadness and anger can re-emerge as you say.  Yet, and this is important, as you continue to practice forgiveness, the sadness and anger lessen and your ability to more efficiently and quickly forgive increases.  So, over time, the sadness and anger tend to lessen.  When they come back, they usually are not as troublesome and you can practice forgiveness again with even better results than when you started.  So, I encourage you to have hope as you forgive.  Your sadness and anger likely will not dominate you in the future as you persevere with forgiving.

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I read recently that a person linked forgiveness to evolution.  Here is the scenario: In a tribe, if Person A behaves badly, he is let off the hook (so to speak) if he is valuable to the community.  Suppose he is a great hunter.  Those offended by him let the offense go because his hunting skills are so valuable to the community.  What do you think of this?

I think it is a fairy tale that is not correct.  Forgiveness is not a bargaining strategy, but instead is a moral virtue in which the one offended willingly decides to be good to the other, not for any gain at all for the self or for the community, but instead as goodness for itself.  Yes, a forgiver might benefit from forgiving and a community may benefit, but these are consequences of forgiving.  Consequences do not constitute forgiving itself.  So, the scenario is invented in the mind of a person who is not thinking deeply about what forgiveness is and is not.

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Asking groups of people to forgive those who have politically oppressed them is an open door to continue the oppression.  What do you think?

My answer is similar to a question I just answered regarding the questioner’s concern about not being able to stand firm in justice when forgiveness is occurring.  We need to keep in mind that forgiveness and the quest for justice exist side-by-side.  There is no danger in forgiving other groups when you realize this and act upon this knowledge.

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I am afraid to forgive because it may prevent me from standing firm and demanding justice.  Can you help me with this?

Aristotle reminds us that we should not practice a moral virtue in isolation.  When we forgive, we do not abandon the quest for justice.  You can forgive and stand firm in asking for justice.  In fact, the way you ask for justice and that for which you ask may be better if you are not fuming with hatred as you approach those who behaved badly.

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Might forgiving induce guilt feelings if I forgive someone and my family members think it is not time to forgive?

We have to remember that forgiveness is your choice.  If you are ready to do so, this is up to you.  Others need to see that your view and theirs may differ.  This difference should not make you feel guilty because you are doing something very noble in extending good will as well as good feelings, thoughts, and possibly even behaviors toward someone who acted badly.  Such a heroic effort need not cause guilt if you see it accurately.

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