Ask Dr. Forgiveness

What is the best way to become motivated to forgive? I need a little help in even starting because of all the hurt inside.

Because forgiveness is a moral virtue, it is an expression of goodness toward other people (as is justice, kindness, and generosity).  Yet, one’s initial motivation can be one’s own inner emotional healing.  As long as you do not confuse what forgiveness **is** with this motivation, you should be fine.  As you continue with the forgiveness process, you will begin, even if slowly, to see the humanity in the one who hurt you.

Please follow and like us:

I hear the term “forgive and forget,” but I am unsure what the difference is between forgiving and forgetting. Can you shed some light on this? Thanks.

First, let us consider the term “to forget.”  It has at least two shades of meaning.  First, it can mean this: to put the hurtful event behind one so that it is not always front-and-center, causing strife in a relationship that needs to be nurtured.  Second, it can mean a kind of moral amnesia in which the forgiver fails to consider issues of justice and therefore is prone to being hurt again.  When people “forgive and forget” they try to do the first and avoid the second meaning of the term “to forget.”  When we forgive we not only put the hurtful event behind us but also we acknowledge the personhood in the one who was unfair to us.  So, “to forget” centers on the hurtful event; “to forgive” centers on the person who acted in such a way as to create the hurtful event.

Please follow and like us:

I am married to the same man for 33 years. On the very first night of our honeymoon I noticed that this man had problems with intimacy. He really feared it. We’ve managed to have two biological children and have adopted two children. My husband doesn’t like to be touched. He cringes if I put my hand on his shoulder. Recently, he has picked up an old habit that he stopped for many years…masturbating. I have walked in on him many, many times. I’ve asked him to stop. I insisted that he see a therapist which he does weekly. I can’t help feeling like I am invisible. I feel like whatever I need/needed from him doesn’t matter to him. He doesn’t drink or womanize. He goes to work everyday. I feel very guilty for hating him sometimes. Please help.

First, let me say that I admire your loyalty to your husband. You already are showing courage, patience, and forgiveness.  I suspect that something happened in your husband’s childhood or adolescence to make him cringe when touched.  He likely is classically conditioned to touch in this way.  Was there physical abuse in his past?  If so, he needs to uncover that and, if he is willing, to work on forgiving the person who damaged his ability to be close.  I would start there–with the assumption of physical abuse in his past.  Please be gentle as you bring this up because he may be in denial or have a lot of pain associated with the experience (if indeed it happened).

Please follow and like us:

I am on the journey of forgiveness and I am following your steps in the book, The Forgiving Life. I have hit a big bump in the road on your step of working to understand the one who hurt me. I am afraid to “step inside his shoes” because of the hurt. When I cannot do this, my entire forgiveness path kind of crumbles and I feel I am making no progress. What can you suggest to get me unstuck?

It seems to me that your trust is damaged with regard to this person.  If so, please keep in mind that as you forgive, you do not have to trust at first.  Trust comes when you are ready to reconcile.  If this insight does not help, then please re-think your level of anger. Perhaps you are more angry than you realize.  If this is so, try to forgive the person for a lesser offense.  Another strategy is to begin the forgiveness process with a less challenging person.  As you learn to forgive this person, you may become stronger in your forgiveness and then be able to deal with this more challenging person and his or her difficult offense against you. A key is to retain a strong will to forgive.

Please follow and like us:

Making a decision to go ahead and forgive is hard. Even when I try to “will” myself to forgive by saying over and over, I will forgive,” I have a hard time doing it. What can I do when I do not feel like forgiving so that I can make that important decision to go ahead?

Our research has shown that the most difficult step in the forgiveness process is this very issue, to simply start the process by making the decision to forgive.  So, please be aware that you are not alone in this.  I would also recommend that you look toward the finish line (but please do not be in a hurry to get there).  See down the track that there is emotional relief waiting for you.  If the one who hurt you is willing, there may be reconciliation waiting for you. As you reflect on these benefits, you may be more willing to start the process.  And do not forget to bring along the virtue of courage, which also will help you start.

Please follow and like us: