Ask Dr. Forgiveness

I am thinking of bringing a friend on my forgiveness journey. Please keep in mind that the friend and I actually are forgiving the same person, our employer. Is it a good idea that my forgiveness partner be forgiving the same person as I am forgiving, or should I seek someone else as the forgiveness partner?

I think it would be better in this circumstance to have a forgiveness partner who has not experienced the same injustice as you from the same person. I say this because your mutually-shared resentment might hold one or both of you back from advancing in forgiving or perhaps in giving each other accurate feedback in how well you are progressing in forgiveness. A person who is not angry with the same offender may be more objective in giving you feedback.

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Is it possible to forgive too much? If so, what would that look like?

Can you be too fair with people? In other words, is there a situation in which the practice of justice can be too much? I do not think so because all of the moral virtues are good and so the practice of the virtues also is good. What you might have in mind is what we call false-forgiveness. In such a case, people, for example, are continually trying to put on a show of their own high virtue and so they are insincere. Also, if someone distorts forgiving by isolating it so that no justice occurs along with forgiveness, then an unhealthy and hasty reconciliation might occur. So, if the forgiving is genuine and is balanced with justice, then there is no such thing as too much forgiving.

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I am feeling somewhat “wishy-washy” about forgiving a friend for something she did to me. My question to you is how deeply committed do I have to be in order to actually go ahead and forgive?

Your commitment to forgive, as you see, can vary from very low to very high. This can fluctuate across time, too. A key is this: Are you ready to commit, no matter how small that is, to doing no harm to the one who hurt you? Also, do you see clearly what forgiveness is and is not (it is not excusing or automatically reconciling, for example)? If you have some motivation to do no harm and understand what forgiveness is, then you are ready to move forward in the forgiveness process.

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My brother was insensitive to me and deeply hurt my feelings. He sees nothing wrong with what he did. Can I forgive him even though he sees nothing unjust in his actions?

Yes, you are free to forgive if you so choose. If you see an injustice against you, then it is your decision whether or not to forgive. No matter who or how many people tell you that your views are wrong, if you have carefully considered the matter as wrong, then you are free to forgive.

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What if someone hurt you, but did not intend to do that. Can I still forgive?

The answer depends on how serious the consequence is in such cases. If the consequence is minor then forgiveness may not be necessary. In contrast, suppose someone is texting on their mobile phone while driving the car. The person hits your car and injures your leg. The person did not intend to hurt you, but the consequences of such inattentive behavior could, and in this case did, lead to injury. In other words, the one who hurt you did wrong because of an omission of attentive driving. In such a case, yes, you can forgive if you so choose.

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