Ask Dr. Forgiveness
Is it harder to forgive if a person is filled with anger compared with another person who is filled with pain and sorrow after being treated unfairly?
It seems to me that if the anger is very intense and includes resentment or even hatred, then, yes, it is harder to forgive. Some people who are fuming with anger cannot even use the word “forgiveness” because it intensifies the anger. At the same time, if a person has deep sorrow, sometimes there is an accompanying lack of energy and the person needs some time to mourn first. At such times, the person needs to be gentle with the self as emotional healing takes place.
I work hard on forgiveness, but sometimes I get to a week in which I do not want to even think about it or what happened to me. During these times, what can I do to not feel guilty or uncomfortable about setting forgiveness aside?
Let us take an analogy here. Suppose you have a physical fitness regimen. Do you work out every week for an entire year or do you take some time off to refresh, to heal, to re-group? Physical trainers tell us to take some time off. It is good for us. Think of becoming forgivingly fit in the same way. Hard work is good, but we need some time off to refresh and re-group so that we come back to that work with renewed enthusiasm.
It seems to me that anger is not always a bad thing. Can’t people be energized by their anger, focus, and attain fairness?
Yes, anger can be part of the motivation for achieving good. Yet, we have to make a distinction between anger within reasonable bounds (the emotion does not disable us, is not extreme) and anger that turns to resentment (a long-lasting and intensive anger that can lead to fatigue, distraction, and even physical complications). If we do not make this distinction, we could slip into resentment and conclude that it is good rather than dangerous in the long-term.
What strategies, suggestions do you have for a parent trying to help her teen work through feelings of shame and fear of disappointing loved ones in order for the teen to forgive himself?
Self-forgiveness can be more difficult than forgiving other people because we tend to be harder on ourselves than on others. So, I would recommend that you first approach your son with the idea of forgiving someone who has hurt him. Let him get used to the idea of offering goodness toward at least one other person. Then try it again with yet another person. Once he sees that he can offer goodness toward others who have hurt him, then ask him to consider offering this same goodness to himself: unconditionally and compassionately. If he sees the need then to seek forgiveness from those he has disappointed, he could do that.
Are children as young as 6 years old really able to understand the concept of inherent worth? I notice that you introduce this idea as early as first grade (in the grading system of the USA).
When you teach children about inherent worth, a key is for you not to expect perfection in the children’s understanding. The point is to introduce the idea that all people are special, unique, and irreplaceable even if they differ in intelligence, athletic ability, or any other trait that is less important than personhood itself. Children are capable of grasping that we are all human and therefore are all special.