Ask Dr. Forgiveness

Is it possible that as a person forgives that she can actually become a better person? If so, what does this “better person” look like?

Forgiveness is a moral virtue and thus centers on goodness. The specific goodness expressed in forgiveness are mercy and even love toward those who have been unjust and even cruel to us. As a person forgives, he practices what is called seeing the inherent worth in the one or ones who have been unfair. As the person practices inherent worth, there is a tendency for this to generalize so that she now sees all people as possessing inherent worth. So, as a person forgives and keeps practicing forgiveness, he can grow in being a more merciful and loving person who see the built-in worth of all.

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I have been hurt by two different people in almost the exact same way. Both insulted me and acted like I don’t even have a brain. I found it not so hard to forgive the first person. Two times is too much and so I am having a hard time forgiving the second person. What do you recommend?

You likely have anger toward both people and so the anger toward the first one is spilling over to the second. In other words, you may have an accumulation of anger. First, please be aware of this if indeed this is the case. Then I recommend continuing to forgive the first person and persevere until the anger lessens. With lessened anger, and with the practice you now have in the process of forgiveness, you may find that forgiving the second person is easier than it was previously.

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I have been going through your 20-step procedure to forgive someone. All of a sudden I hit a bump in the road and I am unsure what to do. How do I get over this bump and move forward? It concerns seeing the person as someone who has inherent worth.

It is insightful of you to realize that you have hit that bump in the road. I suggest that you revisit the units in the Uncovering Phase of the forgiveness process. Perhaps you have more anger than you at first realized. If so, this could get in your way of seeing the person as possessing inherent worth. Also, you might want to carefully examine that person’s own fears and failures as a way to see the humanity in him or her. This could help you to see the one who hurt you as human, as a person. From there you then may be able to take the next step of seeing that he or she possesses built-in worth as a person.

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One of my professors stated that forgiveness is a passive activity. In other words, one does not solve problems by forgiving. Instead, one reacts to problems through forgiving. So, as we wait and react, we are passive and active in actually doing anything at all about our life’s problems. I wonder what you think about this.

You are wondering what I think about your professor’s thoughts on forgiveness. I think they are wrong. Just because forgiveness does not directly solve the problem of injustice does not make it passive. Yes, forgiveness comes after an injustice, but it is hardly passive. A forgiver struggles with anger, struggles to understand the one who was hurtful, and struggles to find compassion for the other. These are quite active responses. We should remember, further, that as a person forgives, the one forgiven sometimes sees the errors of his/her ways. Therefore, forgiveness actually can be one way of correcting an injustice.

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I am curious. Suppose you could give just one piece of advice about forgiveness to the world. What would that one particular gem be?

Wow…..This is a tough question…..OK…..Let me think……Here is the advice: As you forgive, please learn to love more deeply because forgiveness is about loving those who have not been showing love to you. As you love, let it grow in you and give that love to others. I think this will lead to a better world.

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