Ask Dr. Forgiveness
I have been deeply hurt by unjust family situations. This actually has changed who I am as a person. I now am less compassionate toward others. Should I just accept who I am now or do I try to change? As I try to forgive, I think I will begin to change as a person and I do not like that idea. What worries me is this: If I start to change this one thing, then off I go changing other things until I no longer am the same person. This scares me.
Whether or not you try to become more compassionate, one thing still is likely to happen: You will change. Life is about developing and therefore we do not stay static. You have been hurt and your trust has been damaged. As you practice forgiving, you are correct, you likely will change. You likely will become more compassionate and more trusting in general (but not necessarily toward those whom you should not trust). If you notice, those characteristics of compassion and trust are positive developments. Forgiveness could help change you in very good ways. Try to enjoy the positive transformation.
From your own experience, what is the worst injustice you have ever seen when a person actually forgives?
There are two: Marietta Jaeger, who forgave the murderer of her young daughter. This is documented in a film, From Fury to Forgiveness, which appeared on television in the 1990’s. The other is Eva Moses Kor, who was part of the “twin experiments” at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II and who forgave the Nazis. This is documented in the film, Forgiving Dr. Mengele.
I recently read an article about “50 children under the care of the state were victims of substantiated sexual abuse.” I’m tired of reading about the sex abuse happening in our society. Is there a connection to anger, lack of forgiveness to sex offenders? If there is a connection what about forgiveness therapy for sex offenders; can it help in lowering the chance of re-offending? If so, can forgiveness therapy/curriculum in schools, anger management programs, prisons etc possibly lower the incidences of sex abuse?
When a person is not used to forgiving, this is not unlike a sedentary person starting a physical fitness program. It can be uncomfortable thinking kindly about the other. It takes work. Bearing the pain that the other caused you also is painful, but as you bear the pain, it lessens and lifts. The questions of whether or not to return to a relationship can be painful as can the other’s rejection of your forgiving. All of these might be called “costs,” but they do pay the dividends of emotional healing and possibly relational healing.
I read your book, Forgiveness Is a Choice, and it became a revelation to me just how angry I have been toward my mother when I was growing up. Is this common, to be angry, to be aware of the anger, but not have a clue about the depth of that anger?
Yes, it is common because of the psychological defense mechanisms of denial, suppression, and repression. These defenses are not problematic if they keep unpleasant issues from us when we are not ready for the full brunt of those issues. The defenses can get in the way of emotional healing when they prevent us from seeing the truth: I have been treated unfairly and I am angry about this. So, in the short run, the psychological defenses can protect us from being overwhelmed. In the long-run, slowly becoming aware of the depth of anger is a first step to healing from the effects of serious injustices.