Ask Dr. Forgiveness
My mother seems to suffer from excessive guilt. Now that I am adult, she keeps asking me to forgive her for how she parented me when I was a child. I actually see no big deal here. So, do I tell her that I forgive her, even though I don’t think she did anything wrong?
Your mother seems to need your reassurance that you love her and that she is a good person. Her standards for herself are higher than yours in judging her parenting skills. If it were me, I would say something like this: “When people forgive others, they see the others as worthwhile and of great value. Mom, you are of great worth and of infinite value to me. When people forgive others, they love them. Mom, I love you without condition. Now that I have shown the attributes of forgiveness to you, may I make a suggestion? I think that you should forgive yourself for anything you think you might have done that is still causing you guilt. I want you to have peace regarding how you raised me. I think you did a wonderful job of that.”
Sometimes people think that they have not forgiven if they have some residual anger. I disagree with this. We are all imperfect in our forgiving and when we are treated very unfairly, it is not uncommon to have some anger left. The key is this: Are you in control of your anger or is the anger in control of you? When we forgive, our anger is reduced to manageable levels. After we have forgiven, there still may be room for more forgiving, so please be open to that. At the same time, please do not falsely accuse yourself of not being a forgiver if anger re-emerges from time to time. When that happens, do more forgiving if the anger builds to uncomfortable levels.
Anger does seem to be a natural part of reacting to injustice. We need to remember that anger can be felt and expressed along a continuum. If the anger is short-lived and not extremely intense, then it can be useful in energizing a person who then strives to correct the injustice. When the anger becomes extreme, both in its duration and its intensity, forgiveness can be one effective way of controlling that anger. Forgiveness exercised in the right way (by not denying the injustice and not denying the angry reaction) can actually reduce the anger. When this happens, the anger is not suppressed, but instead is diminished.
There are some offenses which some people will not forgive, but there is nothing I know in the world so horrible that no one has responded with forgiveness.
An example is the murder of one’s child. Many may not be ready to start a forgiveness process, but there are other people who would and have forgiven the murderer of their children.
We must be gentle with those who refuse to forgive. At the same time, we should not stand in disbelief when some do offer forgiveness in this circumstance.
Found out recently that my husband had a lady friend who he was close to on facebook. To the extent that he sent her a message on valentines reading: Happy valentines sweeting. I confronted him about it but he says there was nothing between them, which i don’t believe. Now i’m hurting and finding it difficult to believe him. I wish it was the first time he has had a lady friend whom he gets too close to but it is not and we’ve fought over this issue on two occassions and I just don’t know what to do.
Hurt from betrayal is very difficult. Hurt from continued betrayal is even more difficult. Your forgiving him will help your inner emotional world and it may help you talk with your husband in a calm and respectful manner (which may help open the lines of communication a little more). Beyond forgiving, you have an issue of trust. Forgiveness by itself will not restore trust, although it may make you more open to trusting. Trust has to be earned. Your husband, as you say, has had issues like this on at least two other occasions. It is time to let him know that you are having difficulty trusting, and then see what he says. He will have to repair the mistrust by small and consistent behaviors (one step at a time) so that you are feeling safer. What do you need from him to feel safer? After you start the forgiveness process and your anger is lessened, approach him with this and see what he has to offer by way of increasing your sense of feeling safe.