Ask Dr. Forgiveness

How does one forgive on behalf of another? My child was molested by my sister’s husband while in her care. I feel I cannot forgive for my daughter. Everytime I think of this person and this act, I feel hatred and do not believe I could ever feel any other way toward such a monster (and don’t really want to?), yet relise I need to release these feelings to alleviate the pain and anger I am carrying around. This particular form of forgiveness, when the ‘crime’ was commited against another, seems not to be covered in lierature, etc.

We are very sorry to hear of the mistreatment of your daughter. This should never, ever happen to a child. We discuss the kind of forgiveness you target in your question in the book, Forgiveness Is a Choice. You would not be forgiving on behalf of your daughter. Instead, you would be forgiving him for his injustice to you. He hurt your daughter. You are legitimately angry. You can then forgive him for the pain he has caused you by hurting your daughter. Once you learn the depth of forgiveness in this way, we recommend working with your daughter on forgiving him, if she is ready to do that. Please remember: When we forgive we do not toss out justice. As we forgive, we can and should ask fairness from those who have hurt us or who are a danger to others.

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Hello sir? i am a student and doing research on the topic of forgiveness that how forgiveness will increase healthy i am in search of a tool that can help me to measure relationship and how it can be modified through forgiving.I request you to please answer me is there any test or tool to measure the strength of a relation after forgiving?.Hoping for your reply

By “relationship,” do you mean a romantic relationship between two people? If so, please consider the Experiences in Close Relationship Scale. A 2007 peer-reviewed article from the Journal of Personality Assessment, has the items of that scale in it.

We wish you the best in your research.

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Has research suggested (or ruled out) any link between unforgiveness and Alzheimers?

To date, there is no study showing a link between unforgiveness and Alzheimers, but there are indications that this could be the case in an indirect sense. Consider this article, “The Healing Power of Forgiveness,” written by a board-certified psychiatrist and neurologist, from the Fortanasce-Barton Neurology Center in California.

The article presents evidence that high levels of anger can lead to more toxins going to the brain (the study was done on mice and so we must be careful in extrapolating this to humans). In this same article above, a study on humans showed that when presented with very disturbing stimuli, the research participants’ brains showed signs of agitation “and exhaustion of the neurons, therefore increasing their stress and cortisol levels that will interfere with good neuronal transmission.”

So, your intuition of a link between unforgiveness (agitation, anger) and brain function has merit as a hypothesis.

In closing, I want to mention one prevalent issue on the Internet between forgiveness and Alzheimers and that is the need for caretakers to forgive the patient and to forgive the self.

Here is one article on forgiving the one with the disease: “Forgiveness Toward an Alzheimer’s Victim.”

Here is one from the Mayo Clinic on forgiving the self when caring for someone with the disease: “Forgive yourself as a caregiver, and relieve anger.”

Dr. Bob

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Can there be such a thing as too much forgiveness?

Forgiveness is a moral virtue as is justice, kindness, and love. So, let us ask the question in a different way: Can we ever have too much justice? The answer is no. How can someone be fair to an excessive degree? Can we have too much courage? Again, the answer is no. We can distort courage, or any other virtue, by engaging in one of the vices associated with a given virtue. One vice associated with courage is reckless bravado. In the name of courage, a person who is a non-swimmer, for example, might jump in a stormy sea to save a drowning dog. This is not courage, but instead is reckless bravado, an unwise exaggeration of courage.

So, as we cannot have too much of a genuine virtue, as we explained with our example of justice, it seems that we cannot have too much forgiveness, either. A lot of goodness is not a bad thing.

As we saw in the example of courage, what we have to guard against is one of the vices associated with a given virtue. One such vice connected to forgiveness is excessive submissiveness, as we let others take advantage of us. Yet, as we can see, this is not a problem of forgiveness itself, but of the distortion of forgiveness.

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