Ask Dr. Forgiveness
I am not someone who likes to go to psychotherapy. Yet, I prefer not to be alone on the forgiveness process. What would you recommend under this circumstance?
We have three self-help books that lead people through the forgiveness process: Forgiveness Is a Choice, The Forgiving Life, and 8 Keys to Forgiveness. I recommend that you choose one of these books and get two copies, one for a trusted friend and one for you. Both of you can go through the forgiveness process together, even sharing your own unique journeys with each other. This kind of support may help both of you forgive one person who has hurt your friend and one person who has hurt you.
In your video of an actual counseling session, you advise the client to see the emotional wounds in her mother. Yet, what if the mother were deceased. How would you proceed with the counseling with regard to this issue of the mother being wounded?
A client still can ascertain the history of emotional woundedness of one’s mother even if the mother is deceased. The client can look back at what is known about the mother’s childhood and adolescence and see if others were unfair and hurtful to her.
May I follow-up on my question about forgiving one’s mother if she is deceased? You mention that part of forgiving is to try, within reason, to give a gift to the one who acted unfairly. How can one give a gift to a deceased person?
You can give an indirect gift to one who is deceased. For example, you can donate to a charity in the person’s name. You can share a kind word about the person to other family members, knowing that the deceased person was more than the injustices against you. If you are a person of faith, you can say a prayer for the person. So, it is possible to practice giving a gift even to those who no longer are with us.
While reducing anger is an important part of forgiveness (the deliberate choice to get rid of resentment), there is more to forgiveness than this, particularly the growing in the moral virtue of agape love, or that kind of love that is in service to others even though such service can be difficult and even painful for the one who forgives.
It seems to me that when we forgive a lot, then we are actually growing in our humanity. Is there such a thing as growing in our humanity and is forgiveness a pathway to this?
According to Plato and Aristotle, as we grow in the virtues of justice, courage, temperance, and wisdom, then we are growing in our essence of what it means to be human. So, yes, I do think that we can grow in our humanity. Further, I do think that forgiveness helps us grow in our humanity because it melts our resentment, making justice even more fair, allowing for more courage rather than fear, balancing our emotions so we can be more temperate, and when we are free of resentment, then we have the opportunity to have more wisdom or to know the proper way of responding to different situations, even challenging situations.