Ask Dr. Forgiveness

Are there some offenses that are so bad that they are unforgivable?

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.

Please follow and like us:

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.

Please follow and like us:

I run a business and most of my employees are men. I was thinking of holding a forgiveness workshop in the firm, but I am concerned about the reactions I will get. I think you know what I mean. We have had “diversity training” and “sensitivity training” somewhat forced on us. Will the guys in particular think the forgiveness workshop is just one more imposition for them?

“Diversity and sensitivity training” sometimes makes employees angry because such training can imply that any given employee is not sensitive to others. When employees do not share such an implicit message, then attending a workshop like this can appear to be something forced on them.

A forgiveness workshop does not imply that a given employee is insensitive or disrespectful. Instead, the point of such a workshop is to help any employee who is resentful, with the possible consequence of coming to work with low morale, to overcome this sometimes debilitating resentment. Forgiveness presents a problem (excessive anger) and then presents a scientifically-tested solution (forgiving those who have been unjust to the employee).

If you think about it, a forgiveness workshop gives the exact opposite message of sensitivity training. It is the employee who is treated unjustly and who seeks a solution when we shine the light on forgiveness. In contrast, it is the employee who is implicitly judged as being the unjust one when he or she is asked to undergo diversity and sensitivity training.

If you approach the forgiveness workshop with an attitude of “Come, see what this is about; you can take it or leave it after you hear the message,” then your employees may be more receptive. Forgiveness is not forced on anyone, or at least it should not be. Forgiveness is each person’s individual choice to try or not. If the men in your company have some anger that is getting in their way, all you are doing is offering a way out of that anger.

Please follow and like us:

My boss lies to me persistently. I have, however, no definite proof. He tells me that I am paranoid and imagining things. He has sent me to the College doctor for a check-up, even though I perfectly well. The situation is complicated by the fact that do I have a psychiatric history. How does forgiveness work in this situation? My boss would say there is nothing to forgive, given that he hasn’t lied to me (lying again). Jonny

The first issue here comes down to this: Who is perceiving the reality of this situation correctly, the boss or you? Are you sure he is lying, given the context of his denial? Is there a way to confirm his lying through confirmation with a colleague? Is there any possibility that you have misunderstood something about the boss and so you are incorrect about his lying? This is the first step, to determine the truth of your observation. It is important for you to do so because of the disagreement that you and he are having. There is nothing dishonorable about your being wrong about this. If you are right, it is courageous to forgive.

Let us now suppose that you have determined as objectively as you can that the boss lies. You now have a list of times he lies, including his denial of lying. I would start with the least objectionable lie and forgive him for that. The path to forgiving is outlined for you in my new book, The Forgiving Life, especially chapter 10. After you become familiar with the forgiveness process, I recommend that you forgive him for one more specific lie. From there, you might consider forgiving him for his pattern of lying, including the most recent incident of denying that he lies.

All of this is dependent on your thinking through exactly what your boss does in the lying and how this in fact adds up to lying on a consistent basis. I would proceed with forgiving only after you are convinced that you are the one who is correct.

Please follow and like us:

My father left my mother about a year ago. My brother and I are adults now and we both try to support my mom. I am the only one who tries to support my dad. This has led to quite a bit of tension between my brother and me. We disagree about forgiving him. What should I do to reduce this tension with my brother?

This is never easy, when one person forgives and another in the family gets insulted by the act of forgiveness. I think the key issues here are these:

1) Be sure to acknowledge that your father’s leaving is morally wrong. I am presuming that your mother did nothing so egregious as to deserve this. Your brother might think that by your forgiveness, you are condoning your father’s leaving, which you are not because forgiveness does not condone wrongdoing.

2) Gently point out that forgiving is a free will choice by the one who offers the forgiveness. You are free to offer it and your brother is free not to offer it. Your individual choices do not make either one of you bad people.

3) Try to find common ground, such as your shared desire for your mother and father to be reunited. This common goal may help you to work as a team.

4) Finally, your brother’s refusal to forgive today is not necessarily his final word on the matter. Be open to change in him. If he becomes open to forgiveness, he might want and need to ask your forgiveness for how he responded to you when you forgave.

Please follow and like us: