I’ve been making an effort to forgive someone who just keeps hurting me. With every new transgression, this person makes me angry again, how can I ever forgive this person?
I get asked this question quite frequently. This is not just you. Please remember that the accumulation of resentment within you may make the hundredth time someone hurts you more painful than the first. This potential for animosity to fester makes forgiveness even more important. Thus, I suggest the following three methods to you:
1) To prevent your resentment from overwhelming you, persevere in your forgiving. Every time this person treats you unfairly and causes you pain, forgive .
2) You will become more adept at forgiving as you practice it repeatedly. Observe how your capacity for forgiveness and your confidence in it are both expanding; you may find that you are able to forgive more quickly and effectively each time.
3) Remind yourself that practicing forgiveness is not something you do in isolation from the other virtues. As you forgive, ask for justice, and do so after you have forgiven again so that you approach the person with less anger.
Suppose that I see the one who hurt me as a wounded person. I do not excuse, but as you say, I “widen the lens” through which I see the other person. Might this be dangerous because, maybe, the offending person now begins to see all of his wounds and interprets these differently than you do. In other words, in seeing his own wounds, maybe now he excuses himself and perpetrated more abuse on you. What do you think?
When you forgive, you need to bring justice alongside the forgiving. In other words, you ask fairness of the other. This asking for fairness should help the other person to not now start excusing his unfair behavior. After all, you would not ask for changes in the person if you are excusing the behavior. To excuse is to see an extenuating circumstance and not a deliberate injustice.
The 3 R’s are in the context of a genuine reconciliation. They center on the one who acted unjustly. The first R is remorse or an inner sorrow for the behavior. The second R is repentance or the spoken word of sorrow to the one who was treated unjustly. The third R is recompense or a doing-one’s-best to restore what may have been taken away.
Your forgiving the person is one of the steps toward reconciliation, but it will not automatically lead to the relationship being restored. Also needed is the other person to accept your forgiveness, seek forgiveness from you, and be willing to reconcile. The other person, who may have been acting unjustly, needs to feel sorrow for the emotional injury toward you and change the behavior. Once you have forgiven, the other has accepted this and now seeks forgiveness, followed by a trustworthy set of behaviors toward you, then a restored relationship is likely to happen.
Occasionally, after beginning the process of forgiving, I decide I’m not ready to continue. Is that okay? Really, I almost feel compelled to carry on, particularly if I promise the other person that I will make an effort to forgive. Forgiveness is a very personal thing, and I dislike being forced to give it.
I want to politely challenge an assumption you have. You are still in the process of forgiving even if you have changed your mind and decided not to forgive at this time. Occasionally, that process leads us to take much-needed pauses.
It takes work to forgive, so please take a guilt-free break when you need it.
Consider it in this manner. Let’s say you are embarking on a multi-day cross-country bicycle journey. Have you stopped being on the journey after the first day, when you put your bicycle away and head to bed? Naturally, the response is no—you haven’t stopped. You are just at a point in your journey where you need to take a break.
Consider forgiveness in the same manner. There isn’t a race to the finish. Forgiveness, on the other hand, is a process that requires patience and downtime. You have a choice. Resist the pressure to be constantly vigilant when it comes to your forgiveness. If you allow yourself to take a break, recharge, and then go again, you’ll probably enjoy the journey more.