In my experience, it is much harder, on the average, to forgive close family members. This is the case because those close to us are supposed to love us and not treat us deeply unjustly. There can be a deep sense of betrayal when someone, who is supposed to love us, acts very unjustly. As one more point, the answer to your question also depends on how serious the injustice is from the family member and from the stranger. If the stranger’s injustice is horrific, then this person will be harder to forgive than family members who do not act nearly as unjustly.
What has been your experience of seeing people forgive because they feel they have to (because of pressure from others or because of religious beliefs) and those who willingly choose to forgive on their own?
The idea of forgiving “because they feel they have to” do this is somewhat complex. For example, there is nothing wrong with others pointing a person in the direction of forgiveness. This can be of great help, especially if the person misunderstands what forgiveness is or has hardly tried it before. On the other hand, hovering over a person and not letting that person see the beauty of forgiving, and choosing it as part of one’s own free will, can be coercion. This is not helpful because the person is not necessarily being drawn to the beauty of forgiveness. So, if we make the distinction between educating a person and assisting the person to deeply understand forgiveness on the one hand and forcing on the other, we can see that the former is good and the latter is not. We need a gentle approach when helping others to think about forgiveness.
I have a question about what I am calling “angry crying,” or crying every time I am mad at someone. Is “angry crying” something good or to be avoided?
“Angry crying” can be a catharsis and this release of the negative feelings is good, at least to a point. A key issue to consider is the intensity, duration (at any given time), and how long over time you cry. In other words, when you look at your pattern, is it very intense and long lasting? If so, then the cathartic benefits are not necessarily leading to a cure of the anger. Forgiveness has as one of its goals the cure of deep resentment so that it goes away or is reduced to very manageable levels. So, “angry crying” is not necessarily good or bad in and of itself. If it is intense and the release is only temporary, then you need more, such as forgiving those who are making you cry.
I grew up in a household in which my parents got angry quickly and expressed their anger often. I am about to get married. What cautions do you see for me?
I would recommend that you have a discussion with your future marriage partner about the kinds of patterns that occurred in each of your families of origin. Try to see the woundedness that was expressed in each family. This is because both of you might reproduce those patterns of woundedness with each other in the years to come. Your being aware of the wounds in your parents (and siblings), as well as your own woundedness from these, may help both of you from inadvertently passing those wounds onto each other. Each of you forgiving family members for giving you wounds should help in this regard. I wish you the best in your upcoming marriage.
A key here is to first forgive from your heart so that you can approach the person without a lot of anger inside of you. Then try to have a civil conversation with the person so that there is opportunity for insight and change. A key here is for the other to change. Your forgiveness can play a part in that, but even if it does not, you will be free from the inner resentment that can compromise you if you forgive.