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.
It is not possible to forgive someone who has died unless the forgiver believes in an afterlife, right?
One can forgive the deceased regardless of the belief system of the forgiver. For example, the forgiver can say something nice about the person to others, preserving a good name, not because of what happened, but in spite of this. The forgiver might donate some money to a charity in that person’s name, again as a generous act of forgiving. So, one can forgive someone who has died. Otherwise, the one who was treated unjustly could be trapped with an inner resentment that could last the rest of the person’s life.
Well, actually, that is not what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is a moral virtue of offering goodness to another person who is acting unjustly. You can transcend a situation without any thought or action of goodness toward another person. Here is an example: A person transcends the struggle of disappointment as his home is destroyed by a tornado. There is no person here to forgive, yet there is transcendence. The person is going beyond the disappointment and even anger, but without another person being in that process. Forgiving involves reaching out to another person, even when the forgiver is feeling pain that is not transcended or reduced yet.
I forgave my partner and still we have too much conflict. I now hate myself for forgiving and feel weak. What do you think?
I think you might have confused forgiving (a merciful response of being good to those who are not good to you) and reconciliation (two or more people coming together again in mutual trust). If you have no trust, you still can forgive by trying to reduce resentment against the partner and to offer goodness, even from a distance, if you have to leave the relationship. This distinction between forgiving and reconciling may help you to have mercy on yourself now. You have inherent worth no matter what your circumstances. I wish you the best in your decisions.
In your book, “Forgiveness Is a Choice,” you start with a case study of Mary Ann. Would it have been easier for her just to divorce her husband, given that he was toxic, rather than forgiving and reconciling?
Because forgiveness is a choice, we have to be careful not to judge others for their particular decision. In Mary Ann’s case, there was a genuine reconciliation. Since reconciliation involves mutual trust, we can surmise that he made important changes. Mary Ann is happy now and so her decision to forgive and reconcile was wise.