Tagged: “Anger”

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.

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Can I be perfectly fine without forgiving a person who acted unjustly against me? In other words, can the anger just vanish?

The answer depends on how serious the injustice was and who hurt you.  For example, suppose a colleague was supposed to meet you for a luncheon meeting.  You are busy that day, under pressure, and the colleague never shows up at the restaurant.  You may be annoyed, but the annoyance likely will fade in a day or less.  Now suppose that a loved one betrays you.  It hurts deeply.  This kind of emotional wound likely will not go away on its own.  It likely will need the surgery of the heart—-forgiveness.  Deep resentments rarely fade quickly.
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I think anger is normal.  You do not seem to think so.  Would you please clarify?

We have to make a distinction between healthy anger and unhealthy anger.  Healthy anger occurs as a short-term reaction to others’ unfairness.  The anger emerges because the one being treated unfairly knows that all people are worthy of respect, even oneself.  Unhealthy anger occurs when the initial reaction of healthy anger does not end, but intensifies and remains in the person’s heart for months or even many years.  At that point, the anger can have quite negative effects on one’s energy, ability to concentrate, and on one’s overall well-being.  Healthy anger is normal.  Unhealthy anger needs attention and amelioration.

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In the past, I used to engage in what the expression is called “killing them with kindness.”  It actually has been my mode of revenge, as I harbored deep anger while faking kindness.  Is it possible to transition from fake kindness to the real thing?

Yes, it definitely is possible to change from a fake kindness to genuine kindness.  We have thinking exercises in which we ask the one who is forgiving to see the struggles in the one who acted unfairly.  Oftentimes, a person who is cruel to others has a history of being abused.  Such an insight within the one who forgives (toward the one who was unfair) is not fostered to excuse the unjust behavior, but instead to see a genuine person, a hurting person, who is engaging in the injustice.  As you begin to see a genuine person, one who has wounds and may be confused and frustrated, then a genuine sense of kindness toward that person can emerge.  It takes time and so please be gently with yourself as you examine the true personhood of the other.

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If someone forgives 18 times, is this person now capable of being a better forgiver than someone who only forgave once?

The ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, tells us that practice is a key to growing in any moral virtue, whether it is justice or patience or forgiveness.  In my experience, he is correct.  So, in all likelihood, the one who has forgiven many people or the same person many times may be a stronger forgiver than the person who is just beginning the first journey of forgiving.  By “stronger” I mean that this person may be able to forgive more quickly and with better results (feeling better inside and maybe a better relationship with the one who acted unjustly) than the one who is new to the moral virtue of forgiveness.

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