Tagged: “Aristotle”

Becoming Forgivingly Fit

Because forgiving others is a moral virtue, we cannot reduce the act of forgiveness to a psychological technique.  For example, we cannot engage one time in “the empty chair technique” and have a deeply hurt forgiver sit in the chair of the one who acted unjustly and then gain full insight into that person’s wounds with a resultant overflowing compassion toward that person.  To clarify, there is nothing wrong with this technique, but we cannot think of it as complete.  As an analogy, if you will take out a gym membership to get into physical shape, your goal is not reached as you go on the treadmill one time or do 20 bicep curls only once.  To become physically fit, you need repetition, for a long time. 

It is the same with becoming forgivingly fit.  Your task is not accomplished by engaging in one set of actions, in one psychological technique.  Growing in any of the moral virtues takes time, perseverance, and a strong will to keep at it.  As Aristotle reminds us, we need three things to grow in the moral virtues: practice, practice, practice.

We can even engage in our forgiveness practice when we do not have a particular person in mind to forgive today.  Here is an example: As we forgive, we struggle to see the inherent worth in others.  So, as we interact with people today, even those with whom we are getting along, we can say to ourselves, “This person probably has a history of being wounded in some way by others in the past.  This person has built-in worth that cannot be taken away.”  As you pass by strangers in a store or on the street, you can say the same about them.  The key here is to train one’s mind to see the inherent worth in others so that you can then apply this learning toward those who hurt you, as you decide to forgive.

Here is another idea for growing in forgiveness fitness: Make a list of as many people as you can remember who have hurt you, from your childhood to now.  List who the person is, what occurred that was unjust, and your degree of hurt on a 1-to-10 scale.  Then order all of these people from the least hurtful (but still a challenge for you now) to the most hurtful.  Start with the one person who hurt you the least and go through the forgiveness process with that person.  When you think you have accomplished forgiving this one person, and it might take weeks, then go to the next person on the list.  Continue until you reach the person who wounded you the most.  You then may be ready to forgive this person because you have engaged in practice, practice, practice in forgiving and so your forgiveness fitness likely has increased.

Becoming forgivingly fit takes time, perseverance, and a strong will.  As in becoming physically fit, you will notice a difference inside of you that includes well-being and even a sense of wholeness.  What do you think: shall we hit the forgiveness gym now?

Robert

Please follow and like us:

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.

Please follow and like us:

You have said that once we forgive people, then we are ready for the next injustice and we might be able to go ahead a little better the second time. Isn’t that statement self-righteous? I say that because some people and some injustices are much harder to forgive than others. Why do you claim that we just get better and better in our forgiving?

Aristotle made the wise point that as we practice any of the moral virtues, this practice helps us get better in how we appropriate the virtues.  He never implied, nor do I, that the next incident will lead to quicker forgiveness than the first one and the person easier to forgive just because of the practice.  Instead, Aristotle implied this:  We will be more familiar with the process of practicing the virtue and so we may be more efficient and accurate in our next attempt.  Yes, you are correct, in that the next person who hurts us might do so in a very grave way, making it hard to forgive.  Yet, if we bring a lot of experience to this new person and situation, we may get through it more deeply and more quickly than otherwise might have been the case.

To get very concrete about this, suppose that to forgive Person A, you ideally needed two weeks.  To forgive Person B, without your having any prior practice in forgiving, you would need six months to forgive because the incident was so unjust.  Yet, if you have a lot of practice in forgiving, then your forgiving Person B now might take only three months rather than six.  Yes, this is still much longer than what was needed to forgive Person A, but the time needed for this with Person B is shortened precisely because the former practice is aiding your forgiving Person B now.

Please follow and like us:

I Recently Read This: “Forgiveness Is for You, Not for the Other.” Is This True?

I hear so often that to forgive is for your own healing and is not for the one who hurt you. This kind of statement happens so often that it is time to address the issue: Is this true? To answer this question, we have to know what forgiving actually is. To forgive is to exercise a moral virtue (Enright, 2012; Enright & Fitzgibbons, 2015). What is a moral virtue? According to Aristotle, as explained by Simon (1986), all moral virtues, whether it is justice, patience, kindness, or even forgiveness, focus on what is good for others and for the community. When we are engaging in justice, we are good to the other who, for example, built a dining room table for us at the cost of $500. Being good in this case is to pay for the work done. Patience is goodness toward others at whom one is irritated, such as toward a grocery store clerk who is simply doing one’s best with a long line of customers. What then is forgiveness? It is being good to those who are not good to you by deliberately reducing resentment toward that person and by offering, to the extent possible, kindness, respect, generosity, and even love toward the other. You are not offering these directly toward the self, but to the other.

Here, then, is where the confusion comes in: A paradox of forgiving is that as we extend ourselves in kindness, respect, generosity, and even love toward the offending other person, it is we, ourselves, as forgivers who often experience emotional healing as the consequence of offering forgiveness to others. Thus, the answer is this to the question, “Is forgiveness for the self or for the other?”: Forgiving is definitely for the other and one major consequence—not the act itself, but a consequence—-is that the forgiver benefits.

As another related issue, one can forgive out of a motive of freeing oneself of resentment, but to do so entails a focus on the other with the morally virtuous qualities for the other of kindness, respect, generosity, and love.

The statement, “Forgiveness is for you, not the other”, is to confuse essence (what forgiving is at its core) with the consequence and essence with one’s motivation. The essence of forgiving is a positive response, as best one can at present, for the other. The consequence in many cases is the actual self-healing. One’s motive can be the hope of self-healing from burning anger. Of course, one need not have as the motive or intended consequence self-healing. One’s motive may be entirely for the other as a person of worth. Even so, self-healing can occur even when the motive is other-centered.

When we make the distinctions among: a) what forgiving is; b) some of the consequences for the self of forgiving; and c) one’s motives for beginning the process of forgiving, we see that the moral virtue of forgiving itself (in its essence) is for the other.

Robert 

Please follow and like us:

It seems to me that when we forgive a lot, then we are actually growing in our humanity. Is there such a thing as growing in our humanity and is forgiveness a pathway to this?

According to Plato and Aristotle, as we grow in the virtues of justice, courage, temperance, and wisdom, then we are growing in our essence of what it means to be human. So, yes, I do think that we can grow in our humanity. Further, I do think that forgiveness helps us grow in our humanity because it melts our resentment, making justice even more fair, allowing for more courage rather than fear, balancing our emotions so we can be more temperate, and when we are free of resentment, then we have the opportunity to have more wisdom or to know the proper way of responding to different situations, even challenging situations.

Please follow and like us:

The Missing Piece to the Peace Puzzle

x