Tagged: “Barriers to Forgiveness”
I will try to be brief.
Speed. You can see it in the driving as the very rare few people actually adhere to the posted speed limit these days.
Speed. You can see it as you watch people walking on the street, phone in hand, scrolling, scrolling, scrolling. I wonder how long the average person stays on one topic within that phone.
Speed. Have you seen those commercials on the Internet, promising you weight loss at night as you sleep if you take a certain kind of pill? At night? With no exercise? And immediate results?
Speed. I have seen such statements as, “Forgive in 6 easy steps.”
Speed. It is in contradiction to what it means to grow as a person. To grow as a person is to slowly improve in the virtues, first identified by Plato as justice, or giving your best with your gifted qualities so that the community is better off and in harmony with others. This takes time to develop your gifted qualities. Forgiveness, as a moral virtue, is crafted with three things: practice, practice, practice. It takes effort and time and struggle to be good to those who are not good to you. It even takes time to deeply understand what forgiveness is and what it is not so that you do not confuse it with excusing wrongdoing or automatically reconciling or throwing justice under the bus. There is no such thing as the forgiveness pill that will reduce resentment as you sleep.
Speed and forgiveness. I have come to realize that they are not compatible and so I am concerned about the new norms of speed, shifting focus quickly, and a lack of required attention. The new norms may be getting in the way of our forgiving well and therefore of living well with others.
I say in my classes at the university: Whenever you try to improve something, you always create a new problem. Do not see only the improvement but also scrutinize the new problem to see if the new improvement is worth embracing. We have quickened our world as we get to destinations faster by car, as we see what presents our friend in a distant land got in the birthday party today, as we are entertained with a 10-second video……..but what is the problem created? We are in danger of becoming way too superficial, way too unfocused, way too unchallenged, and miss perseverance, miss growing in the moral virtue of forgiveness, and miss the golden opportunity of growing in our humanity and in assisting others in such growth.
I have a co-worker who never stands up for himself nor does he even politely confront those who are giving him a hard time. Instead, he gets angry (away from those with whom he is in conflict). Sometimes that anger comes out toward me. He can occasionally bang his fist into the top of his desk. Do you think his actions are sufficient to relieve his anger or does this even help at all?
Your co-worker seems to be using the psychological defense of displacement, which means to take out the anger on something or someone else rather than on the original person who acted unfairly. In the short-run your co-worker might experience some relief from this catharsis, but in the long-run, as I am sure you know, his hitting the top of the desk will not solve the injustice. If your co-worker can do some forgiving and exercise this along with courage and a quest for justice, then he might be able to go to those at whom he is angry and talk it out in the hope of a fair resolution.
When I examine the effects of the injustice that happened to me, I get angry at myself for not realizing the connection all these years between what happened to me back then and my built-up anger and fatigue now. Should I forgive myself for missing all of this?
We forgive ourselves when we do moral wrong, when we break our own standards. It seems to me that you were not acting unjustly at all. You simply did not know the connection between the past hurts against you and your challenges at present. This is the case for very many people because forgiveness, current effects, and past trauma rarely are discussed in contemporary society. I recommend that you practice gentleness toward yourself rather than forgive yourself.
After all, would you forgive yourself for not knowing other issues that are hidden from most people in society? In the 1940’s for example, people did not have the precise knowledge of the connection between cigarette smoking and certain health problems. Those people who were smoking back then were not saying to themselves, “The science shows that I am harming myself in very specific ways. I will continue to smoke anyway.” This would not have been the case for a very large part of the population.
It is similar now with the links among past trauma, current effects such as anger and fatigue, and forgiveness. Not knowing is not necessarily an injustice and so I think you can go in peace……and start the forgiveness process now if you are ready. In some cases, we deny reality and choose to not know what is good. This issue is different from yours and this example would suggest that self-forgiveness would be appropriate as a person keeps pushing away what should be known as morally good.
Suppose someone said to you, “Please do not be fair to me. Under no circumstances, you are not to exercise justice to me.” Would you not be fair? Isn’t it your choice to be fair, regardless of the other person’s request? It is the same with forgiveness. You can forgive from the heart, as a free-will decision. You need not verbally proclaim your forgiveness toward the other if this person insists, but your forgiving always is your choice. The key issue here is how you forgive, and that can be done silently, from the heart and in actions that do not proclaim forgiveness.
How can I forgive a God I no longer believe in? I have a lot of anger toward this non-existent deity.
It seems to me that you do, in fact, believe in God and this is hidden from you right now. Why do I say this? You cannot have anger toward a person who does not exist. How can a person who does not exist be unfair to you and therefore hurt you? It is similar with God. How can you have “a lot of anger” for a deity when you claim the deity does not exist? Your emotions suggest to me that you do see God as real. If this is true, then you need to ask questions such as this: Is God perfect, all holy? If so, then God cannot be unjust to you. Perhaps it is people who have hurt you and you are passing this now to God (“God should have prevented this,” as one example). If this is your mode of thinking, then I recommend a deeper dive into theology so that you can address the issue of why God allows suffering in this world; why God allows others to be unfair to you. In other words, it may be the rigors of this world and hurtful people at whom you are angry.