Tagged: “Consequences of Forgiving”
Although I value and try to forgive and mean well to those who harm me, I feel like that alone does not fix my wrecked inner world (lost trust, cynicism, depression). I can try my best to mean well, but that does not mean anyone else will. Does this mean I need more than forgiveness to heal?
Consider Giving the Gift of Forgiveness This Year
In the season of giving, one of the most beautiful gifts you might consider giving is forgiveness. The ideas that forgiving is a gift to those who have hurt you sometimes gets forgiveness into trouble. In other words, people think it is irrational to consider offering a gift to those who are unfair. The typical reasons for this resistance to forgiveness as gift-giving are these:
- It is dangerous to reach out to those who act unfairly because I am open to further abuse.
- My gift-giving might be a signal to the misbehaving others that their actions are acceptable, which they are not.
- Gift-giving to those who acted unfairly seems counter-intuitive to my own healing. I need to move on and not focus on this other person.
The ideas above can be countered this way: With regard to (A), you do not necessarily have to reconcile with an unrepentant person who keeps harming you. You can give your gift from a distance, such as a kind word about the person to others or an email so that you can keep your distance if this is prudent to do so. With regard to (B), you can forgive and ask for justice. Forgiving never means that the other just goes ahead as usual with hurtful behaviors. In other words, if you decide to forgive, you can and should ask for fairness from the other person. With regard to (C), forgiveness will seem counter-intuitive as goodness to those who are not good to you only if your focus is entirely on justice or a fair solution to the problem. If you begin to see that mercy (in the form of forgiving) and justice can and should exist side-by-side, then perhaps this idea of forgiveness as a contradiction or as inappropriate or as somehow odd may lessen in you.
Forgiveness can be a gift in these ways:
- As you forgive, you are giving the other person a second chance at a trustworthy relationship with you. Of course, trust takes time to develop, but forgiveness opens the door, even if a little, to trying the trust-route with the other who behaved unjustly.
- Forgiveness can be a merciful way of showing the other what the injustice actually is (or was), making possible positive change in the other. Those who behave badly and are offered this mercy may begin to see the unfairness more clearly and have the inner conviction that change indeed is necessary.
- Forgiveness can be a gift to yourself as you shed abiding anger that could have been yours for many years. You have a second-chance at stronger mental health.
- As you reduce toxic anger, this actually can be an aid in strengthening your relationships with people who were not the ones who acted badly. After all, when people carry around a lot of anger in their hearts, they can displace that anger onto unsuspecting others. Your forgiving one person, then, can be a gift to others who do not have to endure your displaced anger.
So, then, what do you think? Do you see that in the season of giving, one of the most beautiful gifts you might consider giving is forgiveness?
How is forgetting what happened part of the forgiveness process?
In my experience working with people who forgive, they do not forget what happened to them. Instead, they remember in new ways. As they occasionally look back on what happened to them, they do so without the heightened emotions of deep anger or very deep sadness as was the case prior to forgiving.
Is there a difference between forgiving and wishing someone well? I wish my ex-husband well, but I am still very angry with him because he broke the marriage covenant.
The late Lewis Smedes in his book, Forgive and Forget, made the point that people are starting to forgive when they wish the other person well. Thus, you likely are at the beginning of forgiveness and this is a positive step. Now you need to press onward toward deeper forgiveness. Try to see your ex-husband’s worth; try to see his emotional wounds which might have contributed to the break-up; try to be aware of any compassion that may be growing in you as you do this work. The result, based on our research, likely will be reduced anger.
Recently, one of my high school students approached me and said this, “I am kind of ambivalent about forgiveness. If I forgive, some of the other students seem to think that I am a weakling.” I was not sure how to answer this. Do you have some insights for me?
The student is confusing forgiveness with giving in to others’ demands. This is not forgiveness. To forgive is to know that what the other person did is wrong and yet mercy is offered nonetheless. When one forgives, one also asks for justice and so this idea of weakness or giving in is not correct. There are two basic ways of distorting forgiveness: to let the other have power over you or to seek power over the other because of that person’s transgressions. True forgiveness avoids these extremes.