Tagged: “Do no harm”

I have followed your advice and have committed to “do no harm” to the one who hurt me.  Yet, I still harbor anger toward this person.  Is it possible to make this commitment to do no harm and still be angry?

Yes, a commitment to do no harm is an act of the will.  Anger is an emotion.  We can control the will (what we decide to think and what we will do behaviorally) more than we can control our emotions.  Thus, as we conform our will to do no harm, we still might be angry.

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If someone has frustrated and offended me and I choose silence because I am afraid to choose dialogue and confront him, is this actually forgiveness on my part? Is it true forgiveness? 

First, do you commit to doing no harm to the other? If yes, this is the beginning of forgiving.  Do you see the inherent worth in the other, not because of what was done, but in spite of that?  This, too, is part of forgiving.  Do you wish the other well?  This is part of forgiving as the late Lewis Smedes reminded us in his book, Forgive and Forget.  The silence itself is not necessarily forgiving. Why?  I can be silent with hatred in my heart.  To forgive is to have a change of heart toward the offending person (as the philosopher Joanna North said in the book, Exploring Forgiveness, 1998).

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Ok, I see that forgiving is more than “moving on.” Yet, what if I just want to tolerate the other. Is this forgiveness?

To tolerate may be part of the forgiveness process if you previously had deep annoyance or thoughts of revenge.  Toleration is similar to “do no harm” and so may be a beginning of the forgiveness process, but, as you may be seeing now, is not part of the essence of forgiving or what it is at its core.

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Thank you for addressing my question about the issue of whether or not people can forgive situations. I now understand that we do not forgive situations. I have another question: Some people say that forgiveness is “moving on” from injustices. So, is forgiving a “moving on” from the other person?

There is a difference between what forgiveness is in its essence (the basic truth of what it is) and how forgiveness is expressed in existence (what we are able to offer to the other right now).  In its essence, which is difficult to accomplish without much practice, an offended person who forgives offers love to the offending person.  That kind of love sometimes is called agape love, or love that is in service to the other person. 

Yet, the actual existence of a person’s forgiving right now (what the forgiver can offer) can be far less than this.  Sometimes all a person can do is to commit to “do no harm” to the offending person.  This is not the same as “moving on,” which can occur with indifference or even hatred (“I am moving on because I hate the other person.”).  Thus, forgiving is not the same as “moving on.”

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