Tagged: “Dr. Robert Enright”
I know you talk about secondary forgiveness, or forgiving someone who hurt a person you love. My question is this: Do you think it is legitimate to forgive the family member who is being hurt, who just lingers in the relationship without standing up for his own rights? This is making me very angry.
Yes, if you are angry with your family member for not seeking justice, then it is your choice whether or not to forgive that person. I realize that the one you are forgiving is not the victim in this scenario, but the person, in failing to exercise justice, is frustrating you and making you angry. This is sufficient to begin the forgiveness process if you are ready.
For additional information, see Why Forgive?
This argument, more from psychology than philosophy, does not present a moral criticism but does portray forgiving as negative. The gist of the argument is that forgiving always commences after injustice. It does not prevent injustice from happening in the first place, and so it is a passive form of communication and action.
Our response is a question: What is effective in stemming injustice in this imperfect world?
No form of communication, no problem-solving strategy to date, can prevent all injustice. Is it not reassuring to know that there is a potentially helpful response to injustice after it occurs?
Furthermore, we must ask why forgiveness is considered passive just because it comes after an injustice. When one examines the struggle to overcome anger, the struggle to offer undeserved compassion to an injurer, one can hardly label forgiving as passive.
Finally, as one forgives, is it not possible that the offender may be transformed through the forgiving, thus making that form of injustice less likely in the future? In such cases, forgiveness precedes issues of justice and injustice and acts as a preventive of further abuse.
Enright, Robert D.; Fitzgibbons, Richard P.. Forgiveness Therapy (Kindle Locations 5225-5234). American Psychological Association (APA). Kindle Edition.
My brother was hurt at school by a harsh teacher. He has not forgiven that teacher. Now I am having a hard time forgiving the teacher. Should I wait until my brother forgives before I start the forgiveness process?
It is perfectly legitimate to forgive someone who hurts a family member when you have been hurt by that action. You need not wait until your brother forgives because you are free to offer forgiveness whenever you are ready. Your forgiving the teacher may show your brother that it is possible.
For additional information, see Learning to Forgive Others.
I asked you a previous question regarding a friendship that went bad. If a person is toxic to you, how does a person handle that? Is reconcilition even part of the picture. How or why should a person want to be reconciled to a person who has raged at you 4 times, stonewalled 1x, for a year make diminishing remarks in social situations, and spit on my 2 x. Why would anyone want to be reconciled to this kind of person?
You ask why a person might want to reconcile with someone who has been abusive. The short answer is that the other might change. Forgiveness gives the other that second chance to actually alter a harmful pattern.
For those who want to examine the possibility of reconciliation, I recommend first asking yourself these three questions: 1) Does the one who hurt you show remorse, or an inner sorrow regarding what that person did to you? 2) Does the one who hurt your show repentance, or verbally apologizing to you? 3) Does the one who hurt you show any recompense or giving back to you in some way given that you are hurt?
These three (remorse, repentance, and recompense) are important for you to examine as you consider reconciling with the person. These three, if they are in place, will show you that the person has changed and so it may be safe to try reconciliation, at least in small steps, a little at a time until you are sure the other is trustworthy and will not abuse you.
For additional information, see Questions about Reconciliation.
Criticisms of Forgiveness–3rd in a series: “Forgiveness Obscures for the Forgiver What Is Just or Unjust”
J. Safer (1999) presented a case of family dysfunction in which “forgiveness” plays a major role in perpetuating deep injustice: Two middle-aged parents ask their adult daughter to “forgive and forget” her brother’s sexual abuse toward her. The daughter, of course, is aghast at the parents’ apparent attempts to downplay and deny the offense. The parents in this case study do not seem aware of the enormity of the offense. Their quest for forgiveness is an attempt at distortion of reality, a cover-up for their son, and oppression of their daughter.
If J. Safer (1999) had shown this as a case of pseudo-forgiveness in which people are deliberately distorting the meaning of forgiveness for some unspecified gain, we would have no problem with the case or the analysis. Safer, however, used the case as an illustration of the dangers of actual forgiveness.
In our experience, true forgiveness helps people see the injustice more clearly, not more opaquely. As a person breaks denial, examines what happened, and allows for a period of anger, he or she begins to label the other’s behavior as “wrong” or “unfair.”
The parents in the case described here, however, have minimized what is wrong with their son’s behavior. They are using pseudo-forgiveness as a weapon. Certainly, therapists should be aware of such distorted thinking in a client or patient. The therapist, however, need not condemn genuine forgiveness because a client twists its meaning.
In sum, forgiveness is no obstacle to justice. Forgiving acts do not perpetuate injustice or prevent social justice from occurring. Forgiveness may thwart attempts at extracting punishment for emotional pain, but this usually turns into a gift for the offender and a release of potentially hurtful anger for the forgiver.
Enright, Robert D.; Fitzgibbons, Richard P.. Forgiveness Therapy (Kindle Locations 5161-5175). American Psychological Association (APA). Kindle Edition.
Safer, J. Forgiving and Not Forgiving. New York, NY: Avon Books.