Tagged: “Dr. Robert Enright”

When I forgive my former boyfriend, I find that I tend to make excuses for his behavior.  I don’t like it when I see that I am making excuses.  How do I avoid this?

There is a big difference between what we call **reframing** a person’s actions and excusing those actions.  For example, if you see that he was under pressure and displaced his anger onto you, you can forgive while at the same time acknowledging that he should not have treated you this way.  An excuse is to say that displacing anger is ok, acceptable, or not morally wrong.  When you forgive and start to reframe whom the other person is, try to keep in mind that the behavior still is not fair.  Your separating a person and his actions may help you to avoid excusing the actions as you forgive the person.

Learn more at How to Forgive.

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Is there such a thing as Political Forgiveness, for example, to handle border disputes?

Yes, and this is sometimes called group forgiveness.  Group forgiveness is different from one person forgiving another.  In the latter, a person can change feeling, thoughts, and behaviors toward an offending other.  Groups do not have feeling and thoughts (individuals within groups have the feeling and thoughts).  So, only actions are part of group forgiveness such as proclamations of forgiveness or establishing norms within the group to try to be kind toward the other group as justice is pursued.

Here is the abstract of a journal article on this issue:

Enright, R.D., Lee, Y.R., Hirshberg, M.J., Litts, B.K., Schirmer, E.B., Irwin, A.J., Klatt, J., Hunt, J., & Song, J.Y. (2016).  Examining group forgiveness: Conceptual and empirical issues.  Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 22, 153-162.

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Can a person get rid of anger permanently simply by letting it out or is forgiveness necessary to be rid of anger?

The answer depends on the level of injustice and the depth of the anger.  If the other was insensitive without being cruel, then your expressing an appropriate, measured level of anger may take care of the issue.  On the other hand, if you have been treated very unfairly and your anger is deep, then catharsis (letting out the anger) may not be effective.  Forgiveness then may be required to rid yourself of the anger.  Please keep in mind that catharsis by itself, when the problem is serious and the anger is deep, actually can increase the anger and lead to a pattern of being angry and expressing it.  Catharsis then needs forgiveness to deal in a healthy way with the anger.

Learn more at How to Forgive.

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My spouse keeps up subtle put-downs on me.  I forgive….and forgive again….and it keeps happening.  I am growing weary of forgiving.  Help!

When you forgive, try also to ask for fairness once your anger is lower.  Forgiveness and justice need to exist side-by-side.  From a position of reduced anger, consider letting your spouse know of your inner hurt from these “subtle put-downs.”  Your spouse needs to hear this so that a change in behavior can occur, and perhaps an asking-for-forgiveness from you.

Learn more at Forgiveness for Couples.

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I am about half-way through the process of forgiveness and I now am realizing that what happened was not entirely the other person’s fault.  I “pushed his button” and he got angry.  Is it ok to abandon the process of forgiveness under this circumstance?

Are you still angry with the other person?  If not, then forgiving may not be necessary.  Are you concluding that there was no actual injustice against you?  If so, then forgiving may not be necessary.  If you see the other as simply reacting with a reasonable level of anger and if there is no harm to you, then yes, setting forgiveness aside is reasonable. If, in the future, you find that you do harbor resentment, the starting up the forgiveness process again would be fine.

Learn more at Why Forgive?

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