Tagged: “Dr. Robert Enright”

If a person’s actions are hurtful but there was no intention to hurt you, is this forgivable? In other words, does a person have to intend to hurt me to qualify for my forgiving?

There are examples of people not intending to hurt you that still are unfair.  Because the actions are unfair, you can forgive, if you so choose.  Here is an example:  Suppose a person is texting on a cell phone while driving a car.  The person goes through a red light, with no intention to do so, and hits your car and your leg now is broken.  Even though this person did not mean to hurt you, the action was such that the person should have been paying more attention.  Thus, this is an injustice, even without an intention to act unjustly.  As an injustice, you can go ahead and forgive.

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A colleague said to me that it is child abuse to impose the education of forgiveness on unsuspecting students. How would you answer such a charge?

Good philosophy is the pursuit of wisdom. Good education is the same. Part of being wise is to know how to control one’s anger, to reduce resentment, and to forge healthy relationships in the home and in the community. Forgiveness, seen in scientific studies, is one effective way of reducing resentment and fostering better behavior and relationships. If we then deprive a child of this part of wisdom, are we somehow aiding that child’s development or stifling it? Teaching about forgiveness is far from child abuse. Deliberately withholding knowledge of forgiveness is educational deprivation, which should happen to no child.

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You talk about forgiveness as a process, one that can take time. I find that as I go along the path of forgiveness, that I slip into revenge-seeking. I do not mean anything violent, just some nastiness or even verbal disrespect. Do you think this will delay my forgiveness process?

We are all imperfect forgivers and so we cannot think of forgiveness as a straight line from the start to the finish. We go back and forth with forgiveness. At times, we see the one who offended us as possessing inherent worth. Then we might have a dream about the person and we wake up angry and do not want to even think about the person. The key here is to understand that the process is not a straight line. Have patience with yourself. Try to have patience with the one whom you are forgiving. In time, this back-and-forth will even out and improvements in forgiving are likely as you continue to persevere in the forgiveness process.

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I am trying my best to forgive a family member who has some sustained anger, not temper tantrums, but a kind of simmering anger that comes out frequently. I now am wondering if it is harder to forgive someone for this than other issues.

I do think it may be more difficult to forgive someone who has what you call sustained “simmering anger.” You may have to forgive on a daily basis if you are in regular contact with a person who is continuously angry.  After you have forgiven to a deep enough level so that you can approach, in a civil way, this person, then it may be time to gently ask for justice.  Part of justice is to ask this person, if you feel safe with this, to begin working on the anger so that you are not hurt by it.

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