Tagged: “Dr. Robert Enright”
Thank you for your answer to my question about time. Would you please provide here the reference to the Hansen research?
Yes, here is the reference to the Hansen research:
Hansen, M.J., Enright. R.D., Baskin, T.W., & Klatt, J. (2009). A palliative care intervention in forgiveness therapy for elderly terminally-ill cancer patients. Journal of Palliative Care, 25, 51-60.
Here is a copy of that work:
Don’t you think that time is more important than forgiveness? With patience, won’t angers toward offending people just melt away?
If the offense was deep and the resultant hurts are significant, time alone will not necessarily “melt away” the angers. For example, Mary Hansen did a research study with elderly women in hospice. Some of them were carrying resentments In their hearts for decades before they forgave. Time, in other words, does not necessarily “heal all wounds” as the saying goes.
Is forgiveness always appropriate when there is a deep unfairness? First, let’s examine the response a little more. When we ask this question, are we inquiring about a specific person or about the virtue of forgiveness itself? Here is where there is a crucial difference.
Since forgiveness is a moral virtue, we should ask our question of all virtues if our attention is on the virtue itself. As we broaden our view to focus on all moral virtues, we can consider the question’s opposite: For example, when is a quest for justice, one of the moral virtues, not appropriate? Put another way, can you picture a situation in which you might be arrested for intentionally acting in a just way? Would people condemn themselves for acting fairly? If not, then it appears to be the case that justice is always fitting in every situation. Is there ever a time when patience is inappropriate? How about showing kindness? I can hear someone say something like, “Well, I won’t be kind if someone is hitting me over the head with a frying pan.” I agree that your leaving the abuse is good because it is a protection for you. As a second possible response, you certainly are entitled to attempt removing the frying pan from the person’s grasp. You can act in either situation with kindness. Kindness is appropriate even in this instance. If kindness is used with other virtues (justice, courage, temperance) to help save the individual from doing the head-banging, then that is acceptable in the sense of being morally good.
My argument is that since all virtues are centered on the morally beneficial aspects of human interaction, then acting morally is always appropriate, and practicing forgiveness is one of these moral virtues.
The second aspect of the question (Is forgiveness always appropriate?) asks about the psychological suitability of practicing the virtue for any given individual. Does forgiveness make sense for any particular person all the time? This time, the answer is no, it is not always appropriate for the following reasons: a) the offended person may be too shocked by what happened to be ready to offer forgiveness at this time; b) the offended person may need to learn more about forgiveness to exercise forgiveness properly rather than some false form of it; and c) forgiveness is a supererogatory virtue that is not demanded of any one person at a particular time because it is not a virtue that society demands. It is the person’s decision to extend forgiveness or not on any particular occasion.
Is forgiveness always appropriate?
Yes, if we are talking about the quality of this term, specifically its quality of being a moral virtue.
Must, then, all people turn immediately to forgiveness when treated unjustly?
No, if we are discussing the psychological makeup of a certain individual, including both this person’s degree of hurt and understanding of forgiveness, as well as the specifics of the injustice, such as its gravity, duration, and time since it happened. Some people need time to be angry, to sort out what forgiveness is, and then move forward with it when the person is ready.
Often, when people are treated deeply unjustly by others, they can experience anger and even an ongoing resentment that can last for years. As people forgive, they begin to see the offending person from a broader perspective than just those hurtful actions. As the forgivers see the worth in the one who offended, see the other as truly human, the anger toward this person begins to lessen.
The essence of forgiveness is this: It is a moral virtue and all moral virtues concern the good of others. Therefore, when you forgive, you are doing this for the one who hurt you. A consequence of forgiving is that the self usually experiences well-being. So, forgiveness is an act of goodness toward others with a consequence of a benefit toward the self.