Tagged: “Enright Forgiveness Process Model”
I was asked to forgive. I still was fuming with anger. I did say, “I forgive you,” but with the promise to myself that I would work on forgiving the person. Now I feel as if I am a hypocrite because I used the words of forgiveness with deep anger in my heart. So, am I a hypocrite for doing this?
When you used the words of forgiveness, you most certainly had the best of intentions because you made a promise to yourself to continue the forgiveness process within your own heart (and probably in how you interact with the person). To be a hypocrite is to act in contradiction to your own beliefs or even your own intentions. Your intentions have been honorable regarding forgiveness. While you were not feeling very forgiving yet, you were making a heroic commitment to it. This shows consistency between what you said and what you intend to do. Therefore, you were not acting in a hypocritical way.
Your forgiveness process suggests that we need to take time before we forgive. Is it ever all right to start forgiving from the very beginning, when the hurt is fresh because the injustice just happened?
Most people are not ready to forgive right away because they need a period of calming down, of being angry, and of exploring what happened. This, however, does not imply that no one begins to forgive immediately. If you are treated unfairly and are well-practiced in the art of forgiving, then going ahead right away with some of the forgiveness exercises is fine. This might include, for example, beginning to see the inherent worth in the one who hurt you.
It seems to me that when I forgive, I should forget or put the whole thing behind me. Yet, I am not entirely letting go of what happened. I am no longer angry, but I do find myself going back and remembering what happened. What do you suggest?
When we forgive, we do not necessarily forget all of the details of what happened. In other words, we remember in new ways, but without the burning anger. This seems to be what is happening with you. Now you look back without the anger. This is a triumph. If, when you look back, you are emotionally upset in some way (perhaps sadness rather than anger), then go through the forgiveness process again with the same person. This should help with the more recent emotion and reduce the sense of going back in your mind to any unfinished business with the forgiveness process.
We all need some time off from hard work and forgiving can be hard work. It is not dishonorable to suspend the forgiveness process for a while as you rest. Once rested, try to focus on what I call the strong will. This is your inner resource of knowing that you need to persevere. With the energy garnered from the rest, try now to put some of that renewed energy back into the forgiveness process.
Is it possible that a person will not feel emotional relief at all when engaging in the forgiveness process?
The change in feelings from deep anger to more inner quiet does take time. Some people tell me that their anger does not necessarily go away entirely, but that the anger is no longer controlling them. If a person remains deeply angry after more than a few months of working on forgiveness, I usually ask this: Is there someone else in your life who somehow is reminding you of the one you are forgiving? For example, suppose you are trying to forgive your male friend and he has very similar patterns to your father. If you still have a lot of forgiveness work to do with your father, this can be getting in the way of forgiving the friend. This is the case because of how your feelings toward your father are spilling over to your feelings toward the friend. At that point, I usually ask the person to suspend forgiving the friend and to first focus on forgiving the father. Once the person forgives the father, then the feelings toward the father will no longer be interfering with the forgiveness process toward the friend. It is then that a true experience of emotional relief may begin to be present.