Tagged: “Enright Forgiveness Process Model”

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.

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I am feeling lazy regarding the work of forgiveness. What recommendations do you have for me?

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.

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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.

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How can one go about convincing someone that reconciliation is not a sacrifice but instead is a benefit?

When hurt deeply by others, a person can be afraid to reconcile because of a betrayal of trust. Trust takes time to re-establish. Starting the reconciliation process requires the moral virtue of courage. So, at first the one who is afraid may very well see the process of reconciliation as a sacrifice. Yet, with time, there can be surprising and delightful benefits of trying the reconciliation process primarily because love can be re-established between two people. Thus, the key is to ask the person to see beyond the first few weeks or the first few months of the reconciliation process to see the potential fruit of the reunion.

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And a Little Child Shall Lead Them: How to Resurrect the Virtue of Forgiveness from Its Deathbed

A soaringly insightful essay entitled, “The Fading of  Forgiveness,” by the Presbyterian pastor, Rev. Timothy Keller, appeared in the May, 2021 issue of Comment magazine. Rev. Keller uses  a series of quotations to make his point that the moral virtue of forgiving is fading in modern Western culture. The quotations can be summarized this way: Forgiving allows oppressors to dominate you. So, do not forgive. Otherwise, you will stay oppressed.

In other words, the call to forgive is seen as a trick by oppressors to keep the oppressed forgiving and therefore more continually oppressed. If the oppressed are convinced that they must forgive, with no choice in the matter, and if they are taught to think in either/or ways (they must either forgive or seek justice, but never both), then the critics of forgiveness have a good point. Yet, they are wrong in their understanding of what forgiveness actually is. The harsh critics of forgiveness need good forgiveness education to realize that forgiving is a choice, not a commanded law that must be done, and that the moral virtues of forgiving and justice can and should occur together.

Another wise article, this one by Dr. Kari Konkola, appeared in Humanitas magazine in 2019, “What Psychology Might Learn from Traditional Christianity.” As with Rev. Keller, who is seeing the demise of forgiveness, Dr. Konkola sees the demise of humility in modern Western culture. This is the case because of similar themes echoed by Rev. Keller. There is a rise in emphasis on justice apart from mercy which leads to excessive cries of injustice, excessive accusations of oppression with concomitant increases in anger and rage, divisions and acrimony, and a decided lack of an appreciation of reconciliation, harmony, and a working toward a genuine common good.

The cause, he argues, is a rise in pridefulness which may have origins in our genes, with the evolutionary tendency toward dominating others through the genetic mechanism of the survival of the fittest. For Dr. Konkola, and many Christian thinkers in the 15th through the 17th centuries, the antidote for this oppressing and self-interested activity is the now-faded moral virtue of humility. Humility restores the practice and the valuing of forgiving and inspires the reawakening of the call to the common good, now being lost as people strive to be better than others, to dominate others.

When we put these two articles together, we see a common theme discussed by both authors: Christian teaching in its ancient form was a call to forgiveness and humility, not to be dominated or to dominate, but instead to spread love to others, for the common good, for harmony among people so that we all work together to end oppression, to end others’ sorrow.

If both authors are correct, then deep Christian education needs to embrace  forgiveness education, with its emphasis on love and humility as the forgivers, in suffering for their oppressor, offer the hand of potential harmony to those who misbehave. Good forgiveness education instructs students that they must not abandon the quest for justice when they exercise mercy. Good forgiveness education does not over-emphasize the “therapeutic” culture (that forgiving only is for the forgiver) but goes more deeply into the insight that forgiving in its essence is a decision to love and to engage in loving actions toward someone who was not loving toward the forgiver.

Forgiving is a choice, not a commanded law that must be done; the moral virtues of forgiving and justice can and should occur together.”

Dr. Robert Enright

Are forgiving and humility fading in modern Western culture? Perhaps it is time for educational leaders and parents to galvanize their wisdom and energy to provide this kind of education for the children. Then let the children lead the revival of these central virtues that can thwart ideologies of power-over-others. Let the children learn through forgiveness education that the means of love and humility eventually lead to a better world than do the means of cultural revolution and destruction, which are devoid of such love and humility.

For example, the Catholic community with its worldwide schools seems particularly positioned for such forgiveness education. Implementing forgiveness in these schools on a worldwide basis just might reawaken a world which is starting to fall asleep to forgiveness and humility. Our International Forgiveness Institute already has constructed 17 forgiveness curriculum guides for students from age 4 to age 18, including an anti-bullying guide and two curriculum guides for parents.

Using those guides, Forgiveness Education has been implemented successfully in Greece, Iran, Israel, Liberia, Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Turkey, the United States and other countries. A more concentrated effort by the educational leaders and parents could be the beginning of a revolution of quiet and gentleness and love, in contrast to the tired ideologies of meeting unfairness only with anger and resistance and fire and destruction.

What will win: the genes calling for the survival of the fittest or the grace to overcome these by learning to love and forgive and then finding the path to justice for all? Once they have accurately learned about forgiveness, and if they so choose to forgive, then let the children lead us.



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