I seem to be lost on the forgiveness path. I try and try, but I do not think I have made much progress in forgiving my partner and this has been going on for about a year. Should I just get off the forgiveness path regarding my forgiving him?
Before you give up, I have some questions for you:
1) Have you committed to doing no harm to your partner, even in the context of your having the opportunity to somehow hurt him? If you answered, “Yes, I have committed to doing no harm,” then you are not lost on the forgiveness journey. This is a big step in the process;
2) Have you tried to see his weaknesses, his confusions, his wounds that may have wounded you? If not, perhaps you need to do some of this cognitive work, to see him in a wider perspective than only his injuries toward you;
3) Do you think that your will is strong enough to do the work outlined in #1 and 2 above? If so, that work could lead to your forgiving if you give this time.
So, what do you think? Have you found your way back onto the path of forgiveness?
Reconciliation is different from forgiveness. When we reconcile, this is a process of two or more people coming together again in mutual trust. Reconciliation is conditional on the other person’s willingness to change, if he or she was the one who acted unfairly. Forgiveness, in contrast, can be offered unconditionally to the other as a form of respect, understanding, compassion, and even love, even if there is no reconciliation. So, you can forgive without reconciling.
With all of this as background, here are four questions which might help you decide if you are ready to reconcile (and I am presuming that the other is the one who has hurt you):
1) Has the other shown an inner sorrow about what he or she did? We call this remorse;
2) Has the person verbally expressed this sorrow to you. We call this repentance;
3) Has the person made amends for what happened (and we have to ask if he or she has done so within reason because sometimes we cannot make full amends. For example, if someone stole $1,000 from you but truly cannot repay it all, then you cannot expect that he or she can make amends in any perfect way). We call this recompense;
4) If the person has shown what I call the “three R’s” of remorse, repentance, and recompense, then do you have even a little trust in your heart toward the person? If so, then perhaps you can begin a slow reconciliation, taking small steps in rebuilding the relationship. Your answer to these four questions may help you with your question: How do I know that I now am ready to reconcile?
What cautions do you have for me before I reconcile with a former partner who was not particularly trustworthy?
Here are three cautions for you:
- If you reconcile too quickly without the other showing any remorse, repentance, or recompense, then this could be a false reconciliation in which you may be hurt again in the same way.
- Please do not think of forgiving and reconciling as the same. You can forgive from the heart, but then not reconcile if the other continues to be a danger to you. If you equate the two, then as you forgive, you may feel a false obligation to reconcile.
- If you are still angry and not forgiving, then, without realizing it, you might use reconciliation as a weapon, in which you come together in a superficial way and then you keep reminding the other of how bad he/she has been and how good you have been. This is why you need forgiveness to occur before a deep reconciliation occurs.
When going back to the unjust event, do I have to feel the feelings from that point in time? I might be re-traumatized if I feel those feelings again.
The forgiveness process does not ask you to go back and re-experience your feelings from the past. Instead, the point of thinking back in time is to ask this question: Was I treated unjustly and how unjustly was I treated? We need to ascertain this because forgiveness starts with true injustice. Sometimes, for example, a person might think that Mom was terribly unfair 20 years ago, only to look back and conclude that there was a misunderstanding based on the person’s views as a child. When the person does conclude that, indeed, there was injustice, the process shifts to the effects of that injustice on the person now. How has this injustice affected your current feelings, your level of fatigue, your ability to trust others in general? So, in response to your question, you are not asked to feel the feelings from the past.
I re-read one of our posts here at the International Forgiveness Institute. It was dated February 29, 2012. What surprised me is this: It was as if I were reading a contemporary news item from 2022.
As you read the 10-year-old essay below, consider asking yourself this: Has anything changed for forgiveness within societies in that timespan? What must we do so that in 2032 the news is not a repetition of the past 20 years?
Here is that essay from 2012:
Peter Maurin of the Catholic Worker Movement is alleged to have said that a good society is one in which it is easy to be good. I write this blog post today as I reflect on some recent news stories (posted in our Forgiveness News section of this website). We have the shooting of innocent teenagers in Ohio and we have the murder of a 4-year-old. Anger can sometimes be deadly for the other person who just happens to be in the angry one’s way.
I wonder what those outcomes would have been had those with the weapons been bathed in forgiveness education from age 5 though 18. I wonder what those outcomes would have been had the weapon-carriers, as they grew up, practiced forgiveness in the home. I wonder.
The wounds in the world are deep and everlasting, it seems. What we do here at the International Forgiveness Institute, Inc. (helping people if they so choose to learn to forgive and then practice forgiveness) will never be out of date. Yet, my big worry (yes, it is a big worry) is this: Will there be sufficient laborers in the forgiveness vineyard to bring the virtue of forgiveness to children so that they can become fortified against the grave injustices that come to too many too often as adults?
I worry about those 6-year-olds, sitting now in classrooms, learning their mandated ABCs, without also learning the ABCs of how to deal with injustice. You see, society is not emphasizing forgiveness. We are not being taught forgiveness on a regular basis. We are in a society where it is not easy to be a good forgiver. And so too many of those who are bullied in school do not even think to forgive those who perpetrate the bullying. In Ohio this week, one bullied student’s response was a gun and then murder.
So much pain in the world and yet too many societies do not have the vision and the resources to bring forgiveness education far and wide. Question for those who are listening: The next time a city wishes to build a $250 million complex for athletics or entertainment or whatever, who has the persuasive skills and accompanying wisdom and courage to ask that one half of one percent of that be siphoned off to forgiveness education? If we could go back and ask the deceased students in Ohio or the innocent 4-year-old what is the higher priority….what do you think they would say to us?
Society, what do you think?