I sometimes lose my temper with my partner. Lately when I ask for forgiveness, he is unwilling to grant it. I have been patient, giving him time to forgive, and then I ask again with no effect. This leaves me with both shame and guilt. What do you recommend to me so that I can be freed from the shame and guilt?
Have you been working on your temper so that it does not get in the way of the relationship? Seeking forgiveness and changing behavior go together. If you are changing that behavior and because you have asked for forgiveness and have been patient, I think you can go in peace knowing that you have done your best for now. Give your partner time for him to work through his own forgiving.
If you want to forgive, I think you also need to ask for fairness. Then see how receptive your partner is to this call for justice. If you forgive first from your heart, then how you ask for justice likely will be more gentle than if you do so with deep anger. As we both know, it is important that your partner then see your pain and respond in a reasonable way to you.
I am a survivor of sexual abuse by my father, who is a pedophile. While I have healed fairly well from this (through therapy, medication, etc.), and pray every day to forgive him, I often struggle with feeling guilty over not visiting him at the nursing home where he currently resides. I pray every day for him, and sincerely do not wish harm to him. I fear that if I don’t visit him, I am not fulfilling Christ’s commandment to forgive him. Yet, I fear that visiting him might bring up some painful psychological memories, might put me back into a brief depressive/anxious state, and could lead me to an episode of Atrial Fibriliation (which for me seems to be provoked in times of extreme stress). A sibling of mine has been trying to get me to go visit my dad, and is of the belief that if we don’t visit him (“I was lonely and you visited me”, from Matthew 25), we might go to hell. Any wisdom you can share?
A key issue here is this: You are thinking that to truly forgive your father, then you must visit him in the nursing home. Further, you believe that if you do not visit him, you are disobeying Christ’s commandment to forgive him. Here is my view: To forgive is a process that unfolds over time as we work on that process of forgiveness. You are working on this process of forgiveness by: a) praying every day for the grace to forgive him; b) praying for your father; and c) wishing no harm to him. All of these are part of the forgiveness process in your case as a Christian. You need not reach complete forgiveness right now in that you have to behaviorally reach out to your father with a visit. I say this for this reason: Your **intentions** toward your father are good in that you pray for him and wish no harm to him. Further, your reason for not visiting him is honorable in that you need to protect your cardiac system. In other words, if your intention for not visiting your father in the nursing home is to punish him, then this would indicate that you are not yet forgiving. This is not the case for you. You have a good reason for not visiting right now because you have to protect your health. If, in the future, you think you are open to such a visit and, at the same time, you truly believe that your physical and emotional health are protected as you visit, then you could re-think your current decision. For now, I see no bad intentions at all on your part and so please keep praying for your father and for the grace to forgive and go in peace knowing you are doing the best that you can under the circumstances.
What advice can you offer to me about the following frustrating situation: I have forgiven my partner, offering compassion and empathy toward her. She was insensitive to me on several occasions when she was under deep stress at work. She is convinced that other people cannot know her own private world and so empathy, in her view, is unreachable. In other words, my words of empathy are hollow for her. What do you suggest that I do? I ask because she seems to think that true forgiveness, involving empathy, is impossible.
This is a very interesting situation. I say that because I have not encountered a situation like this until you brought it up. If she thinks that you cannot know her inner world, even though you are convinced that you are able to do this to a degree, then you might try a different approach. Instead of using words that suggest you have empathy for her inner world, try to focus instead on her behavior and circumstances, not to excuse her behavior but to put it in the context of her recent challenges when she hurt you. She should be able to see that you are able to concretely observe the behaviors and circumstance that increased her stress and likely contributed to her insensitive remarks. She then should be able to understand that you are viewing her as a valuable person who is more than the insensitivities she has shown to you.
If we do not forgive situations, such as a tornado that was destructive, how can we aid children in feeling safe after something like this occurs? In other words, how then can we avoid post-traumatic feelings in the child?
You can work on two issues. The first is acceptance of what happened. This can take time, but it may help children learn that this is an imperfect world and so bad things do happen. The second is to work on what I call “the safe feeling,” which is a sense of being protected by parents and other loved ones. Of course, the “safe feeling” should not become an illusion that bad things will not happen. Working simultaneously on acceptance that bad things can happen, and that loved ones are here to assist, may help the child reduce any post-traumatic stress that has emerged.