Tagged: “forgiveness is a choice”

On page 174 of your book, Forgiveness Is a Choice, you write, “When people are angry, bitter, and self-absorbed, they cannot be creative and open to new experiences. They are bound by their limited paradigms.” This seems like an unhappy state in which to dwell. If I now see this and see the beauty of forgiveness, am I now obligated to help others whom I see as being in this state?

I think the answer will depend on your growth in understanding and appreciating the virtue of forgiveness. Have you so lived with forgiveness that you see it as vital within yourself? Is forgiveness now part of who you are as a person? Do you now think that you have a certain obligation to forgive others, not a grim obligation, but a joyous one?

If you answer yes to these questions, then I think you likely have within yourself an obligation to share what you know with others—-without force or condemnation toward those who are not ready for your message. As you started with forgiveness being a choice for you, it is a choice for others. Please see that and let people have their own free will as you make known what you see as the beauty of forgiving.

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I am reading your book, “Forgiveness is a Choice,” and I am wondering… Does forgiveness apply in the case of a husband who is constantly mean and untrustworthy? The examples in the book seem to all be regarding a single past hurt, or an offense that occurred in the past. What about offenses that are ongoing but unrepented of and unresolved? I am Catholic, so I very much agree with forgiveness and starting over, etc. But I don’t know how to respond to unchanging behaviors that are sinful against me. Continual forgiveness?? Is it possible to not be resentful and bitter?

First, we have to realize that to forgive does not mean that you abandon the quest for justice. Forgive and from this place of diminished anger, let your husband know of your wounded heart and exactly why it is so wounded. He may reject your feelings at first, but this does not mean he will continually reject the truth.

You need to practice continual forgiveness, every day if you have the strong will for this. And pray about when it is the best time to once again ask for justice and even compassion from your husband. Was he deeply hurt as a child? If so, he may be displacing his anger onto you. Perhaps you both need to read Forgiveness Is a Choice…..together.

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Forgiveness: the Keystone of Human Values

Forgiveness can be “one way to reduce conflict and hostility, as well as to promote understanding and respect, to diminish unresolved hurt and pain that burdens many.” [1] Forgiveness is a choice, a decision, an act of bravery requiring courage; it is hard work.

That’s how Fr. Brian Cavanaugh characterizes forgiveness after KEYSTONEresearching and teaching forgiveness for 19 years, reading every piece of forgiveness literature he could get his hands on, and receiving feedback from hundreds of presentations, workshops and retreats.

A member of the Franciscan Friars, Third Order Regular (TOR), Fr. Cavanaugh has now written a scholarly yet intriguing and entertaining treatise on the subject. It was published earlier this year as a 2-part series by Pioneer Magazine, and can be accessed through these links:

“Forgiveness: the Keystone of Human Values”

Pioneer Magazine is published Keystone 2by the (PTAA) which was founded in 1898 in Dublin, Ireland. The Association’s mission is to address the problems in society caused by excess alcohol consumption and drug usage. Its vision is to “help to build a society where people live to their full potential and alcohol can be enjoyed in moderation, avoiding the ills that arise in society from excess in its use.” Pioneer Magazine is a monthly publication now in its 67th year.

You can access and order any of the nine books Fr. Cavanaugh has written by visiting “Books By Fr. Brian Cavanaugh, TOR.” You can also view and download his amazing collection of photos including hundreds of flowers, sunrises and sunsets, fall foliage, and winter scenes all on his website at “Fr. Brian’s Photo Galleries.” 

[1] McCullough, Michael E., Kenneth I. Pargament and Carl E. Thoresen, eds. (National Institute of Mental Health). Forgiveness: Theory, Research and Practice. New York:  The Guilford, 2000.

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I suffer from chronic anxiety. Will this alter how I go through the forgiveness process relative to those who are not suffering in this way?

Sometimes our anxiety comes from not feeling safe. Sometimes our not feeling safe emerges when others treat us unfairly. In other words, you may be expecting poor treatment from others now, even those who usually are fair.

A first step may be to think of one person who may have hurt you and at whom you still harbor resentment. You can forgive through the exact same pathway as described, for example, in the book, Forgiveness Is a Choice. With anger lessened, anxiety can diminish. Of course, this will vary for each person. We have to be gentle with ourselves as we learn to forgive, to give up anger, and to know with some confidence that we can meet the next interpersonal challenge with forgiveness, helping us to meet these challenges with less anxiety than in the past.

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Does forgiveness always start with feelings of anger? What about feelings of disappointment? For example, someone is angry when robbed by a stranger. In contrast, a mother is disappointed with a teenager who promised to clean her room, but did not.

Forgiveness does not begin with our own emotions. Forgiveness begins with an injustice by another person. Sometimes we react with anger, at other times with disappointment, and at other times with sadness and mourning. Even if we do not feel any of these emotions, if a person has done wrong, you are free to forgive if you choose to do so.

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