Tagged: “forgiveness journey”

I once heard an academic say that forgiveness hurts relationships because it is good to sometimes vent and express anger.  What do you think?

I think we need to make important distinctions in answering this question.  To express anger is not incompatible with forgiving.  We have to distinguish short-term anger, in which the offended person shows self-respect, and long-term and deep anger in which the person harbors a grudge and keeps the offense in front of the one who behaved badly.  The short-term anger is meant to alter the injustice and correct the other person’s injustice.  A person can show such anger, correct the other person, and then forgive.  The long-term variety of anger, in contrast, can be a tool for punishing the other, with no end in sight.  The important message here is to avoid sweeping generalities about anger and about forgiveness.  To presume that one cannot be angry and forgive is reductionism which then distorts what forgiveness is and how it can be used productively in a relationship.

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So, in your view, one’s subjective views of forgiveness are unimportant.  You seem to discount personal opinion.

Subjective views need to be scrutinized relative to what is true about the concept of forgiveness or about many issues in the world.  For example, if a person insists that 1 + 1 = 5, should we take that as this person’s truth?  I think this would be an act of disrespect for the person as we are not aiding this person to properly know mathematics.

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Do you think forgiveness could be set aside for the vast majority of people if most never reacted with unhealthy anger or resentment?

Forgiving others is not done exclusively because it has excellent psychological benefits, shown by research.  Forgiving others also is good in and of itself because it is a moral virtue (as are justice and kindness and respect).  Showing goodness as the goal of forgiving (rather than deriving a psychological benefit) is sufficient for forgiveness to be a part of your and otherslife.  To address your point directly, as we both know, reacting to injustices only with temperate, short-term (not unhealthy) anger is not likely as part of the human condition.  Thus, the need for forgiveness, for psychological reasons, will continue to be alive and well on this earth.

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I am very frustrated with someone who has hurt me many times.  I do want to forgive, but now I am wondering if you would recommend that I first deal with my frustration and anger before I start walking the path of forgiveness.

Let us distinguish between healthy and unhealthy anger.  By healthy anger I mean the short-term feeling and expression of discontent over an injustice.  We all get angry or sad or disrupted in some way when people are very unjust to us.  Such healthy anger shows that we see ourselves as people who should be treated with respect.  It is good first to allow yourself this period of experiencing healthy anger before you start the forgiveness process.  In contrast, unhealthy anger is a deep feeling of resentment that does not easily go away.  It disrupts one’s concentration and energy.  You do not want to wait until the unhealthy anger fades because, quite frankly, if you were treated with great unfairness, then it is not likely to fade without going through the forgiveness process.  In sum, first allow a period of healthy anger.  Start forgiving to reduce or even eliminate unhealthy anger.

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When It Is Hard to Forgive: Countering Power with Self-Worth

First you need to change your view of who you are as a person if you have been stuck in unforgiveness and are discouraged. The power perspective will tell you that you are less than you should be if your loved ones reject you. Do not listen to the voice of power. It is all too easy to condemn yourself when others first condemn you. Try to counter that power perspective starting now. Who are you as a person? You are someone who has inherent worth even when you struggle in life. You are someone who is special, unique, and irreplaceable even if you have unhealthy anger in your heart. You are not a failure at forgiveness.

Remember that forgiveness is a process that takes time and patience and determination. Try not to be harsh on yourself if you are struggling with this process. How you are doing in this process today is not an indication of where you will be in this process 1 month from now. Who are you?

Excerpt from R. Enright (2015). 8 Keys to Forgiveness.  New York: Norton

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The Missing Piece to the Peace Puzzle

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