Tagged: “forgiveness journey”

What are some key reasons why people will not let go of their anger when treated unfairly by others?

While there are many reasons for holding onto anger, here are a few of these for your consideration:

Sometimes, people feel a sense of power by holding on to the anger.  They feel as if no one will be able to treat them badly if they have a deeply assertive attitude.  Of course, one can be assertive without being angry, but at times people link these two (being powerful and being angry) together.

At times, people are unaware of the damage being done to one’s inner world by holding on to the anger.  It is as if there will be no negative consequences for keeping such deep and abiding anger inside.  Therefore, the person clings to the anger thinking that no harm can be done by doing this.

At other times, people are denying the depth of their anger, thinking that a little anger will not hurt them when, in fact, they have much more of this emotion than they realize.  At such times, it is important to uncover the depth of the anger for the sake of the offended person’s well-being and for the well-being of those with whom there is frequent interactions.

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I am trying to forgive, but at times I have these feelings of revenge.  Is this part of the forgiveness process or am I doing something wrong?

Feelings of revenge can be part of the preliminary process before a person commits to forgiveness.  In other words, the process of forgiveness allows for a period of anger.  At the same time, you do not want to act on revenge-feelings, but instead realize that revenge-seeking can harm both you (because of harsh emotions that can lead to anxiety or depression) and the other person.  So, feelings of revenge are not part of the forgiveness process itself but can be present prior to the decision to forgive.  Forgiving can go a long way in eliminating feelings of revenge.

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Does forgiving another also include the belief that this person can change for the better?

No, to forgive another person does not mean that you, as the forgiver, believe that this other person can or will change.  To forgive is to offer compassion and the acknowledgement of the person’s humanity, regardless of the outcome of this belief.  This is one important reason why we have to distinguish forgiving and reconciling.  You can offer this compassion and recognition of the other’s humanity without reconciling if the other remains a danger to you.

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Is it harder to forgive someone who is frequently angry versus someone else who is not this way?

I do think it may be more difficult to forgive someone who is “frequently angry” and expresses that anger consistently to you.  You may have to forgive on a daily basis if you are in regular contact with a person who is continuously angry.  After you have forgiven to a deep enough level so that you can approach, in a civil way, this person, then it may be time to gently ask for justice.  Part of justice is to ask this person, if you feel safe with this, to begin working on the anger so that you are not hurt by it.

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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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