Tagged: “Forgiveness Process”

It is really hard to forgive my father.  In terms of family hierarchy, he is at the top, the one who leads us.  Can I forgive someone who is higher than I am in the family hierarchy?  It seems that I am putting him down if I forgive him.

When you forgive, you are not “putting down” your father.  Forgiveness is not a condemnation of people.  Yes, it is an acknowledgment that the other has done wrong, but with an eye toward the truth that this person, despite the unjust behavior, has inherent worth.  So, please first try to see that as you forgive, you are not condemning your father for unjust behavior.  You are standing in the truth that your father, at times, has acted unjustly, but these behaviors do not ultimately define who your father is.

Do I have to have empathy for the one who hurt me if I am to forgive well?  Right now I am angry with the one who was unfair.

It is completely normal to feel angry at the one who was unfair to you. Empathy, or figuratively “stepping inside the other’s shoes,” can help you see the person as more than the injustice against you. It is an important part of forgiving.  As you “step inside the other’s shoes,” it is also important to be open to the positive response of compassion toward this other person.  Compassion is the softened heart of being willing to suffer with the other, who may have suffered in the past by others’ injustice against this person.  Compassion may reduce your ongoing and intense anger against the one who was unjust to you.

I spent many months forgiving my boss from my previous employment.  It was hard.  I now have to start forgiving my romantic partner and I find it difficult.  I have what is called “classical conditioning” in that as I start to forgive my partner, it brings up all kinds of feelings of pain from what I went through with my boss.  Can you offer some advice so that I can move forward with forgiving my romantic partner?

As one point of encouragement, please keep in mind that you know the pathway of forgiving, you have walked it, and you have done so successfully.  There are two sources of pain for you right now: a) your partner’s unjust behavior and b) the classical condition of pain from what you experienced when forgiving your boss.   I urge you to try to do what we call “bear the pain” when the past emerges in your heart regarding your boss.  Treat this as its own path of new pain for you.  Try to stand in this pain, with a sense of triumph because of the past successful forgiving.  Be gentle with yourself as you also willingly “bear the pain” from the injustices by your partner.  Please keep in mind that as you willingly bear these two sources of pain, there is a tendency for the pain to slowly reduce and improve substantially, as based on our research on the process of forgiveness.

It seems to me that the forgiveness process could be harmful.  Here is what I mean: When I focus on the one who hurt me, I get angry with him.  I would rather just forget about the unjust event and forget about the person.  What do you think?

In my experience, when people are deeply hurt by others, no matter how far they run from the offending person, that person remains in the victim’s heart.  This can continue for many years.  The idea of forgetting about the person can occur in the mind, with denial and subconscious suppression of that person, but that person remains in the heart, in the area of feelings, including resentment.  In other words, no matter how hard one tries to erase the person, there he is inside the victim.  It is in forgiving that you unlock that door to the heart and let the person out, at least all the bad and even hateful feelings toward him.  In forgiving, you rewrite the script of who this person is.  Instead of seeing him exclusively as bad, you take a wider view and eventually see the inherent worth in him as a person.  This wider view can set you free from the stubborn resentment that just won’t quit.

Thank you for your recent response to me about my sister’s denial of her childhood experiences of abuse against her.  In your answer, you mentioned this: “Forgiving those who caused the abuse can significantly reduce the anger so that it is more manageable.”  Can you provide me with some research on this?

Yes, you can read some of our forgiveness intervention research on this website by going to the sub-menu on the right side of the page entitled Research. When you click on Research, you will be brought to some of our peer-reviewed published research discussing the reduction in resentment following forgiveness interventions with adults, adolescents, and children.