Tagged: “Forgiveness Process”

I became aware of Rodney King being assaulted by officers when I was reading Chapter 3 of the book, Forgiveness Is a Choice. I had no idea that a person’s wrath could have such a profound impact on an entire community and subsequent generations. How can a generation get past the stigma associated with unhealthy venting?

Community forgiveness is a relatively new issue that has profound implications for the peace movement.  It is possible for people within an entire community to see the impact of continued rage and, together, decide to forgive the other community.  This, in theory, should have the effect of lowering the anger-temperature within and between communities as people decide to offer forgiveness to those on “the other side.”  Here are two references to the idea of community (or group) forgiveness:

Enright, R.D., Lee, Y.R., Hirshberg, M.J., Litts, B.K., Schirmer, E.B., Irwin, A.J., Klatt, J., Hunt, J., & Song, J.Y. (2016).  Examining group forgiveness: Conceptual and empirical issues.  Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 22, 153-162. DOI: http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.library.wisc.edu/10.1037/pac0000153

Enright, R.D., Johnson, J., Fu, N., Erzar, T., Hirshberg, M., Huang, T., Klatt, J., Lee, D., Boateng, B., Boggs, P., Hsiao, T.-E., Olson, C., Shu, M.L., Song, J., Wu, P., & Zhang, B. (2020).  Measuring intergroup forgiveness: The Enright Group Forgiveness Inventory. Peace and Conflict Studies, 27,1-29.

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Is excessive anger the only serious concern with a lack of forgiveness?  What about sadness or grief?

You are correct that a person may experience sadness or grief rather than or in addition to anger when treated very unfairly by others.  As documented in the book, Forgiveness Therapy (2024) by Enright and Fitzgibbons, it is excessive anger in particular (the kind of anger that is intense and long lasting) that can lead, over time, to psychological compromise such as anxiety and depression.  So, from a mental health standpoint, it is the excessive anger that is of primary concern and in need of amelioration.

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If my motivation is to reduce my rage toward the one who was really unfair to me and if I am not getting any relief, then is this a good reason to abandon the quest to forgive this person?

If you are struggling with offering forgiveness, you certainly can take a break for a while and refresh before trying again.  Yet, please keep in mind that the essence of forgiveness is to be merciful toward the offending person and so you still can continue with the forgiveness process regardless of your own psychological improvement.  Please keep in mind that it can take time for psychological improvement to occur when you forgive, especially when you are deeply hurt.  Therefore, you may need patience and time before you experience the psychological improvement.  Thus, you can forgive as you remain psychologically challenged and then hope for such improvement within yourself as you engage in the forgiveness process.

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Is it wrong to want to forgive someone by making the decision to help yourself to be freed from the rage and resentment? Or, is forgiveness only legitimate if you do it for the offending person? 

We need to make a distinction between what forgiveness is and what are motivations for forgiving.  When a person, who was treated unjustly, has the goal of reducing rage, this is a legitimate motivation.  At the same time, forgiveness itself, as a moral virtue, is for the one who offended.  So, as you appropriate forgiveness, you are doing your best to reach out to the other with kindness, respect, generosity, and even love.  Your motivation for doing so may be to help yourself to heal emotionally.  Further, this motivation eventually can change toward wanting the best for the one who offended.

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