Tagged: “Forgiveness Process”

Coordinating Forgiving and Seeking Forgiveness

When a person is ready to be forgiven, the other may not be ready to forgive.

I have stated previously that to forgive is courageous and even heroic when treated unjustly by others. As you do the hard work of being good to those who are not good to you, as you approach the other with this offer of forgiveness, it sometimes can get complicated. The complications then can lead to new hurts and even a new opportunity to forgive. Consider six issues regarding the granting of forgiveness and the seeking of it:

1.  When people forgive, they go through what can be a lengthy and challenging process. They commit to doing no harm to the one who was offensive. They try to see the offending person in a much wider context than only the offending behavior. They try to see the inherent worth in the other, offer compassion, stand in the pain lest they give that pain right back to the other, and they try to be merciful. Such overtures at times can backfire as the other is not ready to seek forgiveness. Thus the forgiver might be met with such statements as: “What do you mean? I did nothing wrong. You are overly sensitive and are over-reacting.”

2.  When people have offended and seek forgiveness, they, too, go through a potentially lengthy and challenging process.  They try to see the offended person as wounded, as in need of some assistance to overcome the hurt. The offending people see the inherent worth of the offended, have empathy on what they are enduring, and want to reach out to make things right. Such overtures at times also can backfire as the offended one is not ready to forgive. The forgiveness-seeker might be met with these kinds of statements: “What’s your game now? You are constantly doing this and I have had it. Don’t bother me with your sob story.”

3.  The take-home message for those of you either trying to forgive or seeking forgiveness is this: Try to see where the other person is in the process (of either forgiving or seeking it). Both of you may be in very different developmental places in your respective healing journeys. Getting a sense of which of you is far along and which of you is not ready is highly important so that each of you can be patient with the other and with the self. . . .

Read the final three issues of this blog on the Psychology Today website where it was posted on December 5, 2018.

Robert

I am forgiving my boss for harsh language about a month ago.  Now this week he is dumping all kinds of work on me with unrealistic deadlines.  Can I forgive him for both of these issues at the same time or is it better to take one at a time?

If the boss has a pattern of unjust behaviors, then you can forgive for the pattern itself rather than take each incident one at a time. If there are only two incidents as you describe, I would recommend forgiving the boss two times, for each discrete incident.  It will be less complicated if you separate the two.  Yet, if these two are part of a pattern, it may be better to forgive for the pattern so you do not have to forgive the boss 10 or 20 or 50 times.

For additional information, see Learning to Forgive Others.

Is it less meritorious to say to oneself about the other person, “I forgive you,” than to say this directly to the offending person?

The answer depends on how the other will respond.  If that person is not ready to hear those words or to seek forgiveness, then rejection of your overture can happen.  If the other sees no wrong in the actions, then rejection of your overture again can happen. In other words, it depends on the circumstances between the two of you.  You certainly can say within yourself to the other, “I forgive you, “ and this is reasonable if proclaiming those words to the other will create more tension between the two of you.

For additional information, see 8 Keys to Forgiveness.

I have positive feelings toward my sister who was mean to me.  Does this wrap up forgiveness for me then?  In other words, are positive feelings the gist of forgiving or is there more to it?

Positive feelings by themselves are not the end of the forgiveness process.  If you think about it, positive feelings by themselves can be passive.  For example, you feel positively toward your sister as you sit on the couch and never make a positive move toward your sister.  As a moral virtue, forgiveness includes thinking, feeling, and behaving (within reason) toward the one who hurt you.  When you forgive, you are open to the possibility of reconciliation with the other. This openness toward reconciliation is not an automatic coming together again.  The other has to be trustworthy for the reconciliation actually to occur.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.

I have a hard time feeling compassion for a person if I cannot see that person, interact with that person, see the pain in the person.  So, how can I genuinely forgive someone who is not in my life at the present time?

You probably should start with thinking exercises.  In the book, Forgiveness Is a Choice, I talk about taking wider perspectives on the one whom you want to forgive.  These perspectives (personal, global, and cosmic perspectives) help you to see the other as vulnerable, as perhaps hurting, and this may lead to compassion for you.

For additional information, see What is Forgiveness?