Tagged: “Forgiveness Process”

As another question that I have about forgiveness therapy, does the amount of time spent in this form of therapy matter?  In other words, is longer better?

Yes, longer is better.  Baskin and Enright (1994) showed that forgiveness therapy lasting 12 weeks or longer seems more optimal than short-term therapies.  Longer therapies as more effective than short-term therapies also was supported by the meta-analysis by Aktar and Barlow.  The references to these two journal articles are as follows:

Baskin, T.W., & Enright, R. D. (2004).  Intervention studies on forgiveness: A meta-analysis.  Journal of Counseling and Development, 82, 79-90.

Akhtar, S. & Barlow, J. (2018).  Forgiveness therapy for the promotion of mental well-being: A systematic review and meta-analysis.  Trauma, Violence, and Abuse, 19, 107-122.

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OK, so to forgive is not a sign of weakness within the one who forgives.  Yet, it seems to me that as you forgive another person, you actually weakened that other.  I say that because you now are on the higher ground of forgiveness and the other sees the self standing lower because of the misbehavior.  Forgiving weakens the other.

This is a misunderstanding of what it means to forgive another person.  When you forgive, and when the other person “sees the self standing lower because of the misbehavior,” you do not let the other, in that person’s own judgement, remain in a lower position.  Instead, you, as the forgiver, can say, “Come. Take my hand so we can stand side-by-side.” Forgiving is the challenge of seeing the other and you as both possessing equal worth as persons.

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It seems to me that a safer approach when treated unfairly is to engage in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and not forgiveness.  Forgiveness invites an unwanted guest back into the heart.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, in contrast, helps me to think in new ways so that I do not condemn myself for letting the injustice happen and it helps me keep my distance from the one who hurt me.

Research does show that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as a psychotherapeutic technique can be helpful in changing one’s attitude toward difficult situations, but it may not be as effective as Forgiveness Therapy in getting rid of the elephant in the room which is deep, excessive anger that just won’t quit.  Forgiveness Therapy has been shown to be very effective against the effects of trauma suffered because of others’ injustice.  Forgiveness Therapy can take time and is a struggle because you are growing in the important virtue of having mercy on those who did not have mercy on you.  Yet, the effort is worth it because the toxic anger can be reduced and eliminated.  Some residual anger can remain, but it does not control the one who forgives.

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Even if I ask for fairness from the one who hurt me, it seems that what I ask of the other may be too soft, too advantageous for the other and not for me.  After all, if I start having softness in my heart toward the other, aren’t I then likely to be, to use an expression, “soft on crime”?

As you forgive and seek justice, you are not excusing what the other person did.  In fact, as you scrutinize what happened to hurt you, then you may be seeing even more clearly what exactly the person did to you.  This can be a motivation on your part to ask for an accurate justice from the other person, not a distorted version of that.

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I have a co-worker who never stands up for himself nor does he even politely confront those who are giving him a hard time.  Instead, he gets angry (away from those with whom he is in conflict). Sometimes that anger comes out toward me. He can occasionally bang his fist into the top of his desk.  Do you think his actions are sufficient to relieve his anger or does this even help at all?

Your co-worker seems to be using the psychological defense of displacement, which means to take out the anger on something or someone else rather than on the original person who acted unfairly.  In the short-run your co-worker might experience some relief from this catharsis, but in the long-run, as I am sure you know, his hitting the top of the desk will not solve the injustice.  If your co-worker can do some forgiving and exercise this along with courage and a quest for justice, then he might be able to go to those at whom he is angry and talk it out in the hope of a fair resolution.

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