Tagged: “Forgiveness Process”

I seem to be lost on the forgiveness path.  I try and try, but I do not think I have made much progress in forgiving my partner and this has been going on for about a year.  Should I just get off the forgiveness path regarding my forgiving him?

Before you give up, I have some questions for you:

1) Have you committed to doing no harm to your partner, even in the context of your having the opportunity to somehow hurt him?  If you answered, “Yes, I have committed to doing no harm,” then you are not lost on the forgiveness journey.  This is a big step in the process;

2) Have you tried to see his weaknesses, his confusions, his wounds that may have wounded you?  If not, perhaps you need to do some of this cognitive work, to see him in a wider perspective than only his injuries toward you;

3)  Do you think that your will is strong enough to do the work outlined in #1 and 2 above?  If so, that work could lead to your forgiving if you give this time.

So, what do you think?  Have you found your way back onto the path of forgiveness?

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How do I know, with some degree of confidence, that I am ready to reconcile with the other person?

Reconciliation is different from forgiveness.  When we reconcile, this is a process of two or more people coming together again in mutual trust.  Reconciliation is conditional on the other person’s willingness to change, if he or she was the one who acted unfairly.  Forgiveness, in contrast, can be offered unconditionally to the other as a form of respect, understanding, compassion, and even love, even if there is no reconciliation.  So, you can forgive without reconciling.

With all of this as background, here are four questions which might help you decide if you are ready to reconcile (and I am presuming that the other is the one who has hurt you):

1) Has the other shown an inner sorrow about what he or she did?  We call this remorse;

2) Has the person verbally expressed this sorrow to you.  We call this repentance;

3)  Has the person made amends for what happened (and we have to ask if he or she has done so within reason because sometimes we cannot make full amends.  For example, if someone stole $1,000 from you but truly cannot repay it all, then you cannot expect that he or she can make amends in any perfect way).  We call this recompense;

4)  If the person has shown what I call the “three R’s” of remorse, repentance, and recompense, then do you have even a little trust in your heart toward the person?  If so, then perhaps you can begin a slow reconciliation, taking small steps in rebuilding the relationship.  Your answer to these four questions may help you with your question: How do I know that I now am ready to reconcile?

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If the other does not want to be forgiven, should I then not forgive?

Suppose someone said to you, “Please do not be fair to me.  Under no circumstances, you are not to exercise justice to me.”  Would you not be fair?  Isn’t it your choice to be fair, regardless of the other person’s request?  It is the same with forgiveness.  You can forgive from the heart, as a free-will decision.  You need not verbally proclaim your forgiveness toward the other if this person insists, but your forgiving always is your choice.  The key issue here is how you forgive, and that can be done silently, from the heart and in actions that do not proclaim forgiveness.

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In your book, “The Forgiving Life,” you correlate forgiving with love (agape love).  Can a person forgive and feel no love at all toward the one who acted unfairly?

We have to make a distinction between the essence of forgiveness (what it is in truth and on its highest level) and how we actually appropriate forgiveness at any given time.  So, even though to forgive on its highest level is to love the one who was not loving toward the forgiver when the injustice occurred, a person can forgive, for example, by committing to do no harm to that other person.  While this is not the highest form of forgiveness, it is part of the forgiveness process.  So, if today the best a person can do is to commit to do no harm to the one who offended, this is forgiveness (with room to grow in this moral virtue).

The Forgiving Life

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When going back to the unjust event, do I have to feel the feelings from that point in time?  I might be re-traumatized if I feel those feelings again.

The forgiveness process does not ask you to go back and re-experience your feelings from the past.  Instead, the point of thinking back in time is to ask this question: Was I treated unjustly and how unjustly was I treated?  We need to ascertain this because forgiveness starts with true injustice.  Sometimes, for example, a person might think that Mom was terribly unfair 20 years ago, only to look back and conclude that there was a misunderstanding based on the person’s views as a child.  When the person does conclude that, indeed, there was injustice, the process shifts to the effects of that injustice on the person now.  How has this injustice affected your current feelings, your level of fatigue, your ability to trust others in general?  So, in response to your question, you are not asked to feel the feelings from the past.

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