Yes, there is a difference between the two. Calming the mind is not a moral virtue. Forgiving is a moral virtue, which means that the focus of forgiving actually is on the one who offended, not on the self. As you forgive, you begin to think about this other person in new ways, to feel softer feelings toward this person, and to behave in a way that is civil and not hurtful. When you calm your mind you could be ignoring the other, putting the other out of your mind. Of course, this does not always happen when you calm your mind, but it can happen. Thus, calming the mind does not necessarily lend itself to a focus on the other, and in a positive way, as forgiveness does.
For additional information, see What is Forgiveness?
I have been taught to forgive since I was a child. I think I am pretty good at it now. Recently, I have hit a road block and I just can’t seem to forgive a particular person. Given all of my experience with forgiving, since childhood, I am perplexed about my inability to forgive now. Help!
Because you have not described the current injustice, I am not able to say for sure, but I do have this question for you: How severe is the current injustice relative to all others you have faced in your life? If it is very severe, then please note that your forgiving this particular person may take more time and effort. This is ok. It does not mean that you are unforgiving. Please note that forgiveness is a process that can take months if the injustice is severe and if it is recent. Try to take the time to examine this person from what I call the personal, global, and cosmic perspectives in the book, Forgiveness Is a Choice. Taking time with these perspectives may help you in moving forward with your forgiveness of this person.
To my way of thinking, forgiveness is this: You have a trauma. You then admit that you were traumatized. You then enter directly into conflict with the trauma, and reconstruct the trauma in your own mind. What do you think about this?
While your description may be part of what forgiveness is, I do think there is more to it than only this. When you forgive, your focus is not directly on the trauma. The focus is on the person who created the trauma. You can “reconstruct” a trauma in many ways that are not forgiveness. For example, you could say, “Well, in thinking about the trauma, it really was not so bad after all.” You have “reconstructed” the trauma, but this is not forgiveness because, when you forgive, you know that what happened to you was wrong, is wrong, and always will be wrong. You do not “reconstruct” what happened as “not so bad.” Thus, while you may remember the trauma—the event—in new ways when you forgive, you actually “reconstruct” who the other person is by struggling to see his or her humanity, his or her inherent (built-in) worth. As you reconstruct the person and see a truly full human being who is more than unjust behaviors, then you are in the process of forgiving.
For additional information, see: What is Forgiveness?
I am a victim of what currently is called “micro-aggressions.” This is what I mean: I am a descendant of people from India, but I was born and raised in the United States. Sometimes people ask me, “Where are you from?” I find that kind of presumptuous. Can I forgive people for such micro-aggressions?
Yes, if you have been offended by another’s actions, you should feel free to go ahead and forgive. In other words, you need not get others’ permission to forgive. This is your decision. Even if your peers say that you should just let it go, you can make your own choice here. If you are feeling resentment and consider the questions unjust, then forgiving those who ask the questions is reasonable.
For additional information, see: Forgiveness: An Offshoot of Love.
I have tried and tried and tried to forgive a particular person, but to no avail. I still have anger. Should I move in a direction other than forgiveness?
You say that you still have anger. How much anger do you have relative to the amount of anger you had prior to forgiving? Forgiveness does not necessarily expunge all anger. A key is this: Is the anger controlling you or are you now in control of the anger? If the latter is the case, then you very well may be forgiving. As the late Lewis Smedes said, forgiveness is an imperfect act for imperfect people. You need not have perfect forgiveness in order to have accomplished it to some degree.
Yet, let us presume that you are not forgiving even though you have tried. If you still are motivate to forgive, you can start at the beginning of the forgiveness process and persevere with regard to this one person. As a final point, if you are having difficulty forgiving Person A, you might try first forgiving someone else, Person B. I suggest this because, for example, some people have trouble forgiving a partner if the partner’s behavior reminds them of one of their own parent’s behavior. Forgiving the parent first then frees the forgiver to have more success with forgiving the partner.
For additional information, see: Learning to Forgive Others.