To accept the pain is not to put up with abuse. One first has to protect oneself by seeking justice from abuse. To accept the pain is not to live with this pain for the rest of one’s life. To accept the pain is to stand with that pain, to not run from that pain (because the injustice did happen). To accept the pain is to make a commitment not to pass that pain back to the one who offended or to anyone else. As one stands this way and commits to not passing the pain to others, the paradox is that the one who accepts the pain begins to notice that, over time, the pain begins to lessen.
For additional information, see the Four Phases of Forgiveness.
I want to reach out to a former good friend. We have not talked in about a year. I fear being humiliated. What can I do to overcome this fear of humiliation?
You are showing courage to consider approaching the former good friend. I would suggest two things. First, try to cultivate a sense of humility which may counter any harmful humiliation if the person rejects your overture of a renewed friendship. In other words, cultivating humility gets you ready for a rejection. Second, realize that the other person may not be as ready for a conversation as you are. Even if you make the approach, please realize that the other may need time to adjust to this new overture. A hesitancy on the other’s part today does not mean that this will continue indefinitely. Humility and patience may help you in this case.
For additional information, see Learning to Forgive Others.
Good Housekeeping (UK); London, England, UK – Figen Murray’s emotions were suspended in limbo for more than 24-hours after the Manchester Arena bombing before she was officially notified that her 29-year-old son Martyn Hett had been killed in the May 22, 2017, suicide bombing attack. Here is how she responded to his death, as reported in Good Housekeeping (UK), part of the Hearst UK Fashion & Beauty Network:
My son Martyn touched a lot of hearts. He was fun, kindhearted, and he always stood up for the underdog. As a child, he was a little imp, with boundless energy. He had a really quirky side, and loved practical jokes, social media and Coronation Street. . . .
Grief manifests itself in many different ways. I didn’t cry – I couldn’t. I’m a counsellor and psychotherapist, and for over 20 years I’ve spent my working life helping people through mental-health issues and psychological obstacles. In my professional career I developed resilience in order not to dissolve into tears in front of clients.
Now, I realise that this ingrained resilience is how I go on. I’m not being deliberately strong, and I’m not in denial. I’m undone inside, permanently damaged from what’s happened. The only way I can describe it is I feel like a piece of paper that someone has shredded, only to realise they’ve done so by accident. They try to tape it back together, but it’s too late. It can never be whole again.
When I saw the bomber’s face on television, the first thing I thought was, ‘You foolish boy’. That’s all he was – not a man, but a boy who had been brainwashed so much that he was able to walk into a crowded concert and detonate a bomb.
I could choose to be angry, to harbour resentment and blame. But I can honestly say that I feel no rage towards Salman Abedi. In that moment, he believed that he was doing the right thing. That’s why I’ve made a conscious choice to forgive him – hate only breeds hate. Now more than ever, this world needs humanity and kindness.
Out of bad, good has to happen. When that boy detonated the bomb, he achieved the opposite of what he wanted – he caused an explosion of love. Family, friends and strangers have come together in solidarity and courage.
Martyn’s death has changed my family for ever, but I will not allow it to destroy us. When the most awful, unthinkable things happen, we all have the power to overcome.
Editor’s Note: In addition to Martyn Hett and the 21 others killed in the Ariana Grande concert bombing in Manchester, we now know that more than 800 people suffered physical and/or deep psychological injuries from the attack. Undoubtedly, their lives have been altered forever.
Read the full story in Good Housekeeping (UK)
This argument, more from psychology than philosophy, does not present a moral criticism but does portray forgiving as negative. The gist of the argument is that forgiving always commences after injustice. It does not prevent injustice from happening in the first place, and so it is a passive form of communication and action.
Our response is a question: What is effective in stemming injustice in this imperfect world?
No form of communication, no problem-solving strategy to date, can prevent all injustice. Is it not reassuring to know that there is a potentially helpful response to injustice after it occurs?
Furthermore, we must ask why forgiveness is considered passive just because it comes after an injustice. When one examines the struggle to overcome anger, the struggle to offer undeserved compassion to an injurer, one can hardly label forgiving as passive.
Finally, as one forgives, is it not possible that the offender may be transformed through the forgiving, thus making that form of injustice less likely in the future? In such cases, forgiveness precedes issues of justice and injustice and acts as a preventive of further abuse.
Enright, Robert D.; Fitzgibbons, Richard P.. Forgiveness Therapy (Kindle Locations 5225-5234). American Psychological Association (APA). Kindle Edition.
My brother was hurt at school by a harsh teacher. He has not forgiven that teacher. Now I am having a hard time forgiving the teacher. Should I wait until my brother forgives before I start the forgiveness process?
It is perfectly legitimate to forgive someone who hurts a family member when you have been hurt by that action. You need not wait until your brother forgives because you are free to offer forgiveness whenever you are ready. Your forgiving the teacher may show your brother that it is possible.
For additional information, see Learning to Forgive Others.