My son recently was divorced. He did the best that he could and now he is angry and refuses to forgive his ex-wife. Can I forgive her for what she did to my son? If I do this, am I being disloyal to my son, who refuses to forgive?
You are free to choose forgiveness in this case. Even though your son’s ex-spouse did not hurt you directly, she did hurt you in a secondary sense in that she hurt your loved one. Forgiving in this context is appropriate. You are not being disloyal to your son if you choose to forgive to rid yourself of resentment. You need not, then, go to your son and proclaim your forgiveness and then pressure him now to do the same. You can forgive without discussing this with your son. If and when he is ready to forgive, then you can share your insights about the forgiveness process with him.
Learn more at 8 Reasons to Forgive.
The Forgiver as Inferior
When someone forgives so rapidly that he or she glosses over a legitimate period of anger, that person is not showing self-respect, as Jeffrie G. Murphy, (1982, 2005) reminded us. Murphy’s concern, however, was not with forgiving per se but instead with the short-circuiting of the process. As long as the process of forgiving makes room for this legitimate period of anger, Murphy and those who agree with him should not be troubled by forgiveness.
The Forgiven as Inferior
Even if a forgiver does not try to dominate the offender, the latter may nonetheless feel very badly about having to be forgiven (see Droll, 1985; O’Shaughnessy, 1967). Derek may feel that Alice (his wife with whom he is having conflict), by her forgiving, is morally superior to him. Yet, Alice need not tell Derek of her gift. Even if he should suspect forgiveness on her part and then pine over this, Alice has done nothing wrong. Her gift remains a gift regardless of Derek’s response. If a child wails in protest over the gift of socks on Christmas morning, does this present then not count as a gift just because the child wanted a popular computer game and did not receive it?
Enright, Robert D.; Fitzgibbons, Richard P.. Forgiveness Therapy (Kindle Locations 5076-5085). American Psychological Association (APA). Kindle Edition.
I have been divorced for 10 years. I can honestly say that I no longer have what you call “toxic anger” toward my ex-spouse. I never actually engaged in the forgiveness process. I kind of just let it go and the anger went away, too. Do you think I still need to consider forgiveness?
A researcher, Judith Wallerstein, did a longitudinal study of divorced people and she found that, even 10 years after divorce, many people still were fuming with anger. This does not seem to be the case for you. If you carefully examine your level of anger, including the possibility that you are not denying the depth of your anger, then it is possible that you have, as you say, moved on without excessive anger. If, on the other hand, the anger should again surface for you, then you do have the possibility of beginning the forgiveness process. It never is too late to forgive if you think you need to do this.
A 17-lesson curriculum guide was written by a licensed psychologist and a developmental psychologist for the teachers’ use. Each lesson takes approximately 45 minutes or less and each occurs approximately once per week for the entire class. Additional activities in the guide are provided if a teacher wishes to extend the learning.
In the early years of the program, the teachers were introduced to the ideas of forgiveness and the curricular materials in a workshop directed by the authors of the curriculum or others associated with the project. We envision other methods as the work expands. Audios of the workshop, for example, may become available for download.
Forgiveness is taught by the classroom teachers primarily through the medium of story. Through stories such as Disney’s The Fox and the Hound, Cinderella, Dumbo, and Snow White, the children learn that conflicts arise and that we have a wide range of options to unfair treatment.
The curriculum guide is divided into three parts:
- First, the teacher introduces certain concepts that underlie forgiveness (the inherent worth of all people, kindness, respect, generosity, and moral love), without mentioning the word forgiveness.
- In Part Two, the children hear stories in which the story characters display instances of inherent worth, kindness, respect, generosity, and moral love (or their opposites of unkindness, disrespect, and stinginess), toward another story character who was unjust.
- In Part Three, the teacher helps the children, if they choose, to apply the five principles toward a person who has hurt them.
Throughout the implementation of this program, teachers make the important distinction between learning about forgiveness and choosing to practice it in certain contexts. The program is careful to emphasize the distinction between forgiveness and reconciliation. A child does not reconcile with someone who is potentially harmful, for example. The teachers impress upon the children that the exercises in Part Three of forgiving are not mandatory, but completely optional.
The first-grade curriculum is similar to this one with the exception of the choice of stories. In first grade, the centerpiece stories are from Dr. Seuss.
From Enright, R.D., Knutson, J, & Holter, A. (2006). “Turning from hatred to community friendship: Forgiveness education in post-accord Belfast” – Presented at the 20th Anniversary Conference of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame, November 7, 2006.
When I am hurt by others, I tend to quickly say to myself, “I forgive you.” Is this ok or do you think I actually am not forgiving?
Forgiving is a process that requires more than a statement such as “I forgive you.” Your statement to yourself may be more of a promise to now work on the process, to commit to the struggles of seeing the inherent worth in the other person, to bear the pain of what happened, and to be good to the person (within reason; you need not reconcile if the other is harmful to you). So, try to see the positives in your statement to yourself. Try to see it as the beginning of the commitment now to follow through with the hard work of forgiving.
Learn more at How to Forgive.