What do you suggest I do when trying to help a friend start the forgiveness process so that she does not feel personally condemned? In other words, the person might reason this way: Why is she suggesting this to me? Do I appear overly angry or something?
A key is to realize that forgiveness is a choice and so you can start by gently having a conversation about your friend’s inner world relative to the injustice(s) against her. Is she having emotional discomfort? Is she restless because of too much anger? Inner pain can be a great motivator for change. If she tells you that her inner world is not healthy, then your providing a possible solution in forgiving may get her attention. You will be able to ascertain her interest if she wants to discuss a solution to her inner pain. At that point you can suggest forgiveness, but please be sure to discuss what forgiveness both is (a moral virtue of being good to those who are not good to you) and what it is not (it is not excusing, forgetting, necessarily reconciling, or abandoning justice).
If someone forgives 18 times, is this person now capable of being a better forgiver than someone who only forgave once?
The ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, tells us that practice is a key to growing in any moral virtue, whether it is justice or patience or forgiveness. In my experience, he is correct. So, in all likelihood, the one who has forgiven many people or the same person many times may be a stronger forgiver than the person who is just beginning the first journey of forgiving. By “stronger” I mean that this person may be able to forgive more quickly and with better results (feeling better inside and maybe a better relationship with the one who acted unjustly) than the one who is new to the moral virtue of forgiveness.
If I forgive, then this just gives the other person an opportunity to do it again. Power, not forgiveness, is my motto.
I think you are confusing forgiving and reconciling. You can forgive from the heart and then not reconcile, if the person insists on continuing to be unfair to you. How will power help you to overcome the anger within?
You recently asked me how power can help me overcome the anger within. Well, I will tell you. If I can get back at the one who was ridiculous to me, then I get rid of the anger. You as a psychologist should know this. The name of this cleansing is called catharsis, right?
Catharsis or “letting it all out” will not necessarily cleanse your anger in the long run. Yes, you may feel empowered for a short time, but if the injustice against you is deep, then the internal effects on you can last for many years. For example, we have worked in a hospice situation in which some of the participants in our forgiveness intervention had been carrying anger within them for over 40 years. Nothing they had tried cleansed that anger until, 40 years later, they made the choice to forgive.
Power makes me a man. Forgiveness makes me a wimp. Hey, I like those 2 sentences. Maybe you can use them in your forgiveness talks. Really now, don’t you think that humans are made for power……you know, the survival of the fittest.
There is a big difference between power **over** others and power **for** others. The former leads to domination, which might lead you eventually to have to forgive yourself for treating people as pawns in your quest for domination over them. On the other hand, power **for** others means that you use what influence or skills you have to make a better world for others. This can require strength of character, patience, altruism, and even suffering for those others. So, which form of power are you discussing: power **over** or power **for**? This distinction makes all the difference.