Tagged: “forgiveness”

Forgiveness basically is transcendence, right? As we forgive, we transcend anger.

Well, actually, that is not what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is a moral virtue of offering goodness to another person who is acting unjustly. You can transcend a situation without any thought or action of goodness toward another person. Here is an example: A person transcends the struggle of disappointment as his home is destroyed by a tornado. There is no person here to forgive, yet there is transcendence. The person is going beyond the disappointment and even anger, but without another person being in that process. Forgiving involves reaching out to another person, even when the forgiver is feeling pain that is not transcended or reduced yet.

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Is forgiveness for the self or for the one who behaved badly?

We have to make a distinction here between what forgiving is and what it accomplishes, or the consequences of forgiving.  Because forgiveness is a moral virtue, it always is for the other.  Why?  This is because the moral virtues, whether it is justice or patience or kindness, flow out from the person to others.  It is the same when forgiving another person.  Yet, one consequence can be self-healing.  Thus, the self benefits by being good to another person who was unfair.  Forgiveness is about the other person and so is for that person.  Your doing this to achieve an inner peace is one reasonable goal of forgiving, as are other goals such as wanting to aid the other and to improve a relationship.

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Do you think people get less out of forgiving if the motive is self-preservation rather than a concern for the other as a person?

We have yet to do a research study in which we examine different outcomes for those who have different initial motives for forgiving. One problem in doing such a research study is this: Often people start Forgiveness Therapy because of their own emotional compromise caused by an injustice from others. Yet, as people go through the forgiveness process, their motive often changes from a focus on the self to a genuine concern for the other. Thus, this issue of motive is a moving target and so is difficult to study. Yet, it is worth more careful thought.

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Is there an exposure therapy for those who are scared to forgive? For example, if someone is afraid of elevators, the key is to spend some time near elevators, then to enter one that is not moving, and then eventually to go up one floor in an elevator. Is there something such as this for fear of forgiving?

We do not start Forgiveness Therapy for those who are apprehensive toward forgiving. Instead, the key here is to spend time discussing as clearly as possible what forgiving is and what it is not. In the vast majority of cases, those who fear forgiveness have an incorrect definition of what it is, for example, presuming that one must put up with abuse (which forgiveness definitely is not).

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I forgave my partner and still we have too much conflict. I now hate myself for forgiving and feel weak. What do you think?

I think you might have confused forgiving (a merciful response of being good to those who are not good to you) and reconciliation (two or more people coming together again in mutual trust). If you have no trust, you still can forgive by trying to reduce resentment against the partner and to offer goodness, even from a distance, if you have to leave the relationship. This distinction between forgiving and reconciling may help you to have mercy on yourself now. You have inherent worth no matter what your circumstances. I wish you the best in your decisions.

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