Which of your books, Forgiveness Is a Choice, The Forgiving Life, or 8 Keys to Forgiveness, present the deepest view of forgiveness in your opinion?
I would say that The Forgiving Life is the deepest in a philosophical sense. It is a Socratic dialogue between two women, one of whom is just discovering the importance of forgiveness and an older, wiser person who has much experience with forgiveness. In this book, I make the case for forgiveness as unconditional love given to the one who offends.
It depends on what you mean by “too soon.” Do you mean that the offended person is still angry and not ready to offer forgiveness, but uses the words, “I forgive you”? If the words are sincere, then this is a kind of promise of more forgiveness to come, such as a change of heart that is more compassionate. If the words, in contrast, are insincere and therefore are meant to deceive the other for some kind of advantage (such as to butter-up the boss), then, yes, the words are being spoken too soon. When deeply hurt by others, most of us need time to work through the process of forgiveness.
I once heard an academic say that forgiveness hurts relationships because it is good to sometimes vent and express anger. What do you think?
I think we need to make important distinctions in answering this question. To express anger is not incompatible with forgiving. We have to distinguish short-term anger, in which the offended person shows self-respect, and long-term and deep anger in which the person harbors a grudge and keeps the offense in front of the one who behaved badly. The short-term anger is meant to alter the injustice and correct the other person’s injustice. A person can show such anger, correct the other person, and then forgive. The long-term variety of anger, in contrast, can be a tool for punishing the other, with no end in sight. The important message here is to avoid sweeping generalities about anger and about forgiveness. To presume that one cannot be angry and forgive is reductionism which then distorts what forgiveness is and how it can be used productively in a relationship.
Can a person forgive the COVID virus? After all, it has disrupted life and people might feel much better if they forgave.
Forgiveness centers on offering goodness to persons because, on its highest level, to forgive is to offer love to the other despite the pain and difficulty of doing this. Because one does not love viruses, it follows that people do not forgive viruses.
If we cannot forgive the COVID virus, as you say, then how are we to feel better when we see our loved ones get quite sick or even die from it? It seems that in this kind of case forgiveness would be appropriate.
We cannot think of forgiveness, on its highest level, as a palliative so that we feel better. Forgiveness is much deeper than that. To forgive on its highest level is to struggle to offer goodness to those who are not good to you.