Tagged: “forgiveness”

In your process of forgiveness (page 2 of Forgiveness Is a Choice), you say that forgetting what happened to the forgiver is unhealthy.  Yet, it seems to me that, once a person forgives, it is healthy to move on and just “forget about it.”  Would you please clarify your position for me?

There are at least two different meanings to the term “to forget.”  The first one, which I see as unhealthy, is to suppress the knowledge that the other is a danger to you.  It is important to remember that some people are not “on our side.”  The second meaning of the term “to forgive” is to move on, as you say.  So, you can move on from a situation while you see the humanity in the other (as you choose to forgive).  As you see the humanity in the other, it is important to acknowledge the other’s weaknesses if the person still has a pattern of behavior that is hurtful to you.

Forgiveness Is a Choice, Dr. Robert Enright.

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I am having difficulty with a former partner.  I have forgiven him (he asked me to forgive and I have).  I cannot go back to that situation because I really cannot trust him.  He keeps telling me that I have not forgiven.  If I genuinely have forgiven, he insists, then I would take him back.  How should I respond?

With a gentle and forgiving heart, you can discuss with him the difference between what forgiveness is (a moral virtue in which you are good to those who have been unfair to you) and reconciliation (which is not a moral virtue, but instead is a negotiation strategy in which two or more people come together again in mutual trust).  Again, with gentleness, you can point out that your trust has been deeply hurt by his actions and so you can offer forgiveness, but not reconciliation.  If he does not accept this or says anything hurtful to you about this, then this is another situation in which you can forgive.

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My area of study is cross-cultural differences.  In some cultures, it is considered inappropriate to “give a gift” (as you suggest in your forgiveness process).  It is considered inappropriate because such gift-giving is seen as a sign of superiority.  So, might it be best to skip this step in your forgiveness model for some cultures?

In such cultures, as you say, it is best to give the gift in ways that respect the norms of the culture.  One need not give a gift within a box all wrapped up in gift-wrap and a bow.  One can be more subtle about it:  a smile, paying respectful attention to the other, not speaking badly to other people about the one who hurt you.  A gift is a generous and often unexpected kindness which can be done tastefully by knowing the norms of a given culture.

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I can sympathize with my brother who hurt me, but I don’t seem able to have empathy for him (stepping inside his shoes, as the saying goes, and feeling what it is like inside of him.) Will I ever have compassion for him without empathy?

Not being able to empathize with your brother today does not mean you will never be able to do this.  Empathy can open the door to compassion.  Sympathy, or feeling sorry for him, also may be such a door to the eventual development of compassion.  Yet, as you are seeing, empathy is the deeper, more challenging perspective.  Here are some questions that might help you with empathy toward your brother:  Was your brother hurt by others some time in the past?  How deeply was he hurt?  Is he still carrying those wounds?  Can you see your brother’s struggles in life?  Your answers may induce a greater empathy for him as you see his wounds from his perspective.

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A friend of mine uses a lot of sarcasm.  When confronted with this as being kind of nasty, he says, “Lighten up! It was only a joke.”  I think he harbors deep anger within him.  What do you think?

If this is a pattern and if he sees that others are hurt (which you imply that he does), then, yes, I suspect the same: hidden (from him) and deep anger.  He may need to courageously explore who has hurt him in the past and try to practice forgiving, if he chooses.  It might lessen or even eliminate his hurtful sarcasm.

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The Missing Piece to the Peace Puzzle

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