Suppose that of your 20 guideposts in your Process Model of Forgiveness, you had to eliminate one of them. Which would that be?
I would prefer to keep all 20. Yet, since you asked, I probably would eliminate the first guidepost, the one that asks people if they have been denying their anger. Even if they had been denying the anger, this tends to lessen as people come to realize that they have a safety net for that anger, and that safety net is forgiveness. So, even if a person was denying anger, this tends to fade away as people courageously confront the amount of anger that they have been carrying in their heart, in preparation for forgiving the one who acted unjustly.
I actually cannot think of even one atrocity in which no one would forgive. I know a person who forgave the Nazis who imprisoned her during World War II. I know a person who forgave the murderer of her 7-year-old daughter. It is not the situation per se that is at issue here. Instead, it is the heart of the ones who have been crushed by the injustice. I have been amazed at the resilience of the human heart in forgiveness. We need to realize that forgiveness in these dire circumstances are the free will choices of those who forgive. We must not condemn those who would not forgive.
When someone treats me unkindly, I just strive for justice by forthrightly asking for fairness. I try to get the person to change. This is sufficient, without even bringing in forgiveness, isn’t it?
Why not do both? Why not forgive first, which probably will lower your anger, and then ask for fairness? The asking may turn out to be more civil if you ask when not angry. In other words, think in “both-and” ways rather than “either-or” ways.
I know that to forgive, I must confront my anger toward the person who hurt me, but to be honest with you, I fear my anger, I fear that I could get out of control because the person who hurt me was very cruel, over and over again, I do not like fearing myself. Please help me to overcome this.
First you should realize something very positive: You are aware that you are very angry. Some people deny the extent of their anger, which does not help in cleansing oneself of it. After all, how can you reduce the anger if you are minimizing it? If you have a deep cut on your arm and you are afraid of infection, what do you do? If your fear freezes you to such an extent that you cannot clean the wound and apply an anti-biotic, then that fear is preventing healing. It is similar with injustices and anger. Fear of the anger is the problem more so than the anger is the problem.
Please keep in mind that you do have available to you a kind of cleansing agent, a kind of anti-biotic against toxic anger, and it is forgiveness. As you practice forgiveness, you will see that the anger diminishes. Even if it returns, you have forgiveness to help you once again. As you become better at forgiving, you will fear your negative emotions less because you now have at your disposal a powerful antidote to them. Enjoy the cleansing power of forgiveness.
OK, everyone, it is time to reflect on those good old school days of yore, those care-free days when everyone thought we did not have a care in the world. Yet, sometimes we carry burdens from those days and we do so in the silence of our own hearts. When was the last time that you, as an adult, had a discussion about your days in elementary, middle, or high school? When was the last time you had such a discussion with an emphasis on the emotional wounds you received back then? I am guessing that such discussion-times have been quite rare.
I wonder how many of you reading this still have some unresolved issues from the good-old-days. It is in school, within the peer group, at recess, on the sports team that our current sense of self is shaped, at least to a degree. Sometimes we are influenced by those days to a greater extent than we realize.
So, it is time for a little quiz. Please think about your days in school and see if you can identify one person who was unjust to you, so unjust that when you think about the person now, it hurts. This person is a candidate for your forgiveness. I have an important question for you: How has this person inadvertently influenced your own view of yourself? How has this person’s actions made you feel less than who you really are? Do you see that it is time to change that?
My challenge to you today is to take steps to forgive the person for those behaviors long ago that have influenced you up to this very moment. It is time to take a better look at what happened, to forgive, and then to ask the question after you forgive: Who am I now as I admit to the injustice, admit to it negatively influencing how I have seen myself all these years, and who am I now as I stand in forgiveness?
Perhaps the good old days will seem a little brighter once you forgive. You will have lifted a silent burden.