When you forgive, you make a commitment to do no harm to the one who hurt you. Is this a “soft” response? When you forgive, you make a commitment to bear the pain that happened to you so that you do not pass the pain to others, including, for example, other family members who were not the ones who hurt you. Is this a “soft” response? When you struggle to love those who have withdrawn love from you, this seems to me to be a heroic response, not a “soft” one.
For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.
Forgiveness is not finished with you yet. How will you lead your life from this point forward? It is your choice. When that story is finally written, what will the final chapters say about you? The beauty of this story is that you are one of the contributing authors. You do not write it alone, of course, but with the help of those who encourage you, instruct and guide you, and even hurt you. You are never alone when it comes to your love story. It does not matter one little bit where the story was going before you embraced the virtue of forgiveness. What matters now is how you finish that story, how you start to live your life from this point forward.
What do you think? Do you think that most people are deliberately and consciously writing their own love stories, in part on the basis of leading The Forgiving Life? Or, are most people rushing by, not giving much thought to forgiveness or love?
What do you think? Do you think that most people are aware of their legacy, what they will leave behind from this precise moment on, or are they rushing about, not giving a moment’s notice to that legacy?
What do you think? Do you think that you can make a difference in a few or even many people’s lives by awakening them to the fact that they can rewrite their stories and make them love stories through forgiveness?
I am feeling pressure from my particular faith. It seems to me that if I do not forgive, I am in trouble. Can you help me?
It is not unusual for me to hear this kind of worry: “Uh-oh, I had better forgive or else I will not be forgiven by God and so I am eternally condemned.” Yet, as I have studied this particular belief system to see if I can alleviate that worry, I find that many people misunderstand these issues coming from faith. In reflecting on the religious exhortation to forgive, I am convinced that the kind of thinking described here is incorrect.
Take, for instance, the Lord’s Prayer in the Christian faith, in which people ask to be forgiven only as they forgive. Taken out of context by focusing exclusively on this one theme in the prayer, this idea seems to be a grim and perhaps scary command.
Yet, in its broader context, it is all about love. After all, the one who is praying begins with one of the most intimate and loving set of words by saying, “Our Father.” In other words, the one who prays is saying, “I am in a loving relationship. My loving Father values forgiving. I, too, out of love, want to do the same. As I love my Father, I will forgive and be forgiven.” This is a petition of love to uplift, not a grim obligation to bring a person down. The motivation here is to love God and to show it by forgiving.
For more information, listen to Dr. Enright discuss forgiveness from a religious perspective as a guest on The Drew Mariani Show, a production of Relevant Radio.
It seems to me that if we can apply moral virtues such as love toward ourselves, then we should be able to apply forgiveness toward ourselves. After all, to forgive on its highest level is to unconditionally love (in the sense of the Greek term, agape) those who have been unjust to us. To forgive the self is to unconditionally offer love to the self when one has broken one’s own standards. A significant difference between forgiving others and forgiving the self is this: When we forgive ourselves, we usually hurt other people by our actions; as we forgive ourselves, we should go to those whom we have hurt and seek forgiveness from them. I discuss the theme of self-forgiveness in the following essay on the Psychology Today website (click the link below):
What is the appeal of anger that it can become a habit, almost an addiction? Can suppressed or passive anger become like that, too?
I think the appeal is the adrenaline rush, the feeling of being wide awake and in control, the feeling that others will not take advantage of me. All of this is reasonable if it is within reasonable bounds. By that I mean that the anger is not controlling you, which can happen as people fly out of control with a temper that then is hard to manage.
A habit of anger, when intense, is hard to break, but it can be done with a strong will, the practice of forgiveness, and an awareness of how the anger-habit has compromised one’s life. Passive anger can be habit-forming as well and that is a more difficult habit to break if the person is unaware of it. Insights of unhappiness or of reduced energy can be clues to people that they are harboring passive anger in need of healing.
Forgiving others for injustices that have fostered this kind of anger is an important step in curing the anger.
Learn more at What is Forgiveness?