I kind of feel that if I am forgiven, then what I did will be long forgotten. At this point, I am afraid of that because, if I am forgiven and all is forgotten, I might commit the offense again. Any suggestions?
It sounds to me that even if others forget what you did, you are not going to forget. So, others’ views will not change yours. May I suggest a balance here. I know you do not want to forget what you did so that you do not engage in that behavior again. At the same time, you might consider forgiving yourself if you are clinging to the memory of what you did and thus continue to condemn yourself for this. If you forgive yourself, you still are not likely to forget, but instead to remember in new ways. In other words, when you look back on the situation, you will not condemn yourself and feel excessively guilty as you recall what you did. Your worry that you will completely forget will not materialize because, when you forgive yourself, you tend to remember in new ways rather than literally blotting out the transgression from memory.
This will depend on whether or not the other who has hurt you shows what I call in my book, The Forgiving Life, the “three R’s.” Does this person show remorse (or inner sorrow), repentance (coming to you with a sincere apology), and recompense (trying to make it right, within reason)? If the three R’s are in place, then you can begin to try to re-establish trust, which can be earned one small step at a time. See if the person can handle the particular kind of responsibility that did not materialize in the past. If, in the small steps, the person shows a good will and sound behavior, then you might trust in more substantial ways. If the person cannot handle finances, but you give the person now a small responsibility with finances and this is handled well, you might consider a little more financial responsibility, and then a little more. Trust needs to be earned and is often built up slowly.
For additional information, see The Forgiving Life.
I am growing impatient. I have asked my partner for forgiveness and it is not forthcoming. I have been waiting for weeks. Do you have some advice for me?
The advice I can give at this point is patience. Forgiving is the other person’s decision and that person may need more time. Also, the person may not be convinced of your apology. Have you done what you can to make up for the injustice? This may help lower the other’s anger and lead to forgiveness for you.
For additional information, see Learning to Forgive Others.
Syrian children have watched their parents die or have assisted in carrying out their parents’ bodies. What would you advise for these children?
We first have to realize that forgiveness belongs to those who rationally conclude that they have been wronged. Even if others say, “You have no right to forgive because there is no injustice here,” this does not mean that the children now are frozen in their decisions to forgive. Some, perhaps the majority, of children who have such a traumatic experience, may develop severe resentment. This resentment could destroy their lives in the future, even in the distant future because the damaging effects of resentment may not be manifested for years. So, if there is the poison of resentment and if the children, as they grow up, decide to forgive, they should do so. A question is whether they are able to identify specific people to forgive or whether they will end up forgiving a system and which system that will be.
For additional information, see Healing Hearts, Building Peace.
Is it ok to engage in escapism rather than the hard road of forgiveness when I have emotional pain because of another’s unfairness?
Temporary escapism is reasonable. It is similar to the psychological defense of denial. Psychological defenses in the short-run are good because they keep us from severe anger or anxiety. In the long-run, if all we do is use denial or escapism, then this is not allowing us to deal with the heart of the problem, which is to heal from what happened. As an analogy, if you have torn muscle tissue in your knee, and this requires surgery, you are not healing the knee by denying the extent of your injury. To forgive is to face the reality of deeply unfair treatment, the dangers of resentment, and your need of healing.
For additional information, see Why Forgive?