Tagged: “gift giving”

It seems to me that this “giving of a gift” to those who hurt me is kind of ridiculous.  They deserve correction, not admiration.  Can you clarify this for me?

As people forgive, they are engaging in a moral virtue.  All moral virtues center on goodness toward others for those other people’s sake.  Part of the moral virtue of forgiveness is this gift-giving to the one who acted badly, as you point out.  This gift-giving, we find in our research is a paradox in that, as forgivers reach out to the offending person, it is the forgivers who are healed.

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How does my giving a gift to the one who hurt me break the power that the person has over me?

This gift-giving is part of the amazing paradox of forgiving: As you give to the other, it is you who experiences healing.  Our science supports this view.  As people go through our Process Model of Forgiveness, they tend to reduce in anger, anxiety, and depression and to increase in self-esteem and hope.  You can read a description of some of these studies in Enright and Fitzgibbons (2015), Forgiveness Therapy. Washington, DC: APA Books.

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Because forgiving is a moral virtue, you talk of gift-giving as part of the process. How big of a gift are we talking about. Should I pay for the person’s medical bills, for example? Would paying for someone’s housing be over the top?

The gift-giving is always in the context of the forgiver’s capacity and the quality of the relationship at the moment. I noticed that you gave two examples regarding money. In actuality, the gift need not be monetary or even something physically concrete wrapped in a package. For example, a smile might be a great gift if such smiles have been non-existent for some time. A returned phone call might be just what the other needs. I think the gift-giving needs to be in the context of the moral virtue of temperance, or something that is balanced and reasonable and not “over the top” for a given forgiver.

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Is the gift-giving to an offending other person a way to prove to yourself that you, indeed, have forgiven?

The gift-giving in its essence is not for the forgiver, but instead is for the one forgiven.  Forgiveness as a moral virtue is concerned with goodness and that goodness flows out of the forgiver to the forgiven.  While the gift-giving can be a sign to you that you have forgiven, that is not its primary function.  The primary function is to do good to the other as a moral act in and of itself.

Learn more about what forgiveness is and is not at What Is Forgiveness?

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