Tagged: “Helpful Forgiveness Hints”
Because forgiving others is a moral virtue, we cannot reduce the act of forgiveness to a psychological technique. For example, we cannot engage one time in “the empty chair technique” and have a deeply hurt forgiver sit in the chair of the one who acted unjustly and then gain full insight into that person’s wounds with a resultant overflowing compassion toward that person. To clarify, there is nothing wrong with this technique, but we cannot think of it as complete. As an analogy, if you will take out a gym membership to get into physical shape, your goal is not reached as you go on the treadmill one time or do 20 bicep curls only once. To become physically fit, you need repetition, for a long time.
It is the same with becoming forgivingly fit. Your task is not accomplished by engaging in one set of actions, in one psychological technique. Growing in any of the moral virtues takes time, perseverance, and a strong will to keep at it. As Aristotle reminds us, we need three things to grow in the moral virtues: practice, practice, practice.
We can even engage in our forgiveness practice when we do not have a particular person in mind to forgive today. Here is an example: As we forgive, we struggle to see the inherent worth in others. So, as we interact with people today, even those with whom we are getting along, we can say to ourselves, “This person probably has a history of being wounded in some way by others in the past. This person has built-in worth that cannot be taken away.” As you pass by strangers in a store or on the street, you can say the same about them. The key here is to train one’s mind to see the inherent worth in others so that you can then apply this learning toward those who hurt you, as you decide to forgive.
Here is another idea for growing in forgiveness fitness: Make a list of as many people as you can remember who have hurt you, from your childhood to now. List who the person is, what occurred that was unjust, and your degree of hurt on a 1-to-10 scale. Then order all of these people from the least hurtful (but still a challenge for you now) to the most hurtful. Start with the one person who hurt you the least and go through the forgiveness process with that person. When you think you have accomplished forgiving this one person, and it might take weeks, then go to the next person on the list. Continue until you reach the person who wounded you the most. You then may be ready to forgive this person because you have engaged in practice, practice, practice in forgiving and so your forgiveness fitness likely has increased.
Becoming forgivingly fit takes time, perseverance, and a strong will. As in becoming physically fit, you will notice a difference inside of you that includes well-being and even a sense of wholeness. What do you think: shall we hit the forgiveness gym now?
The process of forgiveness is not a straight line from beginning to end. Instead, there are times of fatigue and needing a break. There are times of needing to go back near the beginning of the process as you find yourself getting angry again with the person. Therefore, your current feelings are not atypical. Instead of the word “quit,” what do you think about the idea of taking a rest, taking a break for a while? This kind of thought may keep the forgiveness door open for you once you take the time to rest and refresh.
It is very hard for me to act in a civil way with my roommate when I am angry. I am practicing forgiving, but I still can have a sharp tongue. Can you offer some suggestions for me?
Forgiving can begin with your thinking about the other person. Still there can be some anger left over. The keys are these: a) know you are still angry; b) use your strong will to resist harsh words that result from the feeling of anger; c) give yourself time to calm down; and d) you might want to practice forgiving your roommate for the new incident that sparked the new anger in you.
Parents can use teachable moments when watching films or reading stories. We have forgiveness education in schools in over 30 countries. Books on forgiveness, magazine articles, newspaper articles on forgiveness can engender a curiosity about what forgiveness is and is not. A key issue is to begin conversations deliberately focused on the moral virtue of forgiveness. I have observed that such deliberate conversations are rare. It is my hope that they become more common in families, schools, workplaces, and other areas of communities.
I work hard on forgiveness, but sometimes I get to a week in which I do not want to even think about it or what happened to me. During these times, what can I do to not feel guilty or uncomfortable about setting forgiveness aside?
Let us take an analogy here. Suppose you have a physical fitness regimen. Do you work out every week for an entire year or do you take some time off to refresh, to heal, to re-group? Physical trainers tell us to take some time off. It is good for us. Think of becoming forgivingly fit in the same way. Hard work is good, but we need some time off to refresh and re-group so that we come back to that work with renewed enthusiasm.