I seem to be lost on the forgiveness path. I try and try, but I do not think I have made much progress in forgiving my partner and this has been going on for about a year. Should I just get off the forgiveness path regarding my forgiving him?
Before you give up, I have some questions for you:
1) Have you committed to doing no harm to your partner, even in the context of your having the opportunity to somehow hurt him? If you answered, “Yes, I have committed to doing no harm,” then you are not lost on the forgiveness journey. This is a big step in the process;
2) Have you tried to see his weaknesses, his confusions, his wounds that may have wounded you? If not, perhaps you need to do some of this cognitive work, to see him in a wider perspective than only his injuries toward you;
3) Do you think that your will is strong enough to do the work outlined in #1 and 2 above? If so, that work could lead to your forgiving if you give this time.
So, what do you think? Have you found your way back onto the path of forgiveness?
When I examine the effects of the injustice that happened to me, I get angry at myself for not realizing the connection all these years between what happened to me back then and my built-up anger and fatigue now. Should I forgive myself for missing all of this?
We forgive ourselves when we do moral wrong, when we break our own standards. It seems to me that you were not acting unjustly at all. You simply did not know the connection between the past hurts against you and your challenges at present. This is the case for very many people because forgiveness, current effects, and past trauma rarely are discussed in contemporary society. I recommend that you practice gentleness toward yourself rather than forgive yourself.
After all, would you forgive yourself for not knowing other issues that are hidden from most people in society? In the 1940’s for example, people did not have the precise knowledge of the connection between cigarette smoking and certain health problems. Those people who were smoking back then were not saying to themselves, “The science shows that I am harming myself in very specific ways. I will continue to smoke anyway.” This would not have been the case for a very large part of the population.
It is similar now with the links among past trauma, current effects such as anger and fatigue, and forgiveness. Not knowing is not necessarily an injustice and so I think you can go in peace……and start the forgiveness process now if you are ready. In some cases, we deny reality and choose to not know what is good. This issue is different from yours and this example would suggest that self-forgiveness would be appropriate as a person keeps pushing away what should be known as morally good.
Suppose someone said to you, “Please do not be fair to me. Under no circumstances, you are not to exercise justice to me.” Would you not be fair? Isn’t it your choice to be fair, regardless of the other person’s request? It is the same with forgiveness. You can forgive from the heart, as a free-will decision. You need not verbally proclaim your forgiveness toward the other if this person insists, but your forgiving always is your choice. The key issue here is how you forgive, and that can be done silently, from the heart and in actions that do not proclaim forgiveness.
In your book, “The Forgiving Life,” you correlate forgiving with love (agape love). Can a person forgive and feel no love at all toward the one who acted unfairly?
We have to make a distinction between the essence of forgiveness (what it is in truth and on its highest level) and how we actually appropriate forgiveness at any given time. So, even though to forgive on its highest level is to love the one who was not loving toward the forgiver when the injustice occurred, a person can forgive, for example, by committing to do no harm to that other person. While this is not the highest form of forgiveness, it is part of the forgiveness process. So, if today the best a person can do is to commit to do no harm to the one who offended, this is forgiveness (with room to grow in this moral virtue).
I re-read one of our posts here at the International Forgiveness Institute. It was dated February 29, 2012. What surprised me is this: It was as if I were reading a contemporary news item from 2022.
As you read the 10-year-old essay below, consider asking yourself this: Has anything changed for forgiveness within societies in that timespan? What must we do so that in 2032 the news is not a repetition of the past 20 years?
Here is that essay from 2012:
Peter Maurin of the Catholic Worker Movement is alleged to have said that a good society is one in which it is easy to be good. I write this blog post today as I reflect on some recent news stories (posted in our Forgiveness News section of this website). We have the shooting of innocent teenagers in Ohio and we have the murder of a 4-year-old. Anger can sometimes be deadly for the other person who just happens to be in the angry one’s way.
I wonder what those outcomes would have been had those with the weapons been bathed in forgiveness education from age 5 though 18. I wonder what those outcomes would have been had the weapon-carriers, as they grew up, practiced forgiveness in the home. I wonder.
The wounds in the world are deep and everlasting, it seems. What we do here at the International Forgiveness Institute, Inc. (helping people if they so choose to learn to forgive and then practice forgiveness) will never be out of date. Yet, my big worry (yes, it is a big worry) is this: Will there be sufficient laborers in the forgiveness vineyard to bring the virtue of forgiveness to children so that they can become fortified against the grave injustices that come to too many too often as adults?
I worry about those 6-year-olds, sitting now in classrooms, learning their mandated ABCs, without also learning the ABCs of how to deal with injustice. You see, society is not emphasizing forgiveness. We are not being taught forgiveness on a regular basis. We are in a society where it is not easy to be a good forgiver. And so too many of those who are bullied in school do not even think to forgive those who perpetrate the bullying. In Ohio this week, one bullied student’s response was a gun and then murder.
So much pain in the world and yet too many societies do not have the vision and the resources to bring forgiveness education far and wide. Question for those who are listening: The next time a city wishes to build a $250 million complex for athletics or entertainment or whatever, who has the persuasive skills and accompanying wisdom and courage to ask that one half of one percent of that be siphoned off to forgiveness education? If we could go back and ask the deceased students in Ohio or the innocent 4-year-old what is the higher priority….what do you think they would say to us?
Society, what do you think?