Tagged: “Love”

In my culture, filial piety is very important.  This is a strong loyalty toward parents.  I am emotionally unsettled because of how my father treated me in the past.  Yet, I do not want to reconcile with my father.  Do you recommend that I forgive if I can’t reconcile?

You can forgive without reconciling.  Because of the importance of filial piety, your emotions may become more settled if you forgive and then, because of the past treatment, you do not have to approach your father, unless you are ready to do so.

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Doesn’t forgiveness flow from the moral virtue of justice?  As a person strives for justice, then it may be safer to try forgiving. 

Justice in its modern sense is to give people their due, to give them what is owed to them.  For example, if you are a carpenter and build a table for me, justice requires that I pay you because I owe you the money.  With forgiveness, the one who forgives does not exact a price of any kind from the one who acted badly.  The one who forgives demands nothing from the other person.  Instead, the one who forgives offers mercy, which actually is not deserved by the one who acted badly.  If forgiving was equated with any kind of justice, then it follows that the forgiver cannot forgive at all until the other pays some kind of price such as an apology or some kind of recompense.  Therefore, forgiving cannot be seen, in a philosophical sense, to flow from justice.

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My partner says that he forgives me, but he seems kind of smug about it.  His attitude seems to be “I am better than you.”  Is this really an act of forgiving?

In 1978 the psychiatrist R.C.A. Hunter made the important point in a journal article that most of us can tell if an act of forgiving is legitimate or not based on the sincerity of the words and actions.  If the other seems to be using forgiving as a way to dominate, to feel superior toward you, then this likely is not genuine forgiveness.  You could try having a conversation with him about this and gently state that his actions do not seem to suggest a true sense of forgiving in which you meet person-to-person in a genuine spirit of respect and love.

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I have a problem.  I am out of an unhealthy relationship.  My ex-boyfriend now is in a new relationship with another woman.  He seems to want me to forgive him so he can be free of his own guilt because he broke his own moral standard.  In other words, he is not asking for forgiveness for my sake, for my well-being, but only for his.  So, do I even tell him that I have forgiven when I have gone down that path?

Forgiving is your choice when you are ready.  There are many reasons why you might forgive: a) to aid his recovery of his well-being; b) to aid your own recovery; and c) as an end in and of itself, among other reasons.  So, you can forgive, for example, because it is good in and of itself.  If you decide to forgive also as a way to aid his recovery, even when he is uninterested in your recovery, this would be a very deep sense of forgiving, doing so through pain for his sake.  This kind of goal can take time and so please be gentle with yourself as you discern the answer to your goal regarding why you are forgiving.  If you are not ready to forgive in particular for his sake, you can start by forgiving so that you are free of resentment and can move forward well in life.  The other reason might develop in you later.

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How do I correct a child who equates forgiving with revenge?  The thought in this child, age 6, is that if he can get back at the other person, then they can move on together.

A key issue is to begin talking with the child about how all people are special, unique, and irreplaceable.  All people have built-in worth.  As Horton the elephant says in the Dr. Seuss classic, Horton Hears a Who, “A person’s a person no matter how small.”  Try to get the child to see this and to see that the proper response to other people is kindness.  Getting back at someone who behaved badly is not kindness and so this cannot possibly be forgiveness.  It is important also to bring in the issue of justice.  If a child is being bullied by another, for example, the one who might forgive needs to seek justice by telling an adult about the unfair situation.

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