I suffer from chronic anxiety. Will this alter how I go through the forgiveness process relative to those who are not suffering in this way?
Sometimes our anxiety comes from not feeling safe. Sometimes our not feeling safe emerges when others treat us unfairly. In other words, you may be expecting poor treatment from others now, even those who usually are fair.
A first step may be to think of one person who may have hurt you and at whom you still harbor resentment. You can forgive through the exact same pathway as described, for example, in the book, Forgiveness Is a Choice. With anger lessened, anxiety can diminish. Of course, this will vary for each person. We have to be gentle with ourselves as we learn to forgive, to give up anger, and to know with some confidence that we can meet the next interpersonal challenge with forgiveness, helping us to meet these challenges with less anxiety than in the past.
For additional information, see: Learning to Forgive Others.
Is it possible for someone to actually improve in forgiveness? If so what do you suggest as some keys for me to do that?
Forgiveness is not a superficial action (such as saying, “It’s ok” when someone is unfair to you). Instead, it is a moral virtue, as is justice and kindness and love. Aristotle told us over 3,500 years ago that one challenge in life is to become more perfected in the virtues. In other words, we do grow more proficient in our understanding and expression of the virtues, but only if we practice them. It is a struggle to grow in any virtue, including forgiveness. So, first be aware that you can grow in this virtue. Then be willing to practice it, with the goal of maturing in love, which is what forgiveness is (loving those who are unkind to us). You need a strong will to keep persevering in the struggle to grow in forgiveness. In sum, you need: understanding of what forgiveness is, practice, a strong will, and keeping your eye fixed on the goal of improving in love a little more each day.
For additional information, see The Forgiving Life.
Kids say the darnedest things. But when 3-year-old Holland, the daughter of blogger Mary Katherine Backstrom, explained what “forgiveness” means, she did it in a beautifully heartfelt and simplistic way. And while kids are known for their outlandish statements (seriously — where do they hear these things?!), this little girl happened to be pretty accurate with her definition, single-handedly reminding us all to soften our hearts a little more often.
Sometimes I just want to give up because forgiveness is so hard to accomplish. What do you suggest when forgiveness is really hard like this?
Forgiveness is never easy when the injustice is strong and the hurt deep. So, please know that you are not alone. There are several approaches you can take. First, you might want to start by forgiving someone else who is easier to forgive as a way to build your confidence. Also, are you expecting to be done with the forgiveness process in a short amount of time? If the hurt is deep it can take months of steady effort to forgive. Finally, I urge you to look toward the fruit of your forgiveness: lower anger, more hope. As you see these as endpoints to your forgiveness it might strengthen your will to persevere.
For additional information, see Why Forgive?
If someone breaks your leg, is it inappropriate for you, the victim, to go to the emergency room, endure surgery, and struggle with the physical rehab? It is the same with forgiving. If someone breaks your heart it is reasonable to do the emotional heart surgery that is forgiving.
For additional information, see Learning to Forgive Others.