Tagged: “Love”

Weaponizing Forgiveness

Forgiveness can be misunderstood and dismissed for the wrong reasons.

A colleague, Megan Feldman Bettencourt, has written an important article in Harper’s Bazaar entitled “How Forgiveness Has Been Weaponized Against Women.”  The gist of the article is that as people misunderstand the actual meaning of forgiveness, they can so discourage people from forgiving that emotional healing is blocked.  In the case of sexual abuse of women, as Ms. Feldman Bettencourt points out, the “forgiver” is supposed to refrain from reporting the abuse and is expected to go back into the unwanted relationship. 

This is far from the truth because forgiveness is not the same as legal pardon (letting the other out of deserved justice), nor is it the same as reconciliation. Forgiveness is the commitment to get rid of resentment as well as the commitment, at the very least, of civility toward the offender and then acting on these commitments.  Reconciliation is the act of two or more people coming together again in mutual trust.  One can forgive and not trust or reconcile.  When these two issues (legal pardon and reconciliation) are confused with forgiveness, then women who have been sexually abused do not have a scientifically-supported pathway (forgiveness) for reducing or even eliminating deep resentment.  That kind of emotional disruption could be hers for the rest of her life.  In other words, not only is she left with the original injustice but also is left with a second wound of resentment with little hope of relief from it because there are few alternatives to forgiveness in eliminating this inner poison.
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In her article, Ms. Feldman Bettencourt gives stark examples of women who, in the name of forgiveness, think that they must keep the abuse against them secret, thus personally pardoning the offender.  One woman who did stand up for justice (not condoning or pardoning) was shunned by her support group because that group misunderstood what forgiveness is.  Forgiveness does not abandon the quest for justice.  The author’s call is for a clear and accurate definition of forgiveness so that it can exist side-by-side with justice-seeking and not block emotional healing.  True forgiveness can enhance the forgiver’s well-being.

Another Example of Weaponizing Forgiveness:

I once was asked to help an organization set up small groups focused on forgiveness in the workplace because there was high tension among the workers.  A Human Relations specialist in the company was convinced that adding a level of forgiveness into the workplace would be one strong way of diminishing the conflict and increasing productivity.  When we met with the owner of that company, it took him less than five minutes to dismiss the specialist’s idea.  “No. Forgiveness is  inappropriate here,” he said with cold confidence.  “Forgiveness asks too much of my workers,” was his reply. 

Source: KuanShu Designs

When we asked him how this is so, he quickly responded, “Look, when there is conflict in our workplace, this is an emotional pain.  Forgiveness adds another layer of pain to my workers and so why would I impose this second pain on them?  Forgiveness is quite a struggle and we don’t need that at this time.”  And that was the end of the specialist’s idea, which as of this writing has not been implemented… and the conflicts at that company continue with no end in sight.  What the owner did not understand is this: When there is physical injury, sometimes surgery is needed.  Yes, the surgery is an added burden, but it is temporary and restores what is broken.  It is the same with forgiveness: When the heart is broken, we sometimes need surgery of the heart to restore emotional health.
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Ms. Feldman Bettencourt sees how the weaponizing of forgiveness can actually hurt women who are trying to heal from sexual abuse.  I have seen firsthand how the weaponizing of forgiveness can keep workers from reducing acrimony and striving toward greater cooperation.

The moral of this essay is that to misunderstand forgiveness is to keep people from a scientifically-supported way of reducing resentment and getting on with life in a healthier way.  We misunderstand forgiveness sometimes at our own peril.  We misunderstand forgiveness sometimes at the expense of others.  It is time simply to define our terms — in this case forgiveness — and lay down the weaponizing against it.

Robert


This blog originally appeared in Psychology Today on October 08, 2018.

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I Forgive the Man Who Killed My Son

Good Housekeeping (UK); London, England, UK – Figen Murray’s emotions were suspended in limbo for more than 24-hours after the Manchester Arena bombing before she was officially notified that her 29-year-old son Martyn Hett had been killed in the May 22, 2017, suicide bombing attack. Here is how she responded to his death, as reported in Good Housekeeping (UK), part of the Hearst UK Fashion & Beauty Network:

My son Martyn touched a lot of hearts. He was fun, kindhearted, and he always stood up for the underdog. As a child, he was a little imp, with boundless energy. He had a really quirky side, and loved practical jokes, social media and Coronation Street. . . .


Grief manifests itself in many different ways. I didn’t cry – I couldn’t. I’m a counsellor and psychotherapist, and for over 20 years I’ve spent my working life helping people through mental-health issues and psychological obstacles. In my professional career I developed resilience in order not to dissolve into tears in front of clients. 

Now, I realise that this ingrained resilience is how I go on. I’m not being deliberately strong, and I’m not in denial. I’m undone inside, permanently damaged from what’s happened. The only way I can describe it is I feel like a piece of paper that someone has shredded, only to realise they’ve done so by accident. They try to tape it back together, but it’s too late. It can never be whole again.


When I saw the bomber’s face on television, the first thing I thought was, ‘You foolish boy’. That’s all he was – not a man, but a boy who had been brainwashed so much that he was able to walk into a crowded concert and detonate a bomb.

I could choose to be angry, to harbour resentment and blame. But I can honestly say that I feel no rage towards Salman Abedi. In that moment, he believed that he was doing the right thing. That’s why I’ve made a conscious choice to forgive him – hate only breeds hate. Now more than ever, this world needs humanity and kindness.

Out of bad, good has to happen. When that boy detonated the bomb, he achieved the opposite of what he wanted – he caused an explosion of love. Family, friends and strangers have come together in solidarity and courage.

Martyn’s death has changed my family for ever, but I will not allow it to destroy us. When the most awful, unthinkable things happen, we all have the power to overcome. 

Figen Murray


Editor’s Note: In addition to Martyn Hett and the 21 others killed in the Ariana Grande concert bombing in Manchester, we now know that more than 800 people suffered physical and/or deep psychological injuries from the attack. Undoubtedly, their lives have been altered forever.

Read the full story in Good Housekeeping (UK)

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New Desmond Tutu film – “The Forgiven” – Addresses Segregation, Apartheid, Forgiveness

Screen Africa, Johannesburg, South Africa – Unflinchingly accurate in its depiction of South Africa’s tumultuous  political history, The Forgiven is a powerful film that one critic described as “the ultimate testament to the power of forgiveness and finding common ground in our humanity.”

While it has been two decades since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission focused international attention on South Africa’s violent history of racial segregation, director Roland Joffé’s new film returns to that time to grapple with the terrible truths of apartheid and its legacy.

Based on Michael Ashton’s play The Archbishop and the AntichristThe Forgiven is a fictionalized account of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s efforts as the head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in an attempt to heal and unite South Africa. It was released worldwide in October.

Explaining the reasoning behind the film, Joffé says: “This is a subject that’s both social and political but also rather personal, because let’s be honest, we’ve all done things in our lives that we need forgiveness for, that we haven’t come to terms with. We’re all prisoners of our history, whether it’s social, cultural or family.”

The drama follows Archbishop Desmond Tutu, masterfully portrayed by Forest Whitaker, and his struggle – morally and intellectually –with brutal murderer and member of a former apartheid-era hit squad Piet Blomfeld (Eric Bana), over redemption and forgiveness. The film was shot completely in and around Cape Town, including at one of the world’s most dangerous prison facilities, Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison.


“The film is a tribute to the remarkable and healing power of forgiveness and the outstanding compassion and courage of those who offered love and forgiveness as an antidote to hate and inhumanity.”
Desmond Tutu


The Archbishop himself has given the project his blessing, saying: “This timely, compelling and intelligent film, movingly, and above all humanely, captures what it felt like to be working with those selfless members of the TRC who strove, often against the odds, to help bring both truth and reconciliation to the ordinary people of South Africa.  This is not only a film about a certain time and place, it is a pean of hope to humanity at large.” 

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Quest for Justice Instead Leads to Forgiveness

WPST-TV 10News, Tampa, FL, USA  Twenty years ago this month, Bruce Murakami pulled up to a burning car on Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa to offer any assistance he could. To his horror, Murakami soon discovered that his wife, Cindy, and their 11-year-old daughter Chelsea, were inside the burning minivan. They both died before he or anyone else was able to rescue them.
At first, Murakami wanted the man responsible for this wife and daughter’s deaths to pay. After all, the driver of the car that ran into his wife’s van, Justin Cabezas, was speeding at more than 90 mph at impact.
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“I was angry, livid. . .” Murakami admitted. “I said to myself, ‘Let me find the punk, I’m gonna take care of him.’” 

Bruce Murakami, left, and Justin Cabezas encouraged morning commuters to slow down on Kamehameha Highway in Kane’ohe, Hawaii.

When Cabezas was not initially charged with causing the crash, Murakami’s life went into a tailspin of depression.

“I was a walking zombie. I sold my business, sat on the beach every day. I put my Bible down. I didn’t want anything to do with God. Nothing”

Three years later, Cabezas was finally charged with 2 counts of vehicular manslaughter. But something happened when Murakami finally saw Cabezas in court. He wasn’t the monster Murakami had envisioned. That’s when this father’s fight for justice turned into a father’s fight to forgive.

“I started preaching to myself on forgiveness. Even though I never met this kid, I started forgiving him for what he did,” Murakami says. “After we met, I knew he was suffering as much as I was.”

Cabezas was facing up to 30 years in prison if convicted. Murakami shocked the court, however, by asking the judge not to send Cabezas to jail.
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“If he goes to prison for 30 years, everyone’s going to forget about him. Everyone’s going to forget about Cindy and Chelsea,” Murakami said to the judge. “What if he and I went out to schools and talked to young people?”

With the court’s consent, the two men went to hundreds of schools across the country, speaking to more than a half-million kids about the dangers of speeding. But Murakami also used those presentations to help kids understand that even after tragic mistakes, they too could find redemption like Cabezas.

“I didn’t want to waste his life. He came from a good family. We’ve all made mistakes,” Murakami added.

Murakami and Cabezas also founded a not-for-profit organization called Safe Teen Driver that includes a unique driver education program offered free to teens who learn by driving actual professional go-karts on a professional track while practicing skills that could save their lives. Parents are required to participate and learn the importance of their role in developing a safe teen driver.

Cabezas went on to become a successful real estate agent in Texas before dying of cancer last summer. Murakami went to the funeral and spoke from the pulpit about the importance of forgiveness.


Read the full story: Tampa man’s quest for justice instead becomes lesson in forgiveness

Watch a short video from WPST-TV 10News, Tampa, FL about Bruce Murakami’s life-changing decision to forgive.


 

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Criticisms of Forgiveness —— 2nd in a series:   “The Forgiver and Forgiven as Inferior”

The Forgiver as Inferior

When someone forgives so rapidly that he or she glosses over a legitimate period of anger, that person is not showing self-respect, as Jeffrie G. Murphy,  (1982, 2005) reminded us. Murphy’s concern, however, was not with forgiving per se but instead with the short-circuiting of the process. As long as the process of forgiving makes room for this legitimate period of anger, Murphy and those who agree with him should not be troubled by forgiveness.

The Forgiven as Inferior

Even if a forgiver does not try to dominate the offender, the latter may nonetheless feel very badly about having to be forgiven (see Droll, 1985; O’Shaughnessy, 1967). Derek may feel that Alice (his wife with whom he is having conflict), by her forgiving, is morally superior to him. Yet, Alice need not tell Derek of her gift. Even if he should suspect forgiveness on her part and then pine over this, Alice has done nothing wrong. Her gift remains a gift regardless of Derek’s response. If a child wails in protest over the gift of socks on Christmas morning, does this present then not count as a gift just because the child wanted a popular computer game and did not receive it?

Robert


Enright, Robert D.; Fitzgibbons, Richard P.. Forgiveness Therapy (Kindle Locations 5076-5085). American Psychological Association (APA). Kindle Edition.

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