Tagged: “Misconceptions”

My friend thinks that by my forgiving her then all is supposedly well as if the injuries never even happened.  How do I explain that my forgiving does not automatically alter the relationship to something great (when at this point, it is not)?

Your friend is confusing your forgiving with reconciliation.  To reconcile means that both of you come together again in mutual trust.  It seems that you are not quite ready to fully trust her at this point.  Yes, forgiving is an important step toward reconciliation, but she now will have to do her part to avoid injuring you as she has done in the past.

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I have believed that one does not forgive unless the other person apologizes.  You say differently.  Can you give me at least 3 reasons why it is ok to forgive someone who does not apologize or even refuses to do so?

Yes, I can give you three reasons as follows: 1) There is no other moral virtue on the planet that has a rule connected to it that someone else must engage in a certain behavior or say certain words before you can engage in that virtue.  For example, you can be patient whenever you wish.  Also, you can be fair to others no matter the circumstances.  Why now is forgiveness the only moral virtue that must not emerge until the other person utters those three words: “I am sorry?”; 2) Your waiting until the other apologizes gives that person tremendous power over you. You could  be stuck with harmful resentment or even hatred if the other refuses to let you forgive and be free of this toxic anger; 3) Your free will as a person is hampered if you must await permission from the other (with the words, “I am sorry”) before you can forgive.  Here is a fourth reason: Suppose the person passes away before saying the three words.  You now are stuck with the resentment with no possibility of releasing that potentially harmful emotion for the rest of your life.

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I am a survivor of sexual abuse by my father, who is a pedophile. While I have healed fairly well from this (through therapy, medication, etc.), and pray every day to forgive him, I often struggle with feeling guilty over not visiting him at the nursing home where he currently resides. I pray every day for him, and sincerely do not wish harm to him. I fear that if I don’t visit him, I am not fulfilling Christ’s commandment to forgive him. Yet, I fear that visiting him might bring up some painful psychological memories, might put me back into a brief depressive/anxious state, and could lead me to an episode of Atrial Fibriliation (which for me seems to be provoked in times of extreme stress). A sibling of mine has been trying to get me to go visit my dad, and is of the belief that if we don’t visit him (“I was lonely and you visited me”, from Matthew 25), we might go to hell. Any wisdom you can share?

A key issue here is this: You are thinking that to truly forgive your father, then you must visit him in the nursing home.  Further, you believe that if you do not visit him, you are disobeying Christ’s commandment to forgive him.  Here is my view: To forgive is a process that unfolds over time as we work on that process of forgiveness.  You are working on this process of forgiveness by: a) praying every day for the grace to forgive him; b) praying for your father; and c) wishing no harm to him.  All of these are part of the forgiveness process in your case as a Christian.  You need not reach complete forgiveness right now in that you have to behaviorally reach out to your father with a visit.  I say this for this reason:  Your **intentions** toward your father are good in that you pray for him and wish no harm to him.  Further, your reason for not visiting him is honorable in that you need to protect your cardiac system.  In other words, if your intention for not visiting your father in the nursing home is to punish him, then this would indicate that you are not yet forgiving.  This is not the case for you.  You have a good reason for not visiting right now because you have to protect your health.  If, in the future, you think you are open to such a visit and, at the same time, you truly believe that your  physical and emotional health are protected as you visit, then you could re-think your current decision.  For now, I see no bad intentions at all on your part and so please keep praying for your father and for the grace to forgive and go in peace knowing you are doing the best that you can under the circumstances.

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When we forgive, do we forgive situation or persons?

If forgiveness is a moral virtue in which we are good to persons who are not good to us, then this is a focus exclusively on persons and not on situations.  If you think about it, how can you practice moral goodness toward a situation?  You cannot be good to a tornado or to a traffic jam.  If persons are responsible for the traffic jam and if they are acting unfairly in some way, then you can forgive those persons, but you do not forgive the situation.

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You said earlier to me that when we forgive we do not acquiesce to the other’s demands.  May I respectfully disagree on this.  I disagree because I have been reading recently and seeing on media videos some people discussing what they call “toxic forgiveness.”  To those who use this term, there is an element to forgiveness that is out of balance with fairness.  Is it not reasonable for all of us to be aware of how forgiveness can get out of balance to such a degree that it becomes “toxic” for the one who forgives?

I think there is a serious misunderstanding of what forgiveness is and what it is not by people who use the words “toxic forgiveness.”  They usually refer to people who “forgive” and then just put up with the unfairness of the other person.  This is not an issue of forgiveness at all, but instead of a serious misunderstanding of what forgiveness is.  When we forgive, we do not give in to the other’s demands.  When this happens, the one who supposedly is “forgiving” is instead deciding to turn away from a fair solution and then is calling this “forgiveness.”  Forgiveness as a moral virtue of goodness does not give in to unfairness.  Otherwise, it would not be a moral virtue at all.  Here is an analogy to make my point clearer.  Suppose a person wants to become physically fit.  This person walks about 200 steps, then sits down and eats a gallon of ice cream.  This occurs every day and the person gains 20 pounds.  Suppose now that this person says, “I have tried physical fitness and it is toxic.  All it does is put weight on me.”  Is it really physical fitness that is the problem, or a distortion of what it truly means to start a physical fitness program?  Suppose now that many people start saying that physical fitness is “toxic.”  Where does the error lie, with physical fitness itself or with a conceptual distortion, and a serious one at that, regarding what it actually means to engage in physical fitness?  It is the same with “toxic forgiveness.” People distort the meaning of forgiveness and then proclaim that forgiveness is “toxic.”

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