I have read in the psychological literature that forgiveness primarily is a motivation to offer goodness to those who hurt us. Is forgiveness primarily a motivation toward the good?
No, this idea that forgiveness primarily is a motivation is philosophical reductionism in which the writer takes one important part of forgiveness and blows it up so large that it takes over the entire spectrum of forgiveness. Here is why motivation is only one part of forgiveness: Suppose someone hurts you and you now are convinced that you should and will forgive. After that, you sit in your hammock, read your on-line messages, listen to music, and turn off all thoughts and actions regarding forgiveness, never to return to this. Have you forgiven? Of course not because you have not engaged in the difficult thoughts, feelings, and actions that make the forgiveness response more full, more accurate.
I have started the forgiveness process, but I have stopped because it is too painful. Should I go back to this process soon or would time off be more beneficial?
The key is this: When you look within, what do you see regarding your starting again? Do you have any motivation to try or not? If you have no motivation at all, then you need more time. Another question to ask yourself is this: Do I have the virtue of courage to go ahead? Courage can be part of the motivation. Another question is this: Do I have the energy right now to move forward with forgiving? Sometimes we need a rest and this is not dishonorable. As a final question, you might ask yourself this: Do I need to forgive someone else first? If the one you are trying to forgive has been deeply unfair, you might consider first forgiving someone for a lesser offense. You then can get more used to the forgiveness process, build up what I call “the forgiveness muscles” and then try to forgive the one who is more of a challenge.
For additional information, see The Four Phases of Forgiveness.