Tagged: “practicing forgiveness”

I adhere to family systems theory, which has as a major premise that one person’s actions can affect all other individuals in the family system. My question for you is this: Suppose that we have a family in which people are constantly blaming one another, taking their own frustrations out onto others in the family. If one person in a family begins to consistently and deeply practice forgiving, might this spread to the entire family, or would the others still be entrenched in blaming behavior?

I think it depends on how strongly and consistently the one who forgives is exhibiting this compared with the strength and consistency of the others’ blaming and displacing behaviors.  It could be the case, for example, that if those in authority in the family start the forgiving pattern, then this could spread quickly to all others in the family.  On the other hand, if the youngest child in the family, a 16-year-old, begins forgiveness patterns, this still could spread to the others, but it could take more time and persistence in the forgiving.  Yet, each act of mercy and forgiveness could be setting the stage for major transformations in family patterns of interacting.

For additional information, see Family Forgiveness Guidelines. 

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 thousands of 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 Forgiveness Defined.