Is it less meritorious to say to oneself about the other person, “I forgive you,” than to say this directly to the offending person?
The answer depends on how the other will respond. If that person is not ready to hear those words or to seek forgiveness, then rejection of your overture can happen. If the other sees no wrong in the actions, then rejection of your overture again can happen. In other words, it depends on the circumstances between the two of you. You certainly can say within yourself to the other, “I forgive you, “ and this is reasonable if proclaiming those words to the other will create more tension between the two of you.
For additional information, see 8 Keys to Forgiveness.
Criticisms of Forgiveness — 5th in a series: “Women Are Controlled by Men in Forgiving”
“The self-help books target women; research sometimes targets women. Forgiveness is asking women to tolerate men’s injustice; men would not be asked to do this toward women. Therefore, forgiving is playing out the power differential in the new societal struggle (which, to Marx, belonged once to ownership and labor in industry), which is the battle of the sexes.” Lamb (2002) made this point.
The argument is helpful if clinicians and researchers focus attention on only men or only women. In actuality, however, the pioneering research and interventions have been concerned about both. For example, Al-Mabuk, Enright, and Cardis (1995) educated both college men and women in forgiving deep hurts. The first empirical study on person-to-person forgiving published in psychology included both men and women (Enright, Santos, & Al-Mabuk, 1989).
Although it is true that some self-help books are geared toward women only, most talk to both genders (see, e.g., Smedes, 1984, 1996). Our studies on participants with postabortion emotional effects (Coyle & Enright, 1997) and on those with coronary artery disease were exclusively with men. Our studies of participants in drug rehabilitation (Lin, Mack, Enright, Krahn, & Baskin, 2004) and of adult children of alcoholics (Osterndorf, Enright, Holter, & Klatt, 2011) include both men and women.
One cannot help but see a particular assumption in the argument that targeting women for forgiveness is a gender bias. The argument seems to imply that forgiving is a way for the offender to keep a sinister control over the forgiver. If forgiving led automatically to reconciliation, then the argument would have weight. We already saw, however, that forgiving an offense and reconciling with an offender are two separate issues. The argument has a false first premise, that forgiveness and reconciliation are synonymous.
If, on the other hand, forgiving is a choice freely made and, once made, releases one from a host of psychological problems, then a predominant focus on women would actually be a bias against men. In actuality, however, forgiveness therapy and research target both genders. ♥
Enright, Robert D.; Fitzgibbons, Richard P.. Forgiveness Therapy (Kindle Locations 5182-5198). American Psychological Association (APA). Kindle Edition.
When I forgive, I want to confront the person who hurt me. If I do not confront, then I feel as if my forgiving is incomplete. Just having positive thoughts and feelings and even behaviors is not enough. The other has to change for me to forgive. Do you agree?
I agree that it is important for the other to change if the goal is a genuine, trusting reconciliation. I disagree if the initial goal is to exercise the moral virtue of forgiveness. Your statement suggests to me that you want justice and that is a good thing. Yet, justice and forgiveness are not the same thing. Try to realize that confrontation is a form of justice-seeking. I recommend forgiving before the justice-seeking so that the confrontation is not harsh. Exercising justice after forgiveness can result in a better justice-seeking and a better justice outcome.
For additional information, see What is Forgiveness?
I forgave someone a year ago, but I still have these random moments in which I feel some anger. What is my next step here?
When we forgive, the anger does not necessarily go away completely. This does not necessarily imply that you have not forgiven. Are you in control of that anger or is the anger controlling you? You say the anger comes “randomly.” How often does this happen? If it occurs infrequently, say once a month, then I think you have forgiven and are experiencing the natural and imperfect parts of being hurt and forgiving. If the anger is more intense and comes more frequently, say once a week, then I recommend going back through the forgiveness process with this person.
For additional information, see What is Forgiveness?
I have positive feelings toward my sister who was mean to me. Does this wrap up forgiveness for me then? In other words, are positive feelings the gist of forgiving or is there more to it?
Positive feelings by themselves are not the end of the forgiveness process. If you think about it, positive feelings by themselves can be passive. For example, you feel positively toward your sister as you sit on the couch and never make a positive move toward your sister. As a moral virtue, forgiveness includes thinking, feeling, and behaving (within reason) toward the one who hurt you. When you forgive, you are open to the possibility of reconciliation with the other. This openness toward reconciliation is not an automatic coming together again. The other has to be trustworthy for the reconciliation actually to occur.
For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.