Tagged: “reconciliation”

I am growing impatient.  I have asked my partner for forgiveness and it is not forthcoming.  I have been waiting for weeks.  Do you have some advice for me?

The advice I can give at this point is patience.  Forgiving is the other person’s decision and that person may need more time.  Also, the person may not be convinced of your apology.  Have you done what you can to make up for the injustice?  This may help lower the other’s anger and lead to forgiveness for you.

For additional information, see Learning to Forgive Others.

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My mother refuses to accept my forgiveness. I am an adult who lives away from home now. She denies any neglect even though both my brother and I carry scars from her inattention when we were growing up. My brother and I carefully have examined this issue and we are in agreement about the unfairness. How do we get my mother to see this?

It never is too late to establish affectionate relationships.  You do see that what happened with your mother has damaged your trust and this an important insight. If you start to forgive your mother now, this is a start with establishing trust more generally.  Forgiveness itself does not necessarily engender trust, but it does make one open to trust because, if others fail you, at least you begin to realize that you have a way of confronting and overcoming resentment—through forgiving them.

In other words, forgiveness is a safety net against the wounds of others.  So, I would recommend that you start to cultivate a sense of forgiveness toward your mother and, when you are ready, be open to others, knowing that any unfairness on their part will not lead to a crushing resentment within you as you practice forgiveness in these new situations and relationships.

For additional information, see How to Forgive.

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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.

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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. 

Robert

Enright, Robert D.; Fitzgibbons, Richard P.. Forgiveness Therapy (Kindle Locations 5182-5198). American Psychological Association (APA). Kindle Edition.

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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?

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