Tagged: “what is forgiveness”

Is it possible for most people to understand what forgiveness actually is? I mean, can the vast majority of people come to an accurate understanding of what forgiveness is, without distortion?

I adhere to the philosophy of Aristotelian realism.  This philosophy assumes that people can use their rational faculties to understand the world.  For example, we can distinguish horses from cats because both are real and so are accessible to our reason.  Although much more abstract than horses or cats, forgiveness is accessible to us as are all of the moral virtues such as justice or patience.  Yet, it takes effort and practice to truly and deeply know, for example, how forgiveness differs from the other virtues (forgiveness is offering goodness specifically to others who have been unjust).  In other words, without the persistent effort to know what forgiveness is, people could confuse it with “just letting the unfairness go” or abandoning justice.  Yet, with the persistent effort, yes, most people should be able to understand what forgiveness is.

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Would people-pleasers forgive more easily than others?

If a person is forgiving only to please others, such as to please one’s parents who are encouraging an adult son to forgive his partner, then the forgiving may not be genuine.  Genuine forgiveness comes from within the forgiver, who sees the goodness in forgiveness, is motivated to forgive, and then goes ahead with the forgiveness process.

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My friend has a very negative mindset about forgiving. She is skeptical that it has any worth. What do you suggest I do in this case?

She certainly is entitled to her own opinion. At the same time, if that opinion, about what forgiveness is, contains substantial errors, then you might consider talking with her about the basics of forgiveness. To forgive is not to find excuses or to abandon the quest for justice. To forgive is not to necessarily or automatically reconcile. Forgiveness is a choice and should not be forced on her by others. Does she understand all of this? In my experience, those who are highly skeptical of forgiving often misunderstand what it is.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.

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How do I know if my anger is healthy or unhealthy?

Healthy anger is a response to injustice that is short-lived. Healthy anger basically is your way of saying, “What you did was unfair. I deserve better than that.” Unhealthy anger differs from this in: a) its intensity [There may be insults or a temper tantrum, for example.]; b) its duration [It can last for months or years.]; c) its effect on the one who is angry [This kind of anger can deplete energy and increase anxiety.]; d) its effect on the one who offended [It can lead to the other feeling inappropriately attacked.]; and e) its effect on others [The one with unhealthy anger can displace the anger onto unsuspecting other people.].

Learn more at What is Forgiveness?

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Does forgiveness start with bearing the pain so that pain is not cast onto others?

Bearing the pain is part of the forgiveness process, but it is not the start of that process because bearing the pain is difficult for most people.  The beginning of forgiveness is to understand clearly what forgiveness is and is not.  To forgive is to make a deliberate choice to be good to those who are not good to you.  To forgive is not to excuse the behavior, to abandon justice, or to automatically reconcile if the other’s behavior is dangerous for you.  Once the person understands what forgiveness is, I recommend a step prior to bearing the pain: Commit to doing no harm to the one who hurt you.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.

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