Tagged: “Why Forgive?”
You talk about the “worldview” or one’s philosophy or theology in life. Suppose I forgive but cannot reconcile with the one who hurt me. Might this lack of reconciliation keep me bitter, keep me mistrustful, and actually not alter my worldview to a more positive state once I forgive?
Forgiving can help us to see the special, unique, and irreplaceable character of each person, not just toward the one you are forgiving. When this happens, your trust can increase, not toward the one who hurt you and who remains unrepentant, but now toward more people in general. As you forgive, you realize that all people are capable of love, even though some do not necessarily express it. Some will choose not to love, in which case your trust remains low toward them, but you also begin to realize that other people, who have the capacity to love, do want to grow in this moral virtue. It is in this realization by the forgiver that the worldview can become more positive as trust, toward some, is realistically enhanced.
Well, actually, that is not what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is a moral virtue of offering goodness to another person who is acting unjustly. You can transcend a situation without any thought or action of goodness toward another person. Here is an example: A person transcends the struggle of disappointment as his home is destroyed by a tornado. There is no person here to forgive, yet there is transcendence. The person is going beyond the disappointment and even anger, but without another person being in that process. Forgiving involves reaching out to another person, even when the forgiver is feeling pain that is not transcended or reduced yet.
In your book, “Forgiveness Is a Choice,” you start with a case study of Mary Ann. Would it have been easier for her just to divorce her husband, given that he was toxic, rather than forgiving and reconciling?
Because forgiveness is a choice, we have to be careful not to judge others for their particular decision. In Mary Ann’s case, there was a genuine reconciliation. Since reconciliation involves mutual trust, we can surmise that he made important changes. Mary Ann is happy now and so her decision to forgive and reconcile was wise.
We have to make a distinction between healthy anger and unhealthy anger. Healthy anger occurs as a short-term reaction to others’ unfairness. The anger emerges because the one being treated unfairly knows that all people are worthy of respect, even oneself. Unhealthy anger occurs when the initial reaction of healthy anger does not end, but intensifies and remains in the person’s heart for months or even many years. At that point, the anger can have quite negative effects on one’s energy, ability to concentrate, and on one’s overall well-being. Healthy anger is normal. Unhealthy anger needs attention and amelioration.
What do you suggest I do when trying to help a friend start the forgiveness process so that she does not feel personally condemned? In other words, the person might reason this way: Why is she suggesting this to me? Do I appear overly angry or something?
A key is to realize that forgiveness is a choice and so you can start by gently having a conversation about your friend’s inner world relative to the injustice(s) against her. Is she having emotional discomfort? Is she restless because of too much anger? Inner pain can be a great motivator for change. If she tells you that her inner world is not healthy, then your providing a possible solution in forgiving may get her attention. You will be able to ascertain her interest if she wants to discuss a solution to her inner pain. At that point you can suggest forgiveness, but please be sure to discuss what forgiveness both is (a moral virtue of being good to those who are not good to you) and what it is not (it is not excusing, forgetting, necessarily reconciling, or abandoning justice).