I lost contact with a friend whom I want to forgive. Must I communicate directly with her for my forgiveness to be true forgiveness?

No, you do not have to go directly to your friend to say that you have forgiven. Forgiveness starts in the heart, as a change from resentment to empathy and compassion. You even can do a behavioral gesture of goodness in an indirect way toward your friend. As an example, you can donate some money to a charity in her name. This gesture of goodwill is a behavioral part of forgiveness.

For additional information, see What is Forgiveness?

I am an adult who has forgiven one of my parents, but I cannot forget. I thought that when we forgive, we forget. Is this the case?

I have found that when we forgive deep injustices against us, we do not literally forget what happened. As an analogy, suppose you broke your arm 10 years ago. You likely still can remember that. Yet, when you look back, you do not experience the broken arm in the same way you did when the accident happened. I think it is similar with forgiveness. We recall the incident of deep injustice, but the amount of pain experienced back then is different from the amount of pain experienced now, which usually is lessened with the practice of forgiveness. In other words, we do not literally forget, but instead we remember in new ways.

For additional information, see What is Forgiveness?

I have been hurt by a couple of my friends. I am angry about it. Now I am feeling guilty about being angry. Should I feel guilty about this?

When people are unfair to us, a natural response is to be angry. The anger is a signal to you that others should treat you with respect. Given that such short-term anger is a natural response, please try to see this so that your guilt lessens. On the other hand, there is excessive anger that needs to be tempered in some people. If your anger gets extreme (temper tantrums that affect others) or is very long-lasting (over weeks or months or even years), then it would be good to see and address this. Short-term and tempered anger is to be expected; the extreme form does need work. Forgiving people who have made you angry can reduce that anger which can then lessen guilt because your behavior has changed.

For additional information, see “Anger and Sadness in the Forgiveness Process.”

Is it ever the case that the pain people feel from another’s injustice is so deep that they should just back off and not forgive?

There is a difference between backing off for a while, refreshing, and then trying to forgive again and abandoning forgiveness altogether. Sometimes we need to take that time-out because the effort and pain are too much. If we then abandon forgiveness entirely, my worry is this: What do you then do to reduce that pain? Forgiveness is a scientifically-supported way of reducing that pain and so, if a person so chooses, going ahead once again with the forgiveness process can be healing.

For additional information, see The Four Phases of Forgiveness.

In Memoriam: Eva Mozes Kor and Her Independence Day

Eva Mozes Kor (January 31, 1934 – July 4, 2019) is one of my heroes. This is the case because of her unrelenting message that she, personally, and not representing any group, forgave the Nazis for their abuse of her twin sister, Miriam, and herself while they were imprisoned in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland during World War II.

Eva Mozes Kor – Holocaust survivor and forgiver extraordinaire.

Their experience was horrific. Both were injected with a poison, which eventually took Miriam’s life and left Eva almost deceased in the camp. Yet, Eva’s will to live dominated and not only did she survive but also, later, she donated a kidney to Miriam in the hope of aiding her survival. When Miriam passed, there was not sufficient time for Eva to get from her home in the United States to the Israeli funeral, thus adding one more incident which could have embittered her. Instead, she lived a life of love, sacrifice, and forgiveness.

What I find so intriguing about Eva’s exemplary life is her steadfastness when it came to forgiving the Nazis. She had ample opportunities to back off from such a gesture because of heavy criticism from others. Mengele did not apologize; you cannot forgive on behalf of others (which she did not); to forgive such a horror is improper. While it is true that many have their convicted reasons why they, personally, would not forgive in this context, Eva realized that hers was a private decision that she willingly chose.

The forgiving worked well for her. As one example, in the film, “Forgiving Dr. Mengele,” she is shown, in her elderly years, running robustly on a treadmill in a gym. A crushed heart with no hope does not lend itself to such strenuous exercise. In another segment, she is seen comforting a teenager who was shouldering deep pain. Eva was the comforter, showing a motherly love to this teenage whom she was meeting for the first time. Her love was brighter than all of the atrocities perpetrated against her.


“Forgiveness is a way of healing oneself from pain, trauma, and tragedy.
It is a means of self-liberation and self-empowerment.”
Eva Mozes Kor


I know of Eva’s strong and loving attributes from personal experience, having had the honor of sharing air time with her on the radio and having met her and her strong son, Alex, for a dinner engagement.

Eva found a freedom, an independence from what could have been a lifelong hatred. The freedom won. It, thus, is fitting that this immigrant to America passed away on Independence Day in the United States, when the new nation shed oppression in 1776. Eva, having known oppression, rose to her Independence through forgiveness.

May your forgiveness live on, Eva. Thank you for a life lived with integrity, steadfastness, and forgiveness.

Robert


Read more about and by Eva Mozes Kor:

You emphasize, in the early part of the forgiveness process, trying to understand the offender. Doesn’t this just open us up to excusing the other? After all, if we understand the other, we might develop sympathy for that person and so conclude: “Oh, this person is ok. I will just let it go and move on.”

Understanding the one who offended is very different from excusing the person’s behavior. We can accept a person as having unconditional worth and then hold fast to the truth that the behavior was wrong, is wrong, and always will be wrong despite my understanding the person as a person. In other words, it is important to separate the person and the unjust actions. We try to welcome the person back into the human community as we forgive; we do not then accept the behavior.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.

“All is forgiven. . . .”

Ernest Hemingway once wrote a short story called “The Capital of the World.” In it, he told the story of a father and his teenage son who were estranged from one another. The son’s name was Paco. He had wronged his father. As a result, in his shame, he had run away from home.

In the story, the father searched all over Spain for Paco, but still, he could not find the boy. Finally, in the city of Madrid, in a last desperate attempt to find his son, the father placed an ad in the daily newspaper. The ad read: “PACO, MEET ME AT THE HOTEL MONTANA. NOON TUESDAY. ALL IS FORGIVEN. PAPA.”

The father in Hemingway’s story prayed that the boy would see the ad; and then maybe, just maybe, he would come to the Hotel Montana. On Tuesday, at noon, the father arrived at the hotel. When he did, he could not believe his eyes.

An entire squadron of police officers had been called out in an attempt to keep order among eight hundred young boys. It turned out that each one of them was named Paco. And each one of them had come to meet his respective father and find forgiveness in front of the Hotel Montana.

Eight hundred boys named Paco had read the ad in the newspaper and had hoped it was for them. Eight hundred Pacos had come to receive the forgiveness they so desperately desired.


Editor’s Note: This blog was written by Darlene J. Harris and is reposted from her website And He Restoreth My Soul Project. Harris is a sought-after speaker and author, and the developer/leader of workshops and retreats for women. She writes primarily on the topics of sexual abuse and molestation. Visit her site.


Who is Ernest Hemingway?

Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1961) is seen as one of the great American 20th century novelists, and is known for works like A Farewell to Arms, The Sun Also Rises, and For Whom the Bell Tolls. Born in Cicero, Illinois, Hemingway served in World War I as an ambulance driver for the Italian Army where he earned the Italian Silver Medal of Bravery. He served as a correspondent during World War II and covered many of the war’s key moments including the D-Day Landing. In 1953, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his book The Old Man and the Sea and a year later won the Nobel Prize in Literature. (Biography.com website.)