When we forgive, we are indeed giving the other a second chance. We are extending mercy to the one who was not merciful to us. ??Yet, our forgiving does not necessarily lead to an actual second chance because sometimes the other rejects our offer. ??So, forgiveness is the offering of a second chance. ??The realization of that second chance now depends on both people accepting that mercy and coming together again in mutual respect.
Little do they know that we have a far more powerful weapon: forgiveness. Forgiveness-as-love can deflect any weapons meant to hurt us. The beauty of our weapon is that, once it destroys the effects of their intent-to-hurt us, it is used for good–to positively transform self and other.
Those who wish to hurt us think that they have the powerful weaponry. They are wrong. Theirs is rendered powerless in the face of genuine and persistently applied forgiveness.
As you evade with forgiveness attacks against you, the one who is trying to hurt you eventually will exhaust himself in this struggle to hurt. Once tired, she finally may be open to your gesture of unconditional love. If not, you have done the best that you can….and you have done so with love.
Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute, will be giving a talk entitled, “The Steps to Emotional Healing through Forgiveness,” from 11 a.m. to noon on Friday, October 4, 2013. The talk is specifically for the Chaplains of the Spiritual Care Services department and other staff at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics.
Robert D. Enright is professor in the Educational Psychology Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is president of the International Forgiveness Institute, has lectured across the country, and has appeared on ABC’s 20/20.
Within psychology, the study and implementation of forgiveness therapy is now taken for granted. Thirty years ago, no such therapy existed. The pioneering research that opened this to the therapeutic world was started by Professor Enright. He has now extended this work to include forgiveness education in contentious regions of the world such as Belfast, Northern Ireland, Liberia, and Israel.
For additional information, contact: Sally Bowers, Chaplain, SBowers@uwhealth.org.
Dr. Robert Enright will be a featured speaker at the UW Carbone Cancer Center’s twelfth annual professional education conference, Advances in Multidisciplinary Cancer Care, on Friday, October 18, 2013. His presentation is titled “Forgiveness as Palliative Care for Cancer Patients and Family Members.”
For additional information, contact: Craig Robida, public relations, firstname.lastname@example.org.
While talking with a friend recently who has had his share of injustices, he made an insightful comment which may prove helpful for you. Several years ago he had a break-up with a friend, a long-standing friend. To mask the pain of this break-up, as he explained it, he basically put the person and the event out of his mind, not to be cruel but only because the friendship seems to have dissolved. He refers to this state as “sleepwalking.”
Yet, two patterns are worth noting. First, whenever he meets this friend, the pain and anger well up within him again. It is as if his sleepwalking abruptly ends, he awakens with anger, and then goes back to sleepwalking when not in the friend’s presence once again.
A second pattern is this: When the friend makes overtures to reconcile, it is precisely at that time when the anger wells up the greatest, with great pain and suffering. Why? I think it is because the full weight of the injustice is now felt because of the contrast between the abandoning state and the state of mutual love and respect. That contrast at that moment is very intense.
So, for you, the reader, I have this suggestion. Are you sleepwalking through an unjust event with someone? “How do I know?” you might say. Here is a test: Quiet yourself and then with concentrated effort, imagine this person coming back to you in a repentant way, in a way that says, “I did wrong and would like to reconcile.” In that state ask yourself, “How angry am I now?”
If you are very angry, especially compared to when you are sleepwalking, then let this be a sign to you that you are harboring more anger than you realize. Your degree of forgiveness while in your sleepwalking state may not be complete forgiveness. You may have more resentment in there than you think and if so, more forgiveness work may be necessary.
With this knowledge, work on forgiving this person so that the next time you meet, you are not jolted from your sleepwalking….and if he or she truly wishes to reconcile, you will not bolt awake as if now in the nightmare. Your forgiveness work will help you to walk while wide awake, with reduced anger, ready to offer goodness rather than anger to this person.
I perused Wikipedia today for information on “survival kits.” Here are a few tidbits: salt (yup, it prevents death in case of cholera), laser pointer (for superior long-range signaling), large plastic trash bag (as a poncho), ladder (ladder, oh, sorry, this one is only for lifeboats).
Because forgiveness is a moral virtue, it is not a dangerous idea or action. ??What is dangerous is the all-too-human trappings surrounding forgiveness. Some of these dangers include: 1) forcing children to forgive rather than helping them to be drawn in love to it; 2) misunderstanding forgiveness as reconciliation so that children are not protected as they think they have to re-enter unhealthy interactions, such as with those who bully them; 3) so over-emphasizing forgiveness that children put aside the quest for justice; and 4) introducing forgiveness-as-a-forgiving community out of grim obligation so that children see your frustration with the idea of forgiveness.
If you avoid these traps and approach forgiveness with a loving heart, the family should benefit. ??We recommend what we call “The Family Forgiveness Gathering” in which you discuss (once a week for about 15 minutes) the themes of hurt and mercy which occurred that week for each person (who wishes to share this).