Your Forgiveness Landscape

LandscapeFirst, what is a “forgiveness landscape?” This is an expression first used in my book, The Forgiving Life, to refer to all of the people who ever have been seriously unjust to you. When people first construct their forgiveness landscape, they often are surprised at: a) how many people are on the list and b) the depth of the anger left over, even from decades ago.

When we are treated deeply unfairly by others, the anger is slow to leave. If we push that anger aside, simply thinking we have “moved on” or “forgotten all about it,” sometimes this is not the case. The anger can be in hiding, deep within the heart, and the only way to get rid of it is surgery of the heart—forgiveness.

Would you like to examine your own forgiveness landscape to see how many people in your life are still in need of your forgiveness? You might want to write down your answers to the following questions.

First set of questions: Think back to your childhood. Is there anyone who was very unfair to you and if so, what is your anger level now on a 1-to-5 scale, with 1 signifying no anger left over and a 5 signifying lots of anger when you reflect on this person and the actions toward you.

More specifically from your childhood, are there any incidents from your father that still make you angry? from your mother? a sibling?

What about from peers or teachers, is your anger still high when you recall the incidents?

Second set of questions: Let us now focus on your adolescence. Follow the pattern from the first set of questions. Then let us add any coaches, employers or fellow employees, and romantic partners to the list. Are there people who still make you angry in the 4 or 5 range of our scale?

Third set of questions: Who in your adult life has made you significantly angry, in the 4 to 5 range of anger? We can add partner, any children, relatives, friends, and neighbors to the list.

Now please rank order all of the people from those who least offendedtoday-i-will-forgive you to those who most offended you. Now look at that list to see your forgiveness landscape. There is your work, right there in the list. I recommend starting with people lower on the list. Forgive them first because they in all likelihood are the easiest to forgive because the anger is less. As you work up the list, you will gain in your expertise to forgive, which is good preparation for forgiving those on the top of the list—those who are the most challenging for you.

You can find more on this way of forgiving in the book, The Forgiving Life, which walks you systematically through this exercise. Enjoy the challenge. Enjoy the journey of forgiveness, which can set you free in so many ways.

Robert

8 thoughts on “Your Forgiveness Landscape

  1. Jessica May 18, 2013 / 8:37 pm

    I just did this exercise and it is amazingly helpful. I did not realize that I still have resentment to some people who have not been a part of my life for decades. They hurt me and made me not like myself so much. I am glad I unearthed this hidden anger. I plan to forgive.

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  2. Beth May 18, 2013 / 9:02 pm

    There was a coach I had in high school basketball many years ago and she never gave me a break. She benched me for…..I can’t ever recall why she benched me, but she did. I still carry around a sack of resentments over that. Gusee what? I am going to forgive her now after all these years.

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  3. Chris May 18, 2013 / 9:29 pm

    How do you put all the people in order when some of them get the same anger score?

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  4. Samantha May 18, 2013 / 9:31 pm

    Chris, it is up to you how you order those who get the same score. The gist, I think, is to forgive those who are easier to forgive and then work up to those who have gravely hurt you.

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  5. Chris May 18, 2013 / 9:53 pm

    Thank you, Samantha. I feel a little overwhelmed because my list is long. How long is this supposed to take? I have other things to with my life after all.

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  6. Samantha May 19, 2013 / 11:53 am

    Courage, Chris. This kind of exercise requires a lot of courage and a lot of humility. Sure, you have a lot to do in this life, but this might be one of the more important things you do. Wiping away all of the destructive anger is a pretty good way to live, don’t you think?

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  7. Mark May 19, 2013 / 1:28 pm

    Anger is a stubborn foe. Once it knocks at the door and we let it in, it does not want to leave. This exercise is showing me not only that anger is stubborn but also that forgiveness can persuade it to finally leave.

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  8. Nancy May 20, 2013 / 2:12 pm

    This is a path to sanity in the world because it is a path to quieting the inner world, which can lead to peace.

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