Forgiveness as Truth, Goodness, and Beauty

We all quest after these three qualities of life: truth, goodness, and beauty. Too often, those who hurt us are not standing in the truth of who we are, they are not behaving in a morally good way toward us, and the outcome surely is not beautiful.

Those who hurt us leave a mess behind: a distortion of truth, goodness, and beauty.

Truth tells us who we are as persons. We are all special, unique, and irreplaceable. All persons have inherent worth.

Goodness conforms to truth. When we realize that all persons are special and possess inherent worth, our response of goodness should include TBG2fairness toward all as well as kindness, respect, generosity, and love.

Beauty is defined by goodness. If we are to respond to others with fairness, kindness, respect, generosity, and love, then we have to express this well from the heart.

So, how do we clean up the mess left behind by those who are cruel?

We should try to forgive with truth, goodness, and beauty. How do we do this?

In truth, we have to start forgiveness by understanding it clearly. Even when someone is cruel to us, the truth is that this person is special, unique, and irreplaceable. Even if this person has hurt us, he/she has inherent worth.

In goodness, even when someone is cruel to us, the challenge of goodness compels us to respond with fairness, kindness, respect, generosity, and love. Yes, even toward those who are cruel to us.

In beauty, even when someone is cruel to us, the challenge of beauty is to transform our hearts so that all of the goodness is not forced but is given willingly as a gift to that person.

As we apply truth, goodness, and beauty to those who have acted unfairly toward us, we not only help to clean up the mess left behind but also we are doing our part to make the world a more beautiful place.

Robert

Do you have any tips for working on forgiving someone who is no longer here? My father was emotionally abusive when I was a child, and I would like to forgive him, but he died many years ago so I cannot ask him why he did it, or ask him to apologize.

It is possible to forgive your father even though he no longer is on this earth. You can do the work of seeing his inherent worth, not because of what he did, but in spite of that. You can work on reducing resentment. You can talk—in a realistic fashion—about his good points to other family members (when you are ready) so that you help him to leave a legacy in the family that is not all bad. All of this is part of forgiveness.

Barriers to Forgiveness, Part 7: The Weak vs. Strong Will

Never giving up. Perseverance. The strong will. Forgiveness is hard work and the more severely you are hurt by another person’s injustice, the harder will Barriersbe you work. It is too easy to enter forgiveness with a kind of euphoria, full of hope that all will be well soon.  As you then start to sprint, you realize that you are in a marathon……not a sprint. It is then that your strong will has to come into the picture to aid you in continuing to practice forgiveness until you make significant progress.

Learning to forgive those who hurt you deeply is analogous to starting a physical fitness program. You may start with a light Quittingheart and much enthusiasm, and these wane as the exercises get routine, as the muscles get sore, as the enthusiasm melts. It is then that sheer determination must help you perseverance-300x239through. It is similar with forgiveness.  After a while, the practice of forgiveness may become a chore rather than an enthusiastic exercise of hope. Please note that the perseverance is well worth the pain of continuing the marathon. After a while you will notice an emotional strength building in you. After a while you will see that you are now stronger than the hurts against you. After a while you will see that through the exercise of your strong will, you are now forgivingly fit. Let the strong will help you to complete the journey of forgiveness.

Robert

Barriers to Forgiveness, Part 6: Presuming that You Have Finished the Process

“Ahhh…..I’m glad that’s over!!”  How many times have I heard that….and even said it to myself.  We sometimes fool ourselves into thinking that if we go through a forgiveness process, such as the one Barriersoutlined in the book, The Forgiving Life, then all is well and we are healed.

Yet, because forgiveness is a process that takes time, we cannot presume that if we go through that process once with a particular person in mind, then the journey is over.  Forgiveness is not that simple for the deep injustices of life.

I was talking with a psychiatrist friend recently and he said this: “Sometimes I tell my patients that they will have to be working on the process of forgiveness for the rest of their lives.”  He was not implying journey 4that they will never reach the goal of forgiveness.  Instead, he was suggesting two things: a) Even when we have forgiven, the anger can creep back into our hearts and that is the time to open the door once again to forgiveness and b) As we forgive, we go deeper into its meaning and in new discoveries about the process; thus, as we continue to develop we have not finished forgiveness or perhaps forgiveness has not yet finished with us.

So, do not grow discouraged if you have been slammed by injustice.  The road to forgiving will get easier and more familiar…..but at the same time you may be on that road for the rest of your life.  Take heart because this is not a burdensome road.  What happened to you may be burdensome, but the process of discovery about whom the other person is, about who you are as a person, and about humanity itself is filled with fresh and healing insights.  After all, when you walk the path of forgiveness, you are walking in love.  This is not such a bad path to be on, right?

Enjoy the journey of forgiveness.

Robert

How important is it for me to wait until the other person apologizes before I extend the hand of forgiveness? It seems that if I forgive unconditionally I am letting the one who hurt me off the hook.

I think it is a common error to think that the only way to receive justice or to have a chance to rehabilitate the one who hurt you is to wait for an apology.  You might consider forgiving and asking for justice at the same time.  You might consider forgiving and point out, as carefully and lovingly as you can, the person’s weaknesses that have led to your being hurt.  Waiting for an apology is not the only way to achieve a just end.

My father abandoned our family when I was 6 years old. I am now grown, in college, and he has come around now that the pressure is off. He wants to establish a relationship with me, but I do not even know him. Does it seem kind of phony to now go ahead with this?

It is never too late to forgive.  You see your father’s mistakes.  I think that he sees them, too.  You surely have a right to your anger.  At the same time, you could give your father a huge gift of mercy and aid your own emotional healing if you have mercy on him and forgiveness.  It will take a strong will and courage for you to do this.  You will know if and when you are ready.

Barriers to Forgiveness, Part 5: Not Knowing How to Forgive

“But, I just don’t know how to forgive.  How do I go about it?”

I have heard this so often…..and it breaks my heart because it should not happen.  How have people’s teachers somehow failed to show a growingBarriers child the path to forgiveness? Don’t we work hard—very hard—to show a child how to find his or her way home so that, when lost, there is a map in the memory?  Why do we fail to work even harder to place the map of forgiveness in a child’s mind?  To have to grope in the dark for the forgiveness path when one’s heart is bleeding is not fair.  When we neglect to show children the path out of darkness and into the light of forgiveness, we are neglecting a key point of being human….a key point in surviving tragedy and others’ mayhem.

Children need forgiveness education to know that, when forgiving, a first step is the freedom to admit injury.  Another has withdrawn love from me and I am hurting.

Teaching kids to forgiveFacing such a reality helps people to see the injustice for what it is.  It can give a person courage to look injustice in the eye and call it by its name.  Such courage can propel a person to commit to forgiving, committing to reducing resentment and offering goodness in spite of the hurt.

The courage helps a forgiver to then see the inherent worth of the one who did the hurting…..not because of what was done, but in spite of it.Forgive - Kids Hands

The courage helps the forgiver to let compassion grow in the heart as a response of mercy to those who have not had mercy on the forgiver. Eventually, the forgiver begins to find meaning in the suffering and to reach out to the offender, at least within reason so that the forgiver protects the self from further serious injury.

This path is vital to a restored emotional health.  We need to see this and to have the courage to teach children how to forgive so that they do not ask, in confusion, as adults: “How do I forgive?  I do not know the path.”

Robert