About a year ago, my wife did something that hurt me to the core. She has not apologized, and does not feel responsible because her actions lacked the intention to cause pain. I don’t wish her any ill will, nor do I want to hurt her back. While I believe I can forgive her, even without an apology, is it inconsistent with the notion of forgiveness that I feel she cannot remain my wife if she will not take responsibility for her part in my suffering?

Yes, it is inconsistent to both forgive your wife and to consider leaving her for the hurt she caused you, especially when her action appears to be a one-time act that was not repeated. To put in perspective what I am saying, I think you may have a good case against your marriage if: a) she showed a pattern before marriage that made it impossible for her to be a wife to you; b) she continued this pattern that is so extreme that she was not a wife to you during the marriage, and c) it appears, from the counsel you receive from competently wise people, that she does not have the capacity for the future to truly be a wife to you.

Perhaps you both need to sit down and revisit the hurtful event from a year ago. She says that she never intended to hurt you. Sometimes, intentions that are not directed toward the unjust and cruel nonetheless are morally wrong. Here is an example: A person at a party knows that she will be driving. Yet, she drinks and then drinks to excess. She gets behind the wheel of the car, drives, crashes into another car, and breaks the leg of the other driver. She did not intend wrong. She tried to be careful even though she had too much alcohol in her. The act itself was negligent even though there was no intent to break another person’s leg. It was negligent precisely because the consequences of driving under the influence can be dire even with the best of intentions.

Does your wife see this: one can act unjustly even with intentions that are not leaning toward doing something unjust? Do you see this: Her actions, though hurtful to you, may not have been unjust? Try to have a civil dialogue about these issues. And continue to deepen your forgiveness and to see that your avowed commitment to your wife is far deeper than one even enormous hurt that she inflicted on you.

Barriers to Forgiveness, Part 9: Impatience

Patience. To forgive requires much patience because we cannot rush the process; we cannot will the end of the pain; we cannot automatically change the one who hurt us. Patience with perseverance…..and an acceptance of the suffering are keys.

PatienceWhen we have impatience with the forgiveness process we are misunderstanding what the process is.  It unfolds.  We do not rush through it. I have come to realize that this unfolding, this waiting for relief from the suffering, is a time of strengthening. It is a time of learning a greater humility. We are not the ones who always are in control.

In the waiting comes wisdom. We learn more about ourselves and our ability to endure even when there is great pain. We learn who other people are. They can hurt us, but ultimately they cannot destroy us from our inside because we see our own strength developing. Out of waiting comes a stretching of our patience and a shrinking of our impatience. Out of waiting comes growth as persons.

Robert

I attended your seminar roughly 2 years ago and am now using your book to teach a forgivenss class. Today, a student asked if there is another option for understanding a hurtful behavior if it is neither a mistake (unintended) or evil (chosen)? Example: Drunk driver causes one or several deaths.

Even unintended actions can be unjust. Let us take your example of the drunk driver causing injury or death. Although the accident was unintended, it is still unjust because the person knew that he or she would be driving. Starting to drink that evening was not wise. Surely, before the person became drunk, he or she had the rational faculties to know that the amount of alcohol consumption was not good. So, prior bad judgements before the accident show that the unintended consequences had bad choices connected with it. Those choices were unjust choices and so those injured or those who lost loved ones can forgive if they so choose.

Woman Forgives Her Son’s Killer, Supports His Release From Prison

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee, Wisconsin – In a dramatic and emotional meeting this week, the mother of a murdered Milwaukee man embraced and forgave the man who killed her son.

Afriqah Imani’s son, Viltronia Quantrell Williams was shot and killed in 1999 by Gabriel Smith. The now 42-year-old Smith was released on parole Tuesday after serving 14 years of a 25-year prison term for second-degree intentional homicide.

forgiveness-hugImani and Smith embraced each other when they met that day at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School in a meeting brokered by the law school’s Restorative Justice Project. Smith’s mother, Mary Ann Smith-Jackson, was also at the meeting and she wrapped her arms around both of them.

“This is a blessing, truly a blessing,” said Imani, who has forgiven Smith and supported his release. Imani, a devout Muslim, added that the meeting was the culmination of a 15-year spiritual journey for her.

“In our faith, if you have ill-will toward someone — if you cannot forgive — you have a dark spot on your heart that will turn to rust, just like a rusty nail,” she said. “I didn’t want to die with this dark spot on my heart.”

Jonathan Scharrer, director of the Restorative Justice Project, said Imani’s ability to forgive is unusual. Founded in 1987 as the Victim-Offender Reconciliation Project/Program, it’s now working with victims and offenders in 17 Wisconsin penal institutions. The organization has coordinated hundreds of dialogues between victims and offenders.

“There is no expectation in these dialogues that there will be any forgiveness. We don’t bring it up,” Scharrer said. Yet, he adds, the process can lead to transformative results. “People recognize the fundamental humanity in each other. And in lots of ways people are changed for the positive.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, Smith repeatedly told Imani how he regretted the events of that day in 1999.

“You have to forgive yourself,” Imani told him. “I just wanted you to be able to come back to your family, because life is short.”

Read the full story written by Annysa Johnson of the Journal Sentinel:  “15 years after fatal shooting, an embrace of forgiveness.”

Mom’s Group at St. Dennis Parish Learns About Forgiveness

“Discovering the gift of forgiveness can change your life and the lives of others around you,” according to Peli Galiti, Ph.D., a Program Manager for the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI). “That’s why we set up forgiveness courses for adults at local parishes this past summer.”

St. Dennis Mom's Group
St. Dennis Mom’s Group

One of those multi-session courses was held at St. Dennis Parish on Madison’s east side as part of an ongoing “Mom’s Group”  that meets weekly to socialize and explore religious topics. That program is organized by Sister Mary Therese Dolan, O.P., a Sinsinawa Dominican nun who heads up the parish’s Faith Formation, RCIA, RCIC, and Pastoral Ministry.

“The main goal of the sessions is to introduce the basic concept of forgiveness,” said Galiti who taught the forgiveness sessions. “Participants learn what forgiveness is and is not, what the major foundational principals involved in forgiving another person are, and how they can help their children understand, appreciate, and practice forgiveness.”

With that new knowledge, Galiti says, mothers can help their families create a home environment based on unconditional love, Mom's Group 2inherent worth, respect, compassion and joy.Much of what is discussed at the adult sessions is also being taught to students who attend St. Dennis School. St. Dennis is one of nine Madison-area Catholic schools that uses the Forgiveness Education Program developed by Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the IFI.

The program includes Curriculum Guides for teachers at each grade level that employ popular childrens’ story books like those of Dr. Seuss to help students learn forgiveness concepts. St Dennis Principal Matt Beisser has had the forgiveness program taught at each grade level from 4K through eighth since he became principal more than 7 years ago.

To learn more about the IFI’s Forgiveness Curriculum Guides:

A) Read the first three chapters of the Grade 1 Curriculum Guide.

B) Read about the Five Basic Components of Forgiveness – inherent worth, moral love, kindness, respect and generosity.

C) Read A Summary of Each Forgiveness Curriculum Guide from pre-kindergarten through high school.

D) Visit the Curriculum Guides Section of the IFI online store.

If you have questions about the IFI’s Forgiveness Education Program that is now being taught in schools around the world, or if you are interested in starting an adult Forgiveness Education Course at your school or place of worship, contact: director@internationalforgiveness.com.

Mother Forgives Those Who Beat Her Teenage Daughter Beyond Recognition

Winnipeg Free Press, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada – A 16-year-old Winnipeg high school student was attacked and beaten so badly last Friday night that her mother couldn’t believe it was her daughter when she first saw her in a hospital intensive care unit.

“I didn’t recognize her,” Julie Harper admitted. “I didn’t think it was Rinelle. But every day, she’s getting a lot better. I believe it is the prayers (from people touched by Rinelle’s attack) which pulled her through.”

Police said Rinelle was out with friends that night but became separated Candle in Handfrom them. She met two men in the south Broadway area who started talking with her and she walked with them to the riverwalk. That’s where the pair attacked her and tossed her into the river near the Midtown Bridge.

The girl was swept downstream, but when she managed to get out of the frigid water, she was attacked again and left for dead. A passerby discovered the unconscious teenager the next morning and called for help.

On Tuesday, thanks to tips from Winnipeg citizens, a 20-year-old man and a 17-year-old boy were arrested and charged with the teen’s attempted murder and aggravated sexual assault.

“When I first heard there was two arrests, the first thing that came to me was to forgive right away,” Julie Harper said after a news conference Thursday. “If any family members (of the accused) are listening, I forgive them. That’s what I was taught to do by my late grandparents. It’s hard, but I truly forgive them.”

Rinelle was moved from intensive care into a regular hospital ward on Wednesday and her mother said the girl is making steady progress.

Read the full story: “Forgiveness for Rinelle’s attackers: Teen’s mom says it’s what she was raised to do.”
Watch a video of Julie Harper forgiving the two attackers.

In your book, Forgiveness Is a Choice, you refer to the “global perspective” that is important when forgiving someone. I am having trouble understanding this one. Would you please clarify?

A global perspective asks the forgiver to go beyond concrete specifics of the offending behavior and to view the person who offended in a larger context than those behaviors. For example, in taking a global perspective the forgiver is asked to see what he or she shares in common with the other person. They both need air to breathe; they both have bodies that need nutrition; each will die some day. The point is to help the forgiver see a common humanity between the two, not because of what the other did, but in spite of this.