If the person did not intend to do wrong, is there really anything to forgive? For example, I have been waiting for a court decision on child-custody for a very long time. The people in the court are not meaning to be unfair, but justice delayed is justice denied. Can I forgive those who are delaying the decision if they do not intend to do wrong?

The short answer is, “Yes.” You should consider yourself free to forgive.

There are at least three issues to consider when assessing wrong: the act itself, the intention, and the circumstances.  The circumstances here seem to be that the court is overwhelmed with cases (but I am only surmising this). The intention of the court, as you say, is to see that justice is done.  Yet, the act itself—the delay—is unjust given the seriousness of the decision for which you are waiting.  The act itself is wrong and so you should go ahead and forgive.

I have found that when an injustice (such as the long delay that you are experiencing) occurs, it is hard to forgive because the injustice is not easing up.  Go ahead and forgive nonetheless. The act of forgiving may ease some of your inner turmoil. I would urge you to be gentle with yourself because the anger from an ongoing injustice still may be with you.

Generalizing from the Particular to the Universal

You know how it goes.  You go into a department store and have an unpleasant encounter with the person at checkout…..and you never go back there again.  The particular incident has given you a bad feeling for the entire organization.

You break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend and, at least for a while, you think that no one really can be trusted.  This one relationship makes you mistrustful of such relationships in general.

Generalization.  It can help us when the generalization is true and can distort reality for us when false.  For example, when we touch poison ivy in one woods, it is wise to avoid it in the next….and the next.  The effects of poison ivy generalize regardless of which plant we touch.  On the other hand, one boyfriend’s bad behavior does not predict another person’s behavior.  In this case, generalization closes down our mind and heart when there is no need for this.

When you are hurt by someone, you have to be careful not to generalize this to many, most, or all others.  Not everyone is out to hurt you.  Such generalization can form the unhealthy foundation for a world view that is pessimistic and inaccurate.  Has this happened to you?

If so, it is time to fight back against this.  Try saying the following to yourself as a way to break the habit of a false view of others:

I have been wounded by another person. For today, I will not let his/her wounds make me a bitter person who thinks negatively about people in general. I will overcome any tendency toward this by seeing others as having special worth, not because of what they have done, but in spite of this.  We are all on this planet together; we are all wounded.  Not all are out to wound me.

Robert

Mother Forgives Woman Who Kidnapped Her Daughter 17 Years Ago

WOG Blog, Women of Grace.com – A mother who was reunited with her daughter more than 17 years after the 3-day-old baby was snatched from her arms, has forgiven the kidnapper and thanked the woman “for giving her a good life.”

Celeste Nurse was only 20-years-old when she delivered a baby daughter by Caesarean section in a Cape Town, South Africa hospital back in 1997. Two days later, as she was holding the baby in her arms, Celeste dozed off. When she woke up, she learned that her daughter–whom Celeste and her husband Morne had named Zephany–had been kidnapped by a woman disguised as a nurse.

Tears 2

Celeste and Morne never saw their daughter again until earlier this year when their 13-year-old daughter Cassidy started high school and began to talk about an older girl she’d met ‘who looks like us’ and, despite the age difference, had become a very close friend. After some investigating by Morne and local police, a DNA test confirmed that the girl ‘who looks like us’ was indeed Zephany Nurse.

Zephany’s now-50-year-old kidnapper is due to appear in court next week. The woman told authorities that she had suffered a stillbirth shortly before snatching Zephany, whom she was able to breastfeed and pass off as her own, never confessing the truth to a soul–not even her own husband.

Even though the woman who kidnapped Zephany denied the Nurse family the joy of raising their child, Celeste says she has forgiven her.

“What she did was very wrong, they’ve been living a lie for the last 17 years, but I forgave her some time ago,” Celeste says. “Undoubtedly we will meet, and I will thank her for taking care of my daughter. Zephany has had a good life with her – my daughter is beautiful, inside and out, she’s kind and clever – they did a great job.”

Read the full story:
1) Need a Happy Ending? Read This! (Women of Grace.com)
2) Mother reunited with daughter nearly 18 years after newborn was snatched from her arms in hospital incredibly THANKS the woman who stole her ‘for giving her a good life’ (Daily Mail, London)

A Specific Exercise for Couples

Those of you who have the absolute perfect spouse, please raise you hand……anyone?

Now, those of you who are the absolute perfect spouse, please raise your hand…..I see no hands up.

OK, so we have established that we are not perfect and neither is our partner. Yet, we can always improve. Note carefully that I am not suggesting that you read this to improve your partner. I write it to improve you, the reader.

Here is a little exercise that I recommend for any couple. Together, talk Couple 2-out the hurts that you received in your family of origin, where you grew up. Let the other know of your emotional wounds. This exercise is not meant to cast blame on anyone in your family of origin. Instead, the exercise is meant for each of you to deepen your insight into who your partner is. Knowing his wounds is one more dimension of knowing him as a person. As you each identify the wounds from your past, try to see what you, personally are bringing into the relationship from that past. Try to see what your partner is bringing in.

Now, together, work on forgiving those from your family of origin who have wounded you. Support one another in the striving to grow in the virtue of forgiveness. The goal is to wipe the resentment-slate clean so that you are not bringing those particular wounds to the breakfast table (and lunch table and dinner table) every day.

Then, when you are finished forgiving those family members from the past, work on forgiving your partner for those wounds brought into your relationship, and at the same time, seek forgiveness from him or her for the woundedness you bring to your relationship. Then, see if the relationship improves. All of this is covered in greater depth in my new book, The Forgiving Life.

Robert