Expanding Our Forgiveness Horizon

As we forgive one person, look what happens: a) We start to forgiveOneness others; b) We embody forgiveness, wanting to give it away to others; c) We see each person as special; d) Because forgiveness is part of love and beauty, we begin to love more deeply and to see the beauty of the world more clearly.

Forgiveness does not lessen what happened; it alters how we view the person in spite of what he or she did. It can alter how we see the world and how we interact with others. Forgiveness can give us our life back. It can be an offer to those who acted badly to change their lives so that love and beauty are expanded in their world as well.


I can forgive if and only if the one who hurts me repents. God forgives only after we repent. So, I am doing as God does when I forgive. You seem to emphasize unconditional forgiveness, or forgiving before the person repents. How would you answer my challenge?

There is an important distinction between God’s forgiveness and ours toward other people. God forgives sins. We do not. So, in the forgiveness of sins, God also is asking us to reconcile along with the forgiveness. When we forgive other people, we are exercising the moral virtue of forgiveness, which can be offered unconditionally to others, as can all the moral virtues, such as patience, justice, and kindness, as examples. When we reconcile with those who have hurt us, it is there that we ask for them to change, which includes repentance for the hurtful actions.

Forgiveness Therapy Can Reduce and Even Eliminate Psychological Depression

Dr. Suzanne Freedman and I did a scientific study in which we helped women who were incest survivors to forgive their perpetrators. This does not mean that we encouraged them to reconcile. They went through a 14-month forgiveness process that involved acknowledging their own anger and sadness, committing to forgive the offending person, trying to understand him as deeply as possible, trying as best they could to see how deeply wounded he is (not to condone or excuse him, but to better understand him), cultivating compassion when possible, and finding new meaning from what they suffered.

After the 14 months the women, who came to us psychologically depressed, had no depression at all. The absence of depression continued at least through the next 14 months No Depressionwhen we reassessed their level of this challenging condition. It was the first scientific paper ever published  to show that incest survivors not only can reduce depression but also eliminate it, at least for 14 months following the ending of therapy. Forgiveness made this healing possible.

Despite this positive outcome, we must not jump to the conclusion that everyone who tries to forgive will be depression-free at the journey’s end. Different people will have different outcomes. Yet, even for those who experience only some relief, this bit of improvement surely is better than never having tried to forgive and never experiencing any change in the level of depression.

Excerpt from the book, 8 Keys to Forgiveness by Robert Enright (W.W. Norton, New York City).

Forgiveness: How Anyone Can Learn This Virtue

MercatorNet.com, North Strathfield, Australia –

The world is overshadowed by atrocities which cry out for justice – and forgiveness: the World Aseabrutality of ISIS, the abductions of Boko Haram; the Boston Marathon bombing; terrorist attacks in New York, London, Madrid, Sydney, Paris; the Charleston massacre…

We asked Robert Enright, a psychologist and founding board member of the International Forgiveness Institute, as well as author of a new book, 8 Keys to Forgiveness, how some people manage to forgive even crimes like these, and whether it’s an art that can be learned.

That’s the introduction to an article published today by MercatorNet, an Australian online news and commentary site whose goal is “navigating modern complexities.” In the article, Dr. Enright explains:

  • Why some people forgive while others remain full of hate;
  • Why forgiveness is so much more than just a coping mechanism; 
  • Why forgiveness education should be a learning staple for all children; and,
  • How forgiveness, including self-forgiveness, can be learned by anyone in the world.

“Forgiveness is about having love in the heart for those who have not been loving to you,” Dr. Enright explains. He adds that the “how to” of 8 Keys to Forgivenessforgiveness, including even how to forgive yourself, is spelled out in his just-released book, 8 Keys to Forgiveness.

“Forgiveness is open to all people in the world if they choose to exercise this particular virtue when hurt by others,” the article quotes Dr. Enright as saying. “Our research includes people of many faith traditions, as well as those with no faith. When those who choose the forgiveness path finish the work, their well-being tends to improve as seen in the research findings.”

Read the entire article: Forgiveness: why we need to have mercy on the merciless. . .and how anyone can learn this virtue.

Societal Influence on. . . . . . .All Kinds of Things. But, What About Forgiveness?

Stop smoking!  The message worked at least in America as the number of
Quit Smoking people smoking and their frequency of smoking has plummeted over the past four decades ever since the Surgeon General’s warning of the harmful effects of cigarettes.

Societies can alter opinions, norms, and individual behavior.

I find it almost inconceivable that no secular society to my knowledgeForgiveness stones has ever consciously and deliberately adopted a strategy of encouraging mercy, forgiveness, and justice for its community members and families. I wonder how such a social experiment might work and I wonder what the outcomes would be.

On Displacing Your Anger

Sophia: When you are angry, do you keep it in or does it sometimes go flying out at others, sometimes to people who are innocent bystanders, such as your stepchildren? Sometimes when people have had a hard day at the office, they come home and yell at the pet dog, when all along the yelling is really meant for the boss.

Inez: I see what you mean. Let me think. Yes, although I hate to admit
it, I canAnger 4 be kind of rough with my stepchildren when Sterling has been huffy with me.

Sophia: Do you see that your anger is meant for him and then you take it out on the children?

Inez: Yes.

Sophia: And they do not deserve it.

Inez: Ouch!

Sophia: Right. You are showing the psychological defense of displacement when you do that—when you take out your anger on others who were not part of the injustice—and everyone does this to a greater or lesser extent from time to time. When we do this, we are not bearing the pain. We are transferring the pain to the innocent.

Inez: No wonder the world is so full of emotional wounds.

Sophia: And our forgiving by bearing the pain helps us not to transfer more wounds to others and into the world.

Inez: I’m listening.

Enright, Robert D. (2012-07-05). The Forgiving Life (APA Lifetools) (Kindle Locations 1175-1187). American Psychological Association. Kindle Edition.

Enright, Robert D. (2012-07-05). The Forgiving Life (APA Lifetools) (Kindle Locations 1172-1175). American Psychological Association. Kindle Edition.