What is the appeal of anger that it can become a habit, almost an addiction. Can suppressed or passive anger become like this, too?

I think the appeal is the adrenaline rush, the feeling of being wide awake and in control, the feeling that others will not take advantage of me.  All of this is reasonable if it is within reasonable bounds.  By that I mean that the anger is not controlling you, which can happen as people fly out of control with a temper that then is hard to manage.  A habit of anger, when intense, is hard to break, but it can be done with a strong will, the practice of forgiveness, and an awareness of how the anger-habit has compromised one’s life.  Passive anger can be habit-forming as well and that is a more difficult habit to break if the person is unaware of it.  Insights of unhappiness or of reduced energy can be clues to people that they are harboring passive anger in need of healing.

Forgiving others for injustices that have fostered this kind of anger is an important step in curing the anger.

Forgiveness Becomes Her Passion: “Replace Hate with Love”

Carly Elms is a determined woman, a well-educated and experienced therapist, and a disciple of “forgiveness therapy” as developed and proven by Dr. Robert Enright, the founder of the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI) and a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“Forgiveness is the only way to move through the anger and pain of even the most horrible wrongs,” according to Elms, “and to not let hate consume the rest of a life.”

Carly Elms Photo 2
Carly R. Elms, M.Ed., LMSW, CRC

Elms holds two master’s degrees. Along with her Masters in Clinical Social Work (MSW), she has a Masters of Education in Educational & Counseling Psychology (M.Ed.). She is a certified rehabilitation counselor (CRC), with experience as a trauma therapist, counselor for the blind, transition counselor for youth with disabilities, a service-disabled veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and a fanatic about forgiveness therapy.

Last fall, Elms opened the Franciscan Forgiveness Center on the grounds of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist in Independence, MO, to help victims recover their lives from even the worst thing that could possibly happen to them.

“It’s a place of healing,” Elms said of the peaceful grounds where she has her office and where she also teaches the Sisters about forgiveness. “And that’s what forgiveness is. It is healing.”

Elms said she became a disciple of Dr. Enright’s forgiveness model after reading his popular self-help book Forgiveness Is a Choice: A Step-by-Step Process for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope.  Inspired by what she read, Elms then enrolled in the IFI’s online Continuing Education Course: Helping Clients Forgive. She completed the course with the highest score ever recorded at the IFI.

Elms’ philosophy is simple (though easier said than done): Replace hate with love.

“You have a right to be angry if someone does something wrong to you,” Elms said. “But there really can’t be anything good that comes out of that. All that anger is the desire for revenge.”


“Revenge won’t heal a broken heart. The ability to forgive and to love will.”


Read more about Carly Elms:
» Replace hate with love: forgive and heal, an article in The Catholic Key Online.
» Carly Elms, M.Ed., LMSW, CRC; Franciscan Forgiveness Center, a review on CatholicTherapists.com.

How can families persevere in practicing forgiveness. My worry within my own family is that as I introduce the idea of forgiveness people may get initially excited and then it just fades away.

Perseverance in the practice of forgiveness takes a strong will.  Do you have that strong will to quietly and gently and without force keep the message alive that you value forgiveness and would like it to be a part of your family?  As an analogy, starting a fitness program is good, but continuing with it is even better.  How do people continue?  They establish routines; they enjoy the kind of exercise that they do; they create an expectation for themselves to continue.  The same can occur with becoming forgivingly fit.

How can I be a bearer of light to families about forgiveness and its importance within family life?

You are asking how you can disseminate information that forgiveness is important for families to practice.  I would start with any groups to which you belong.  Are there civic groups in which you are a member?  What about a place of worship?  You could arrange for a guest speaker or a film on the importance of forgiveness so that members of your group see: what forgiveness is, that it is important, and that it is possible to consistently practice forgiveness within the family.  I wish you the very best in your courageous adventure to help families.

What Is Forgiveness Therapy?

Forgiveness therapy is a way for both client and therapist to examine those situations in which the client was or is treated unfairly for the express purpose of helping the person to understand the offender; to forgiveness-therapylearn to slowly let go of anger with this person; and, over time, to make a moral response of goodness toward the offender or offenders. This process may require many months or even years.

Forgiveness therapy does not ignore the client and his or her needs. On the contrary, the paradox is that as the client or patient takes the light ofdo-no-harm2 scrutiny off of self and places it in a moral way on the offenders in his or her life, it is the client who is healed. As readers will see, our emphasis on a “moral” response is vital for understanding forgiveness therapy. There is nothing novel about forgiveness therapy if it reduces simply to “moving on” or “adjusting.” There is much that is novel about it when the therapist challenges the client to “have compassion” and “do no harm” regarding a person with whom he or she is angry and frustrated.

Robert

Enright, Robert D.; Fitzgibbons, Richard P. (2014-11-17). Forgiveness Therapy (Kindle Locations 164-171). American Psychological Association (APA). Kindle Edition.

My mother robbed me of trust when I was a child by her continual neglect. I never have experienced a mother’s affection and this is affecting my adult relationships. I do not trust others very readily. How can I establish affectionate relationships now when I did not learn this as a child?

First, I am very sorry that you have had such a difficult childhood.  Your thought about affection now being a challenge for you is very insightful.  A key is to start, when you are ready, to forgive your mother.  Let a sense of compassion for your mother come to you, even if this develops slowly.  Try to see how emotionally wounded your mother was to have not given you affection.

As you see her woundedness, try to be aware of even a small amount of compassion building in your heart for her.  This compassion, emerging out of forgiving your mother, can be the building-block for compassion toward other adults now in your life.  That compassion will help you to build stronger, more trusting relationships.  If you think about it, you now have the opportunity to be a deeply compassionate person because of your past pain.

How can a little anger be beneficial to someone?

When you have anger that is temperate and not excessive, you are showing yourself and the one who offended you that you are a person worthy of respect.  You are showing the other that you are aware that he or she was unfair to you and so you are giving him or her a chance to change.  Excessive anger can consume your energy and your happiness and destroy relationships. Anger within reasonable bounds and expressed reasonably is good and should not be suppressed as something bad.  I am presuming that such anger is short-lived when I use the word “reasonable.”