“Post-Truth” and Forgiveness: Is Forgiveness Objectively True or Relative to Us All?

…..And so, the award for best word goes to……..”post-truth.”

Thus speaketh The Oxford Dictionaries in assigning “post-truth” as the word of the year.word-of-the-year3

We start with a half truth here because, well, “post-truth” is two words, not one.

Even so, this award raises questions such as this:  If there is such a thing as post-truth (or placing the narrative or emotions above what is actually true) then does it follow that the term forgiveness itself is not objectively true?  Might forgiveness mean whatever people in certain communities or cultures say that it is?

We do not think so.  If you examine Chapter 15 of the book, Forgiveness Therapy (Enright & Fitzgibbons, 2015), you will see that the meaning of forgiveness does not differ in its essence across spiritual and philosophical traditions from West to East.  Yes, there are different religious and cultural rituals surrounding what it means to offer forgiveness, but the term itself still means the offering of goodness toward those who are not good to us.

If you examine Chapter 13 of the same book, you will see that when researchers try to measure the degree to which people forgive others, then you will find that regardless of the various cultures studied (again, factsacross West, Middle East, and East), research participants tend to mean the same thing when they use the word forgiving.

While there certainly are “post-truth” narratives that attempt to persuade and to convince, regardless of the truth, rhetoric will never win the day entirely.  Why? It is because there are essences to certain things……and forgiveness happens to be one of them.

Long live forgiveness…..may it outlive the fad of the “post-truth” attempt at power over truth-seeking.


I have noticed that my brother never seems to confront those who are really unfair to him. Instead, he might punch a wall or whatever instead of going to the person who was wrong. Do you think this actually relieves his anger or does it even help at all?

Your brother seems to be using the psychological defense of displacement, which means to take out the anger on something or someone else rather than on the original person who acted unfairly.  In the short-run your brother might experience some relief from this catharsis, but in the long-run, as I am sure you know, his hitting a wall will not solve the injustice.  If your brother can do some forgiving and exercise this along with courage and a quest for justice, then he might be able to go to those at whom he is anger and talk it out in the hope of a fair resolution.

Parents Forgive Attacker Who Severely Burned Their Daughter

The Christian Post, Indonesia – Parents of a 4-year-old girl who suffered severe burns in a Sunday terror attack on a church in Indonesia’s East Kalimantan province, have forgiven the accused and have said they will not even ask God to punish him.

A bomb, reportedly a Molotov cocktail, was thrown inside the Gerejamolotov-cocktail Oikumene Church compound where children were playing, killing a toddler and injuring three other infants.

Trinity Hutahaean, the 4-year-old girl, was severely wounded in the attack. The toddler’s aunt, Roina Simanjuntak, says the family has forgiven the accused.

“God teaches us to forgive and not to pay revenge,” Simanjuntak quoted the girl’s parents as saying. “I have a big hope that my family members, especially Trinity’s mother, can face this hard time. She is still in traumaindonesia-memorial after seeing what happened to her child.”

Despite tradition to the contrary, the mother did not pray to God to punish the accused, Simanjuntak added.

While the majority of the people in Indonesia are known to be tolerant and moderate, there are several extremist groups in the country. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 1,000 churches in the archipelago have been closed over the last decade due to pressure from such groups.indonesia_map3

Read more:

The Christian Post, Indonesia: Parents of 4-Y-O Burned in Church Bombing Say ‘God Teaches Us to Forgive’ “

The Jakarta Post, Kalimantan church bomber linked to terrorist movement

I often set my expectation on low for most people so that I am not hurt by them. Is this happening because I are realistic or am I showing discouragement and depression by doing this?

Without our having met to discuss this in-depth, it is difficult to give a good answer.  Let me try by asking you some questions:

1)  Why are your expectations low?  Do you see people as generally hurtful and out only for themselves?

2) If your answer is “yes” to the first question, have you been deeply hurt by others and now have mistrust?

3)  Are you feeling discouraged or depressed, possibly because of what might have happened to you in the past?

Your answers to these questions might give you some insights for answering your question.  Sometimes, when people are deeply hurt by others, they develop what I call a negative world view (no one can be trusted; everyone is out for themselves).  Forgiving those who have been hurtful can alter that world view toward a more positive one, that all people have inherent worth.

What are the blocks in a person’s heart that prevent the acceptance of pain?

Sometimes people are afraid to bear pain because they think the pain will crush them.  I find that when people deliberately make the decision to bear pain, the paradox is that they become stronger.  Sometimes people are afraid to face their pain because they are afraid of the anger that wells up inside of them.  Yet, starting to forgive can be a way of reducing the anger so that one need not fear either facing the pain or acknowledging the depth of one’s anger.  Forgiveness is a way out of that anger so that it does not take control.

Is it ok for me to get angry with God when I am disappointed with my life? Is it ok to forgive God? I am a Christian.

Although the late Lewis Smedes, in his book, Forgive and Forget, said that it is all right to forgive God because God is mightier than our anger, I disagree with my highly respected colleague on this point.  As a Christian, you see God as all holy and pure, beyond injustice.  If you start to forgive God, then you are saying that there is imperfection there, or worse, even injustice.  An all-holy God cannot be unjust and so to forgive is to diminish the attributes of God.

Anger can be natural, but at what are you angry?  Are you angry at circumstances in this imperfect world?  Are you angry at how people in the world have treated you?  I urge you to try to work on acceptance of what is  happening to you and to forgive persons who are unjust.  You could go to God and ask for help in bearing your pain as you walk through this time of challenge.  Please keep in mind that as you walk this path of pain now, you could be strengthened in the near future.

Do you think that pride can get in the way of forgiving? If so, what might be some examples of pride stopping forgiveness?

Pride is that false sense of being better, in a general and superior way, than others.  Pride in the case of forgiving may take at least two forms.  In the first, a person exercising pride might conclude that the other must, without exception, apologize before the process of forgiving begins.  In other words, the pride dictates that the other must pay a price first.

Of course, we are not talking here about certain religions that ask the adherents of that faith first to receive an apology prior to forgiving.  A religious ritual and pride are not the same.

A second example of pride getting in the way of forgiving is that sense that “I am invulnerable; no one can deeply hurt me.”  Such an attitude might prevent a person from humbly acknowledging that he or she truly has been hurt by another.  When hurt is not acknowledged, then the person might conclude that there is nothing to forgive.