This process model was not constructed to be a rigid model in which you have to follow the sequence in the exact order. Some of the units will be irrelevant for you and so you can skip them. Sometimes, as you are near the end of the forgiveness process, your anger re-emerges. At that point it may be best to cycle back to the earlier units to once again examine and confront your anger.
Yes, this kind of practice on those who have done nothing wrong can be good practice for the time in which there is injustice and pain and anger. Taking the global perspective with others who are not harmful will not lead to an automatic forgiving (toward those who are unfair to you), but it could make the starting of the process easier. It could make the cognitive understanding of the offending other easier as well.
The person who has forgiven should not reconcile if the offender’s behavior is deeply harmful. An unrepentant offender likely is not going to change that behavior soon.
I agree with you that pain occurs after being treated unjustly. I think the sequence is as follows: 1) Someone is unfair to you; 2) Next comes shock or even denial; 3) Then comes pain, as you describe; 4) If the pain does not lessen or if you have no effective way of reducing and eliminating the pain, then you may become angry.
That anger can be at the person for acting unfairly, or at the situation, or even at the pain itself that resulted from the unfair treatment. It is the anger, if it abides and deepens, that can lead to health problems (fatigue, anxiety, and so forth). So, I emphasize anger within Forgiveness Therapy because it, in the form of excessive anger or resentment, can be dangerous to health, relationships, and communities.
We need to distinguish between healthy anger the kind, as you say, that energizes you, and excessive or toxic anger that lasts too long and is too deep. If your anger is not bringing you down, and if it energizes you, then you are right. The anger is not bad, especially if it does not prohibit you from considering forgiveness.
Editor’s Note: Just a few weeks ago (Dec. 21, 2016), we announced on this website that Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the IFI, had been selected by two of the nation’s premier blog sites (Psychology Today and Thrive Global) to add his forgiveness expertise as a regular contributor. This week, Psychology Today’s editorial staff promoted Dr. Enright’s most recent blog to “Essential Topic” status meaning that it receives prominent placement on their website along with being featured on the first page of blog topics like “Education” and “Therapy.” Here is that blog:
Why We Need Forgiveness Education
“I was too busy trying to survive. I did not have room to bring forgiveness into my world.”
These two sentences together, spoken by someone who lived with an abusive partner for decades, is one of the strongest rationales I have ever read for forgiveness education, starting with 4-year-olds or 5-year-olds.
Do you see that the person, as an adult, did not have the energy and focus to add something new to her arsenal of survival?
What if forgiveness was a natural part of her survival arsenal starting at an early age?
We do this all the time in education as we help students learn how to speak and write coherent sentences.
We do this all the time in education as we help students learn how to add so that a budget can be maintained.
We do this all the time in education as we help students learn how to be just or fair. Teacher corrections and punishments are swift to come once students enter the school door and then misbehave in the school setting.
I think it is unfortunate that educational institutions and societies fail to make forgiveness a natural part of life through early education. Isn’t a central point about education to help people make their way in society? And isn’t a central point of making one’s way in society having the capacity to confront grave injustices and not be defeated by them? And isn’t a central point of confronting grave injustices the knowledge of how to forgive? And isn’t a central point of knowing how to forgive the thinking about forgiveness and the practice of it in safety, before the storms of insensitivity and abuse hit? And isn’t a central point of knowing forgiveness and practicing forgiveness to aid in the survival of people who could be crushed by others’ cruelty?
Why do we spend time helping children learn to speak and write, learn essential mathematics skills, and be just, but completely neglect teaching them how to overcome grave injustices?
Education in its essence will be fundamentally incomplete until educators fold into it the basic strategies for overcoming grave injustice and cruelty so that students, once they are adults, never have to say, “I was too busy trying to survive. I did not have room to bring forgiveness into my world.”
And the educational challenge of this incompleteness is this: We now know scientifically-supported pathways to forgive (Enright & Fitzgibbons, 2015; Wade, Hoyt, Kidwell, & Worthington, 2014). We have scientifically-tested forgiveness curricula for children and adolescents (Enright, Knutson, Holter, Baskin, & Knutson, 2007; Enright, Rhody, Litts, & Klatt, 2014). Without forgiveness education, a person who wants to forgive may not be able to do so. Without forgiveness education, another person may too easily equate forgiving and reconciling, thus staying in an abusive relationship. With forgiveness education, a person can forgive, not necessarily reconcile, and heal emotionally.
It is time to make “room to bring forgiveness into my world.”
Posted Jan 15, 2017 – Psychology Today.com
On the Psychology Today website, I recently posted an essay entitled, Why We Need Forgiveness Education. One person’s comment on this piece does seem to suggest that, indeed, we need forgiveness education starting at a young age. The commentator’s point is that forgiveness is costly, perhaps too costly for some. Forgiveness becomes so costly when a person now senses the obligation, upon forgiving, to stay in a relationship that is highly abusive.
The assumption that a forgiver, because of forgiveness, now must stay in the deeply hurtful relationship is not correct. Forgiveness does not obligate a person to remain in a hurtful relationship. The assumption equates forgiving and reconciling and they are quite different. Reconciliation is based on trust as two or more people come together again. One can forgive from a distance without reconciling, if the other may do harm and is not trustworthy based on past and current behavior.
If we all had forgiveness education from childhood through adolescence and then applied the learning in adulthood, the assumption that equates forgiving and reconciling would not come up. The lesson would have been learned in school……a long time ago. Yet, current educational practices rarely make room for forgiveness education.
It seems to me that much of the misery in our own hearts could be eliminated if we took the time to learn the lessons of forgiving. Such lessons would question those assumptions which keep us from forgiving because we falsely see danger in the act of forgiveness when that danger actually does not exist.
We need forgiveness education for our little ones…………now.